New Core Plan: Four Courses with Optional Electivity

On May 8, 2020, the HMC faculty voted to adopt a new Core curriculum. This new Core was based on three years of work by several committees, a self-study, an external review, and surveys of students, alumni, and faculty.

The new Core curriculum strives to reduce student stress due to context-switching and increase joy of learning, reflection, mastery, and retention by allowing students to take a four-course load in the first four semesters, while still being on track to graduate in four years. Students may request to take more than four courses per term beginning in the second semester, if they wish.

Other significant changes to the new Core include:

  • The Mathematics Core comprises two courses, one in Calculus and one in Linear Algebra. A full course in Differential Equations is no longer part of the Core, but some differential equations material will be taught in the Physic Department’s Mechanics course in the spring of the first year. All majors will be expected to require at least one additional mathematics course, which may be Differential Equations, Probability and Statistics, or something else.
  • Electricity and Magnetism is no longer part of the Core, but it will be required by some majors.
  • Students will take an “Impact course” in the spring of their sophomore year, which will address the intersection of STEM and society. This course will seek to explore consequential problems and complex issues while making connections across disciplinary boundaries. The faculty will develop this course during the 2020–2021 academic year.

The footprint of the new Core is outlined below:

Year 1 Fall

  • Calculus
  • Writ 1/Spec Rel
  • CS
  • Chemistry+Lab or Bio+Lab

Year 1 Spring

  • Linear Algebra
  • HSA 10
  • Mechanics
  • Bio+Lab or Chemistry+Lab
  • Optional Elective

Year 2 Fall

  • Engineering 79
  • Physics Lab (or in Spring)
  • Elective/Major/HSA
  • Elective/Major/HSA
  • Elective/Major/HSA
  • Optional Elective

Year 2 Spring

  • Impact
  • Physics Lab (or in Fall)
  • Elective/Major/HSA
  • Elective/Major/HSA
  • Elective/Major/HSA
  • Optional Elective

What’s next?

The Faculty Executive Committee has charged a Core Implementation Committee with finalizing a number of important issues in Academic Year 2020–2021. Among these issues are the number of credits/units for the Core courses, being mindful that a four-course load in the first two years must allow a student to graduate in four years without overloading in subsequent semesters. In addition, the committee will work with the faculty on the design and implementation of the Impact course.  The faculty have identified a number of other issues that the Implementation Committee should consider before the new Core is deployed in Academic Year 2021–2022.