Community update on the Core review, February 2019

Dear Community,

I’m writing to share with you an update on our review of the core. As you may know, the College is in the process of an extensive review and possibly revision of the Core Curriculum, facilitated by the Core Review Committee (CRC). More details about the goals and history of this process are available from the core revision home page. I’d like to use this email to share with you some recent news and describe upcoming events for the Core-review process this semester.

New Math Core for Incoming Class of 2019

On Thursday, February 14, the faculty approved changes to the Math Core for next year’s incoming class. Graduation requirements for students currently enrolled in Core are not affected by this change; the requirements apply only to the next incoming class. Incoming students will take a sequence of three, one-semester courses: Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Differential Equations. With this change, we are consolidating five half-semester Math courses into a sequence of three full-semester courses that will provide a significant shared experience for students and—we hope—more cohesion across the Core. These changes arise from and support the ongoing, holistic Core-revision process, by bringing the Math Core more in line with the recently adopted goals for the Core and by making it easier to make further changes, if needed. Most of the Math content from the current Core remains, in a newly structured form. Relative to the current core, the change removes a half-semester of Probability and Statistics. The Math department is working on expanding their offering of Probability and Statistics by developing new courses in these areas that students may elect to take. These changes to the Math core are a pilot; departments are working together to make sure that the curriculum gains cohesion. Next year, the faculty will review whether that is the case and decide whether and how to build on this pilot.

Proposals for a New Core Curriculum

In my previous update, I described how the faculty is undertaking a process to foster ideas for a new Core curriculum. This process is ongoing and has generated important questions about the Core. We’re still debating the specifics of a curriculum, and we look forward to sharing our concrete proposals with you when they form up. The important thing for the faculty is that the Core engages students and faculty in the kinds of high-quality, hands-on, multidisciplinary learning that we Mudders cherish. How to do so—and with which specific collection of courses—is (no surprise here!) a design space that brings with it all the incumbent priorities and tradeoffs. As the faculty-design process proceeds, there are several community aspects of Core review and revision that we’re excited to collaborate on and share in the work with the full Mudd community, especially students and staff.

Upcoming Events

There are several Core-related events coming up this semester.

  • A space for informal discussions on the Core. The review process has generated a lot of discussion, and people are eager to talk across constituencies—students, staff, and academic departments. We also recognize that it can be difficult to find the time and the physical space to have these talks. To help, the CRC has reserved the Aviation Room during lunch at various times throughout the remainder of the semester. We’ll send a separate email to the community today, with more information about how we hope people will use this time to have informal discussions about the Core, across our community.
  • Student engagement in the process. CRC members Natalie Kadonaga and Julia Wang are taking the lead on student-centered discussions about the Core. They’re in the early stages of this work, but they plan to hold in-dorm discussions later in the semester.
  • Events that focus on a particular topic. The CRC is in the early stages of planning events related to a particular theme, e.g,. “Writing in the Core”, or “How might the Core more directly address the ‘impact of work’ aspect of the mission?”, etc. Stay tuned for more details!

Future Updates

The CRC will send updates to the community after the faculty holds significant votes on the core and a summary update at the end of the spring 2019 semester. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact a member of the CRC.

Ben Wiedermann (Core Curriculum Director and Computer Science Professor), on behalf of the Core Review Committee:

Laura Palucki Blake (Assistant Vice President for Institutional Research and Effectiveness),
Vivien Hamilton (Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts Professor),
David Harris (Engineering Professor),
Natalie Kadonaga ’19,
Greg Lyzenga ’75 (Physics Professor),
David Sonner ’80 P18 (AABOG President),
Dan Stoebel (Biology Professor),
Francis Su (Mathematics Professor),
Kathy Van Heuvelen (Chemistry Professor),
Julia Wang ’20 (ASHMC President)