Arts & Sciences Curriculum Proposal

 

DRAFT posted March 7, 2017

Introduction

The proposed A&S Curriculum reformulates Cornell’s approach to liberal arts education to reflect values that are shared within the College community. As articulated in the Principles of a Liberal Arts & Sciences Education,the Arts & Sciences curriculum should encourage students to think beyond one field of study, mode of inquiry, or career path. The curriculum should encourage students to remain curious and learn to be skeptical. Reflecting Andrew Dickson White’s belief that a distinctive Cornell education would unite liberal and practical knowledge,2 the curriculum should provide students with skills and experiences that will be valuable in future careers, but this specialization should not come at the expense of breadth. Arts & Sciences graduates should be critical and inquisitive readers, capable writers, and thinkers who can examine and reason from evidence and embark on challenging and creative paths of inquiry.

The proposed A&S Curriculum’s organizing principle is what we term modes of inquiry: distinct approaches to framing questions and solving problems that we find across the disciplines and in emerging pedagogies in the College. This marks a departure from the current focus on course content, which is the primary emphasis of the current graduation requirements. The proposed A&S Curriculum uses these different modes of inquiry as the basis for a course of study in which students are encouraged to explore different kinds of thinking early in their undergraduate careers. They do so through foundational courses in which students engage with and reflect upon different modes of inquiry in addition to their other disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or applied and problem-driven learning goals.

This focus on foundational coursework does not exhaust the scope of the proposed A&S Curriculum and its graduation requirements. However, it responds to a common set of issues and concerns identified by the current faculty and students in the College, and grounds the curriculum in a more unified undergraduate experience for A&S students. At the same time, the proposed curriculum updates and reaffirms two core A&S values: breadth of knowledge and student freedom.

This proposal is a first step towards a new undergraduate curriculum, not the final product of the 2016-17 curricular reform effort. This proposal lays groundwork for future, and more detailed decisions, reflecting a year of conversations across the College of Arts & Sciences and the university about the value and purpose of a liberal arts education. This grounding proposal rests on broad agreement among faculty about the Principles of a Liberal Arts & Sciences Education. It recognizes existing strengths—the breadth of our course offerings, Cornell's tradition of interdisciplinary research and teaching, writing across the curriculum, and language learning among others. Continued faculty evaluation and formal feedback from students, faculty, and advising staff will be essential in the following areas to determine the final direction that a new A&S curriculum will take.

  • Foundational courses: should these be required for graduation credit?
  • Breadth requirements: how do these intersect with emerging university initiatives such as Global Cornell and Engaged Cornell?
  • First year writing: can foundational courses provide effective platforms for writing instruction that complement the First-Year Writing Seminars?

In accepting this proposal and endorsing the concepts presented here, the College pledges to continue to examine curricular elements with its faculty, staff, and students. As outlined on page 9, these curriculum revisions will be staged over a four-year period with opportunities for assessment and evaluation throughout. All current students will be grandfathered in under existing requirements. 


[1] See “Principles of a Liberal Arts & Sciences Education.”
[2] See Andrew Dickson White, “Inauguration Speech,” The register, Cornell University, 1869-1874.

The Curriculum Review Committee has identified five modes of inquiry that encompass the College of Arts & Sciences:

Humanistic Inquiry

Humanistic inquiry (HI) encompasses critical reflection on and engagement with works of art, architecture, literature, poetry, and music; with texts in history, politics, philosophy and theory, in literary, music and art criticism; with archives and archeological objects. Very generally, it includes the study of the nature, significance, context and history of all human cultural products. Such inquiry requires the capacity to investigate and reflect critically on a work, informed by its historical, social, material and intellectual context. It also involves thinking about a work through engagement with it – thinking through doing; direct experience with a work clarifies and tests our preconceptions and encourages development of an original creative response to it. Humanistic inquiry demands effective writing and other modes of expression designed to inform and challenge others about one’s reflection and engagement. Furthermore, it includes the ability to create cultural products of the various sorts, and this involves becoming proficient by interacting with materials, and understanding how such works are perceived and received. Finally, through humanistic inquiry we develop a view of ourselves and our place in the world, and shape our perspective on reality.

Social and Behavioral Inquiry

Social and Behavioral Inquiry (SBI) applies the tools of inference and interpretation to the study of political, social, economic, demographic, and relational processes in the social world. Students learn to pose questions that fill gaps in existing knowledge about the social world, identify the causes or consequences of a social phenomenon, describe social phenomena, or formally test hypotheses about general social processes. They learn to evaluate empirical evidence, meaning qualitative or quantitative evidence based on systematic observation of the social world, and to link evidence to theory through rigorous and transparent reasoning. Emphasis in the social and behavioral mode of inquiry is on discovery and the accumulation of knowledge, often but not exclusively in the service of solving a practical problem.

Scientific Inquiry

The scientific mode of inquiry (SCI) concerns our efforts to understand the natural world. Students will master the vocabulary and relationships of established scientific fields such as physics, chemistry, and biology, while being exposed to new frontiers of science from the subatomic to the cosmological. Through study and practice students will learn and apply the observation-based hypothesis testing at the core of the scientific method. Emphasis is placed on the importance of understanding cause and effect relationships, defining important questions, applying quantitative reasoning, using symbolic thought, and solving problems with no single answer. SCI encourages engagement in discovery and the application of scientific principles for the creation of new functionality in the world.

Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning

Mathematics is a language in which many natural and human phenomena are best described. One mode of MQR inquiry involves developing, using and understanding the tools needed for such descriptions. This may include, but is not limited to acquiring a sense of probability/certainty, a sense of numbers/magnitude and understanding dynamic phenomena. Another facet of mathematical inquiry involves the construction of reasoned arguments that place the inquiry on a solid footing. When done with precise language and rigor this constitutes proof.

Interdisciplinary Exploration

Interdisciplinary Explorations courses would work intentionally across disciplines and across modes of inquiry. This mode of inquiry asks students to take courses that intentionally draw from a variety of different disciplines to design and construct questions and arguments, develop theoretical and analytical frameworks, employ methodological approaches, and present findings and conclusions. Deep engagement with interdisciplinarity creates the intellectual and scholarly fluency that traverses a spectrum of disciplines and modes of inquiry—their arguments, theoretical and analytical modes, methodologies, and forms of scholarship—to yield innovative insights and solutions to crucial questions and problems and to provide a reimagining of methodologies, taxonomies, and epistemologies. The aim of this requirement is to introduce students to the intellectual and scholarly possibilities of working both across and beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. The Humanities Chairs and the CIVIC group were particularly enthusiastic about team-taught interdisciplinary courses as an effective vehicle for integrating multiple ways of knowing into a single course.

Interdisciplinary Exploration (IE) continues Cornell’s longstanding excellence in scholarly inquiry and teaching across traditional disciplinary lines. Definitions of “interdisciplinarity” are evolving and contested. Indeed, as disciplines change, so too must ideas of interdisciplinarity.

When applied to courses themselves, we view Interdisciplinary Exploration inclusively. It may include any of the following

  • Courses that draw on multiple disciplinary threads to investigate a common problem, question, or subject either by providing different perspectives or by emphasizing interaction and interchange between disciplinary modes (Personal Genomics, Gender and the Brain, or Race and the University)
  • Co-taught courses that provide different disciplinary perspectives on a central problem, question, or subject; i.e. inequality, democracy
  • Courses that employ multiple modes of inquiry, common in fields such as environment and sustainability, linguistics, science and technology studies, performing and media arts, and psychology
  • Courses in fields, often represented by units, that are fundamentally interdisciplinary (African Studies, FGSS, American Studies, Latino Studies, Asian American Studies, and LGBTQ Studies among others)

It is important that students be able to locate foundational interdisciplinary courses easily. The existing classification AS (for Arts & Sciences) could be used to mark these courses.

Modes of Inquiry in Practice

These five modes of inquiry acknowledge growing cross-disciplinary collaborations between various departments and programs within the College of Arts & Sciences and between the College and other units at Cornell. They do not delimit all types of coursework and areas of faculty and student interest, but rather denote complementary ways of approaching problems and questions across areas of study. Underlying the proposed A&S Curriculum is the assumption that each is essential to a liberal arts education at Cornell. The five modes of inquiry are supported by breadth requirements that extend students across time, across geography, and across groups.

The modes of inquiry are based on existing strengths in the College of Arts & Sciences but are designed to allow for growth and development. The fifth mode of inquiry, Interdisciplinary Exploration, is growing at Cornell and across the College, in particular among teaching and learning programs that draw faculty and students from various departments within and beyond the College. University-wide initiatives in student experiential learning, engagement in communities and service, study abroad, and in undergraduate research have already prompted faculty to innovate new ways of teaching, in and outside the classroom, in several local units. The proposed A&S Curriculum provides an opportunity for course-based interdisciplinary modes of inquiry to grow beyond the local, assuming a central place in the College curriculum. But it also invites further innovation and exploration among the faculty for interdisciplinary teaching and collaboration in still other, co-curricular or extra-curricular directions. Such curricular innovation allows faculty to be particularly responsive to student interests in both practical and applied interdisciplinary teaching. 

Modes of inquiry

  • Humanistic Inquiry (HI)
  • Social and Behavioral Inquiry (SBI)
  • Scientific Inquiry (SCI)
  • Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning (MQR)
  • Interdisciplinary Exploration (IE)

The Curriculum Review Committee understands the term “foundational” broadly to mean courses that introduce students to different modes of inquiry. As such, these courses play a distinct pedagogical role for the entire College. Foundational courses may be those that provide basic or introductory skills needed to complete advanced work. They may also be those that introduce students to a set of questions, issues, materials, or problems.

In consultation with faculty representatives from departments and programs, we have identified four types of courses that can accomplish these goals:

  1. “Gateway” courses for majors
  2. “Introductory” courses for non-majors
  3. “Service” courses that give students tools, skills, or background needed to complete advanced coursework outside of that department (common in the sciences)
  4. “Problem-driven” courses that look across disciplinary or program boundaries to introduce students to select problems, topics, or issues from an explicitly multidisciplinary perspective

In some departments and programs, foundational courses accomplish more than one of these goals: examples of such courses include “Introduction to Linguistics” and “Elements of Music.” Some departments offer multiple courses targeting the needs of different majors: examples include “Mathematics and Politics,” “Calculus,” and “Calculus for the Life and Social Sciences,” all foundational courses offered in the Department of Mathematics.

The proposed A&S Curriculum’s focus on foundational coursework responds to concerns expressed by faculty and students: that students lack direction and purpose outside of their major(s); that they find the diversity of courses available to be daunting, especially outside of their area of study; and that faculty advisers have a limited understanding of how best to direct students outside of the adviser’s field of study. By identifying foundational Arts & Sciences courses and encouraging students to take them early, this proposal seeks to

  • give students a way to find direction outside of their majors,
  • communicate the value of exploring the unfamiliar early in the undergraduate experience, and
  • help faculty to better advise students by highlighting the foundations of the Arts & Sciences experience.

This proposal suggests that these courses are foundational not just to their own departments, but to the College of Arts & Sciences community.

The focus on foundational coursework complements three core values held by students and faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences. First, all courses teach critical thinking and disciplinary or interdisciplinary ways of thinking, knowing, and doing. Foundational courses are those where structure and content are best suited to introducing students, especially in the first and second year, to the five modes of inquiry. Second, students should not be discouraged from exploring the full breadth of course offerings in the College. Indeed, successful foundational courses encourage greater exploration across the curriculum. Third, departmental autonomy is essential. Denoting courses as foundational does not imply a preferred curricular structure for departmental majors, or that certain courses are more or less valuable than others.

The proposed A&S Curriculum reflects the faculty's breadth of understanding of foundational coursework. Different disciplines and programs conceive of foundations in their own ways, and the proposed curriculum does not seek to establish a singular vision of what a foundational course must contain. The proposed A&S Curriculum places the responsibility for determining the criteria for foundational courses upon the departments and programs, to create the greatest benefit for students. There are several templates for foundational courses already available on campus, some having emerged as part of the Curriculum Review Committee’s discussions.

  • The Humanities Chairs Curriculum Scenarios contain a vision of courses that “expose students to fundamental problems, both old and new, whose scope and complexity demand a multidisciplinary, multi-faceted approach.” These courses might fall under any of the five modes of inquiry.
  • The Humanities Chairs Curriculum Scenarios also contain a vision of courses entitled Works, Ideas, and Methods that “illuminate … human products and the ideas they reflect from different disciplinary perspectives and using various cultural frameworks.” These are a natural fit for foundational courses in the area of Interdisciplinary Exploration.
  • Likewise, the CIVIC report proposes “Creating a set of undergraduate courses that offer a unique humanistic perspective on 1) the “Challenges Facing the World” and 2) cultural techniques by “Thinking through Doing.” These courses might fit either under Humanistic Inquiry or Interdisciplinary Exploration.
  • Cornell’s Sustainability Initiative and cross-college Environment and Sustainability major may feature foundational courses that link the natural world with human society, fitting well within the area of Interdisciplinary Exploration.
  • The University Courses model, successfully tested from 2011-2017, provides examples of interdisciplinary coursework that might inspire “foundational” courses for interdisciplinary study and an administrative mechanism for managing these courses for a unified A&S student experience.
  • In many of the social sciences, sciences, and mathematics, existing introductory courses already function as foundational courses in Scientific Inquiry, Social and Behavioral Inquiry, and Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning.
  • Physics and biology have piloted new pedagogies in introductory courses, creating problem- and experimentally-based entry-level courses serving as foundations for inquiry in these disciplines.
  • During the curriculum forum on January 23, Chip Aquadro introduced his course “Personal Genomics,” which he already teaches. Derk Pereboom outlined a potential class entitled “Challenges Confronting Our World” that might draw on faculty from various humanities and social science departments.
  • First-year writing seminars (FWS) have long served as foundational courses in writing.

Other examples abound. Because the proposed A&S Curriculum does not insist on a singular vision of what foundational courses must contain, the College is free to concentrate on what foundational courses will have in common: teaching students to engage with and reflect upon different modes of inquiry in addition to their other disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or applied and problem-driven learning goals. Foundational courses would be 3- or 4-credit courses.

The Curriculum Review Committee, in consultation with faculty and students, has identified three dimensions of breadth that are essential to a Liberal Arts education, two of which already exist in the current curriculum. We view “breadth” as introducing our students to difference: across time, across place or space, and across groups. The current historical and geographic breadth requirements (HB and GB) accomplish the goal of introducing students to differences across time and across place or space. We propose to add a new breadth requirement to give students the tools of analysis and theoretical frameworks to understand the enormous complexities of differences by class, race, nation, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability. The current course offerings in the College will allow students to fulfill this new Human Difference (HD) requirement by choosing from a broad range of courses offered across different modes of inquiry, departments, and programs.

We also propose that students should not be able to fulfill multiple breadth requirements in a single course. Although courses may continue to satisfy more than one breadth requirement, students may no longer double count these courses to fulfill more than one breadth requirement. However, foundational courses that meet a breadth requirement may satisfy both the distributional and breadth requirements.

Comparing Current Requirements and the Proposed A&S Curriculum

The chart below summarizes the differences between the current graduation requirements and the proposed A&S Curriculum.

 

Current System

Proposed A&S Curriculum

Distribution

2 PBS + 1 MQR +

(1 MQR or PBS)

2 SCI (Scientific Inquiry)

1 MQR (Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning)

5 from at least 4 of LA + CA + HA + KCM + SBA with no more than 3 from the same department

2 SBI (Social and Behavioral Inquiry)

2 HI (Humanistic Inquiry)

1 IE (Interdisciplinary Inquiry)

Courses

9

8

Distribution Timing

Any time

5 of 8 in first four semesters

Foundational courses

All courses may fulfill distributional requirements

Only foundational courses fulfill distributional requirements*

Writing

2 FWS

(1 FWS if “5” on AP English Language and Composition)

2 Foundational Writing**

Breadth

(1 GB + 1 HB) or 1 GHB

1 GB (Geographic Breadth), 1 HB (Historical Breadth), 1 HD (Human Difference)

Language

1 course at the nonintroductory level, or 11 credits in one language

1 course at the nonintroductory level, or 11 credits in one language

Electives

5 electives (waived for double majors)

No electives

Courses

34 courses

34 courses

Credits

120 credits, 100 of which must be from the College of Arts & Sciences

120 credits, 100 of which must be from the College of Arts & Sciences

Maximum courses to complete graduation requirements***

9 Distribution + 2 FWS + 2 Breadth + 3 Language + 5 Electives = 21 courses

8 Distribution + 2 Writing + 3 Breadth + 3 Language = 16 courses

* To be decided by faculty vote in spring 2021.
** Pilot proposal. “Foundational Writing” encompasses both FWS and foundational courses with dedicated writing components.
*** Does not include major requirements. The total number of courses will be fewer for students who count courses for both distribution and breadth requirements.

Any revised curriculum must be feasible for all students in the College. The proposed A&S Curriculum recognizes the constraints faced especially by students in the natural sciences, whose first semesters in the College are already filled with prerequisites and major requirements.

Below we outline five undergraduate plans representing five students in the College. These undergraduate plans illustrate just one example of how the proposed A&S Curriculum might interface with other major and pre-professional requirements. Importantly, these plans are based on hypothetical students who do not place out of any major requirements or prerequisites using AP or other credits, who must complete the full three semesters of the language requirement, and who take two FWSs.

Semester/

Year

Comparative Literature

Government

Chemistry

Bio. Sciences + Pre-Med

Math + Economics

Year 1

Fall

  • FWS [3]
  • HI (COML 2030) [4]
  • SCI [4]
  • Language 1 [4]
  • FWS [3]
  • SBI (GOVT 1111) [4]
  • IE [4]
  • Language 1 [4]
  • FWS [3]
  • SCI (CHEM 2070) [4]
  • MQR (MATH 1110) [4]
  • PHYS 2207 [4]
  • FWS [3]
  • SCI (BIOG 1440) [3]
  • BIOG 1500 [2]
  • Chemistry [4]
  • FWS [3]
  • SBI (ECON 1110) [4]
  • MQR (MATH 1110) [4]
  • HI [4]

Year 1

Spring

  • FWS [3]
  • IE [4]
  • MQR [4]
  • Language 2 [4]
  • FWS [3]
  • HI [4]
  • SBI (GOVT 1615) [4]
  • Language 2 [4]
  • FWS [3]
  • HI [4]
  • SCI (PHYS 2208) [4]
  • Chem 2080 [4]
  • MATH 1120 [4]
  • FWS [3]
  • SCI (BIOEE 1610) [3]
  • BIOMG 1350 [3]
  • Chemistry [4]
  • MQR (Math) [4]
  • FWS [3]
  • SBI (ECON 1112) [4]
  • MATH 1120 [4]
  • IE [4]

Year 2

Fall

  • HI
  • COML Theory
  • COML XXXX
  • SBI
  • Language 3
  • HI
  • SCI
  • Language 3
  • GOVT 3XXX
  • IE
  • Language 1
  • Chem 3570
  • Chem 2510
  • HI
  • BioEE 1780
  • Org Chem
  • Language 1
  • Math
  • ECON 3030
  • MATH 2210
  • CS 1110
  • Language 1

Year 2

Spring

  • SCI
  • COML XXXX
  • COML XXXX
  • Area studies (for study abroad)
  • SCI
  • GOVT 3XXX
  • GOVT 3XXX
  • SBI
  • Language 2
  • Chem 3580
  • Chem 3010

 

 

  • SBI
  • BioMG2800
  • BioMG2801
  • Org Chem
  • Language 2
  • ECON 3040
  • MATH 2220
  • ECON 3460
  • SCI
  • Language 2

Year 3

Fall

Study abroad

  • MQR
  • GOVT 3XXX
  • GOVT 3XXX
  • Area studies (for study abroad)
  • Language 3
  • Chem 3890
  • Chem 3020

 

  • HI
  • Language 3
  • Biochemistry
  • Physics
  • Area studies (for study abroad)
  • MATH 3110
  • ECON 3130
  • ECON 3310
  • Language 3

Year 3

Spring

Study abroad

  • HI
  • Chem 3900
  • Chem 3030

 

  • Study abroad
  • MATH 3360
  • ECON 3140
  • ECON 3320
  • SCI

Year 4

Fall

  • SBI
  • COML Core
  • COML XXXX
  • COML XXXX

 

  • IE
  • GOVT 3XXX
  • GOVT 4XXX
  • Chem elective
  • SBI

 

  • SBI
  • Bio concentration courses
  • Physics
  • MATH 4310
  • MATH 4500
  • ECON 4210
  • HI

Year 4

Spring

  • COML XXXX
  • COML XXXX
  • GOVT 3XXX
  • Chem 4100

 

  • IE
  • Bio concentration courses
  • MATH 4210
  • ECON 3810
  • ECON 4020

NOTE: The five modes of inquiry are Humanistic Inquiry (HI), Social and Behavioral Inquiry (SBI), Scientific Inquiry (SCI), Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning, (MQR), and Interdisciplinary Exploration (IE). Some courses jointly contribute to major or preprofessional programs. Courses that contribute to either a major or a preprofessional program are italicized. Credits are in brackets.

The Comparative Literature student above identified an early interest in Comparative Literature, taking “Introduction to Comparative Literature” in her first semester. She took her second HI course in another discipline, and only settled on her Comparative Literature major in her second year. The Government student, by contrast, has taken Government 1111 and Government 1615 as her two introductory courses for the major, and paired them with foundational courses in the humanities and interdisciplinary thinking in her first year.

Students in the physical and natural sciences tend to have more constrained first years. The Chemistry student has fulfilled her SCI requirements through foundational courses in chemistry and physics that are also requirements for the Chemistry major. She has opted to delay the language requirement until years 2 and 3, and to take one humanistic inquiry and one social and behavioral inquiry course in each of her first two years. An alternative might delay the non-science foundational courses to year 2, and to start language earlier. She is able to complete the curriculum using no AP credits to pass out of any introductory requirements. The first year features 15 credits in the first semester.

The Biological Sciences/Pre-Med student faces the most serious constraints on her course of study. Like the Chemistry major, she has also opted to delay language until years 2 and 3. The SBI courses prepare students for the “Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior” section of the MCAT. Each of these plans is consistent with existing guidelines for students pursuing these fields.5  Once again, she is able to complete the curriculum without using AP credits to pass out of any introductory requirements. The first year features only 16 credits in the first semester and 17 in the second semester.

The student opting to double-major in Mathematics and Economics fulfills both the MQR and SBI requirements as part of her introductory courses in her first year. As with the Chemistry and Biological Sciences/Pre-Med students, she has also opted to delay language until years 2 and 3. As before, she is able to complete the curriculum without using AP credits to pass out of any introductory requirements. Her first year features only 15 credits in the first two semesters.

Three of the five students have opted to study abroad, and each has taken three semesters of language. The Chemistry and Math/Economics students might also have designed a curriculum that allows for study abroad. Although we do not specify where students have fulfilled their breadth requirements, they have ample space to do so, either in foundational courses or elsewhere.

Student Autonomy

The simplicity of the proposed A&S Curriculum affords students more choices, and at different points in their undergraduate careers, than they currently have. By giving students greater room for choice, autonomy, and exploration, it places our confidence in them that they will take greater responsibility for their own education. But it does so in the context of a curriculum that recognizes that students may know what they want to study, but they should first understand and reflect upon different ways of learning.

Difference

The proposed A&S Curriculum does not create a singular type of Arts & Sciences graduate. Its flexibility respects differences among department priorities and student aspirations. It will allow premed students to fulfill their requirements at the same time that they explore foundational courses. It also provides students more inclined to humanities, social sciences, or cross-disciplinary inquiry with the framework required to look deliberately beyond one mode of inquiry.

Cognizant of student needs, the College also affirms that under the proposed A&S Curriculum students with disabilities will be accommodated in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Topical Content versus Inquiry

The proposed A&S Curriculum deliberately replaces graduation requirements based on topical content with modes of inquiry as the organizing principle for undergraduate education. It does so with confidence that students with experience in different modes of inquiry and freed from opaque distributional requirements will seek a broad education on their own rather than pursuing a narrow and parochial one.

Rather than compel students to learn various things, this curriculum strives to empower them to choose a broad education on their own. We can only ask them to take ownership over their education when we also give them the responsibility to do so.

Piloting Foundational Courses

The proposed foundational courses represent the largest departure from the current curriculum. They respond to calls by the Humanities Chairs group and in the CIVIC report for new modes of interdisciplinary teaching and learning that are embedded directly into the A&S curriculum. They leverage faculty pedagogical innovations in the Active Learning Initiative and they respond to general faculty and student concerns that students find it difficult to navigate courses beyond their major field. In their capacity as potential homes for introductory writing courses, they also provide a new way for faculty in the sciences and social sciences to develop courses that meet student demands.

However, the details matter. Will faculty actually develop new courses? Will departments offer foundational courses regularly, so that students can plan their schedules around them? Will they succeed in attracting students outside of their major fields, giving students the capacity to direct their own course of study with purpose? Will foundational courses that focus on writing have the same success that the FWS has?

For this reason, these changes must unfold gradually, with ample opportunity for reflection and a timeline for the College faculty to assess whether they are having their intended effects.

Faculty Commitment

The proposed A&S Curriculum is a living curriculum. There are decisions to be made about which existing courses should become foundational courses, and about which courses should be developed (and the resources needed to do so). There are decisions to be made about the scope of Interdisciplinary Exploration, and what distinguishes courses that fall there from those that fall into the other four modes of inquiry. Above all, the curriculum evolves, with foundational courses potentially changing over time, new ones emerging, and old ones disappearing.

Such a curriculum must be curated. A standing committee representing two or three faculty for each of the five modes of inquiry would be charged with that responsibility. That committee should be appointed by the Curriculum Review Committee when first constituted, but thereafter should renew itself, as it is a project of the faculty itself.

Implications and Reflections

  • Student Autonomy
  • Difference
  • Topical Content versus Inquiry
  • Piloting Foundational Courses
  • Faculty Commitment

Your Feedback

The Curriculum Review Committee (CRC) is asking for feedback on the Arts & Sciences Curriculum Proposal from faculty, students, staff and alumni in the broader Cornell community through April 2017. To provide your feedback, click the link below, enter your NetID login, and submit your comments and recommendations. Voting faculty as well as faculty in shared departments can review all comments submitted.

Meetings & Events

  • March 8: Sociology Department
  • March 9: A&S Faculty Town Hall, 3:30-5pm, Klarman Hall, Rhodes Rawlings Auditorium
  • March 13: Department Liaison Group 
  • March 20: History of Art Department
  • March 21: English Department
  • March 22: Government Department
  • March 24: Africana Studies & Research Center
  • March 24: Board of Trustees
  • Week of March 27: History Department
  • March 27: Classics Department
  • March 27: Linguistics Department
  • March 27: Physics Department
  • March 28: Music Department
  • March 28: Chairs meeting
  • March 29: Anthropology Department
  • March 29: Performing & Media Arts Department
  • March 31: CRC convenes to discussion initial feedback
  • April 11: Chairs curriculum discussion
  • April 13: Romance Studies Department
  • April 14: Astronomy Department
  • April 14: College Associate Deans
  • April 14: College of Human Ecology (EPC/DUS group)
  • April 17: Near Eastern Studies Department
  • April 18: Knight Writing Institute
  • April 19: Psychology Department
  • April 19: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department
  • April 19: Student Forum, 5:00-6pm, Uris Hall, G01
  • April 20: Chemistry & Chemical Biology
  • April 25: Neurobiology & Behaviour Department
  • April 26: Mathematics Department
  • April 27: FGSS
  • May 1: Center for Teaching Excellence

Supplemental Materials