by Katherine Wroblewski
On Feb. 11, Millsaps faculty voted to approve a new core curriculum. A committee, both elected and appointed, has been working for the past year and half to review the current core curriculum, which is more than 20 years old. The committee first developed the goals that it wanted the new core to meet: communication (both written and oral), critical thinking and reasoning, creative practice, and collaborative and integrative learning. The last goal, which is not addressed in our current curriculum, aims to teach students how to creatively think and solve problems effectively in a group setting. Any professional field requires this skill, so freshmen will take a course on such problem-solving during their first semester at Millsaps. The school approved these four student learning outcomes last fall.
The new curriculum is not only centered on the student learning outcomes, but also on “the first year experience.” What we know of as “freshman seminar” will now be broken into two different seminars taken in the fall and spring of students’ freshman year. The first seminar will incorporate the student learning outcome that addresses problem solving and creative practice, while the second seminar will be centered on communication within a humanities context. There will be classes offered from different departments that will serve this core requirement. Students will be able to select which subject they want their two seminars to be in.
One of the biggest changes is the eradication of the Heritage and Topics programs as we know them now—something some students and alumni see as a loss. Students will now take yearlong humanities courses. Dr. Jamie Harris, a geology professor and member of the core review committee, says that this new construction will “incorporate some of the best parts of the topics courses and some of the best parts of the heritage program.” This will help make a more cohesive “first year experience” for incoming students, instead of the current model, where students either choose a Topics path or a Heritage path. The Heritage program also covered the fine arts requirement, but now, all students will have to take a separate course to fulfill that requirement. One benefit is that this gives students scheduling flexibility, and allows them to take two electives—currently, Heritage students can only take one other elective their first semester.
Another big change includes the addition of a business literacy course, called “Money, Markets, & Leadership.” The board felt all students should take advantage of what they called Millsaps’ renowned business school, not just those seeking business degrees or minors.
In addition, all students will be required to fulfill a foreign language requirement. Currently, only students seeking a B.A. need to fulfill a language requirement. Students can still test into a higher-level language class, or even satisfy the requirement with a proficiency exam.
Classes under the new curriculum will no longer be labeled Core 1-10. Elements of the current core that carry over are the lab science, mathematics and social science requirements. However, students will need to take an additional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) course. Another class in the works is “The Major Experience.” This will entail undergraduate research, study abroad, field courses, Ford Fellows, honors projects, internships, community engaged learning, etc. This course supports the college’s new strategic plan, “Across the Street and Around the Globe: Partnerships and Influence at Millsaps College.”
The campus has seen a great deal of grumbling due to the changes to the core curriculum, particularly regarding the loss of the beloved Heritage program. Time will tell if the new core curriculum will garner the same kind of passion.
Check out a letter from Dr. Pearigen regarding the new core changes here.