Columbian College mulls GCR changes

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences will release a recommendation on the school’s general curriculum requirements next fall that could call for fewer introductory course requirements, CCAS administrators said.

A committee composed of students, faculty and parents is reviewing CCAS’s current GCR requirements. If any changes are made, the number of GCRs will decrease next fall, CCAS Dean Peg Barratt said.

“When I first came to the school as dean, I was surprised to see quite how many requirements students were being asked to take, but we’re not far out of range from what other campuses have,” Barratt said.

Paul Duff, associate dean of CCAS, said changing the number of required classes by decreasing the number of GCRs – or by reducing semester courseloads to four, four-credit classes a semester – would not improve academics at GW.

“I think that we can always improve academic engagement and challenge,” Duff said. “It is something we want to improve by approaching it from all directions. I don’t think the four by four will fix that and neither will reducing or doubling the requirements.”

This month, the committee conducted a survey of students in the Columbian College, asking them to comment on their core classes and to suggest possible changes.

“We are looking at market basket schools, aspiration schools, and at literature as to what general education should be all about. We do not have a mandate to change (the GCRs) but to evaluate them,” Duff said.

Donald Lehman, executive vice president for academic affairs, said what CCAS decides to do about its curriculum will influence curriculum changes in other schools.

“I worry about the academic challenge because of the grade inflation,” Lehman said. “We bring such talented students to the University and I think it is important to make sure they are challenged when they are here.”

An Elliott School of International Affairs curriculum committee is also reviewing its major and concentration requirements. ESIA students tend to take introductory courses during their sophomore and junior years, rather than their freshman years as the school would expect, said David Grier, the associate dean for academic programs in the Elliott School.

The Faculty Senate formed the Steering Committee of Undergraduate Curriculum Reform last year to perform college-wide curriculum reviews.

“We have only had two curriculum reviews over the last 20 years, and we wanted to look at the relationship between schools and our common goals before deciding whether or not the four-by-four (program) is appropriate,” said Lilien Robinson, chair of the Faculty Senate.

She said the committee needs to look at whether or not the curricula are still viable for students in the year 2008.

Barbara Myklebust, assistant dean for student affairs in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said her school is undergoing an accreditation review for their bachelor of science programs.

“We have deferred major curriculum changes until after that review process. The faculty has discussed the four-by-four and other engineering schools do use it, but we were awaiting the president and the appointment of a new dean,” she said.

Timothy Tong, current dean of the SEAS, plans to step down this summer.

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