April 10, 2007

College to introduce three new minors

In an attempt to increase enrollment and funding, three College departments recently decided to introduce minors. The change will be implemented in the coming school year in environmental studies, East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC), and the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine (HIPS).

These curricular changes follow a series of decisions, including the appointment of President Robert Zimmer, aimed at increasing the University’s endowment, according to Dean of Students Susan Art. The University currently ranks 15th in endowment size for U.S. colleges, below such schools as Emory University and Texas A&M University.

Although the addition of minors does not directly grant departments University funding, increased enrollment draws outside funding and more faculty hires, according to Art.

“When the provost makes hiring decisions for faculty, they consider enrollment in courses in a given department,” she said.

The fairly recent addition of minor programs to the College curriculum prompted the switch from undergraduate concentrations to majors.

Departments that attract few students as majors often opt to add minors to increase interest and enrollment in their departments.

“I think there are certain areas with not a lot of minors, but they see a lot of demand for minor programs,” Art said. “They [the departments] are eager to teach college students and hope to increase enrollment through the addition of minors.”

Popular programs such as economics and political science, however, have little motivation to add minor programs given already tight enrollments in departmental courses.

“Departments like economics do not want to add minors because otherwise they would have to teach additional courses,” Art said.

Art and other University administrators, however, find motivation outside of funding for the addition of minor programs. The hope is that students in the College, attracted by the prospect of minors appearing on their transcripts, will consider new departments and move away from double and triple majors.

“I frankly think that students double and triple majoring is useless in terms of graduate school admissions and job placement, and [I] think that minor programs discourage such action,” she said.

The EALC program hopes to draw students interested in international relations and business with minors focusing on civilization studies instead of language.

“The change was meant to add a content minor and not a language minor,” said Sonja Rusnak, the EALC department coordinator.

“People with an international studies and business background wanted a minor and we felt we were one of few departments without a minor,” Rusnak said.

Along with the addition of a minor, the environmental studies program has a new set of requirements for students seeking the major who matriculate after June 2006.

According to Senior Lecturer Mark Lycett, who will head the new program, the major will include more stringent natural science requirements and two separate tracks: environmental economics and policy, and socio-natural systems and frameworks. The minor will require students to take courses in one of the two tracks.

The HIPS minor will allow students in the sciences, and those interested in the department’s courses, to consolidate their coursework without writing the B.A. paper required for the major.