Last Friday, Jan. 31, the Faculty Assembly voted to officially approve the proposed changes to the Trinity curriculum. The vote came after recent revisions by the University Curriculum Council (UCC). After three years of development and deliberation, the changes will be put into place in the fall of 2015.
No current students will be affected by the changing curriculum. Those who came in under the current common curriculum will graduate under it. All students under the current common curriculum will be phased out by 2019.
“We should not make students do something different from what they were understanding they were going to do,” said Angela Tarango, assistant religion professor.
One of the main differences in the new curriculum is the change in the first-year experience. The new curriculum combines the first-year seminar with the writing workshop so that students will learn how to write at a college level their first semester.
Students will then choose a cluster of three classes to take at the end of their first year and into their second year that all focus on a broad central theme. The classes will be in different disciplines with the purpose of showing students how different fields explore the same topic.
“The idea is for students to understand how different disciplines approach one particular theme,” Tarango said.
Another five courses, one in each discipline, will be required in addition to the three-course cluster. In total, the new common curriculum will include ten courses. The common curriculum now requires students to complete around 15 courses. The new curriculum will also require students to take courses encompassing what are called core capacities. These include skills such as written, oral and visual communication, digital literacy and engaged citizenship.
“We wanted to change the curriculum in a way that gave students the opportunity to master the basic skills that would prepare them for work in the modern workforce,” said Erwin Cook Murchison Distinguished professor of the humanities and classical studies.
“One of the good things about the common curriculum is that if you don’t know what your major is you can come in and take a bunch of different classes to try and figure it out. If they want us to focus on learning modern skills, that would be good, but I don’t know if that would help people determine a major if they are unsure,” said sophomore Grace Hardwick.
There are fewer core-course requirements so it will be easier for students to double major with this new curriculum. The changes will hopefully give students more direction early on in their college experience and require them to take classes from a wide spectrum.
“We’re hoping that that’s going to figure into helping students figure out a minor or a major. People are going to see stuff they might not have tried under the common curriculum now,” Tarango said.
Faculty will be a major part of the endeavor to roll out this new curriculum. Many classes will have to be created, revamped or scrapped to better fit the change. Professors will also need to come together to create new first-year experience classes and course clusters.
“I think that this is going to give our faculty the chance to show their very best side because we’ll be creative. We’ll come up with new ideas, new programs and improve Trinity’s reputation nationwide as an innovative place where students want to be. I believe it’ll be easier to sell Trinity’s message with this new curriculum,” Cook said.
Although student feedback was sought in the preliminary processes of the curriculum changes, there wasn’t much student involvement during the revisionary process.
“Students were not a big part of the planning. This was faculty led. There’s been some student feedback, but there hasn’t been a lot because the changes won’t affect current students. Alumni were consulted. We asked them what they wished they had more of during their college experience at Trinity,” Tarango said.
The new curriculum changes were decided independently of the credit-hour course changes. It hasn’t yet been decided as to whether all courses will be changed to four hour credits.
“It’s a separate change that has been going on at the same time as the curriculum change,” Tarango said.