University seeks to change curriculum

By on October 1, 2014

During the Faculty Senate meeting on Sept. 19, Quinnipiac faculty discussed plans to change the University Curriculum (UC).

The Senate is considering breaking the UC into three pieces: a Freshman Year Experience, a Breadth Component and a senior year Integrative Capstone Course, according to Mary Meixell, a Faculty Senate member from the School of Business and Engineering.

The first elements of the new curriculum would be implemented next year, starting in June of 2015. Incoming members of the class of 2019 would follow the new program, while current students would not be required to participate but could opt into it if they choose.

The current UC includes the QU Seminars series (QU101, 201 and 301), a quantitative literacy math course (MA110 or higher), two freshman English courses (EN101 and 102) and a variety of courses from humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and fine arts. A student takes these requirements concurrently with courses needed to fulfill their own major.

The proposed Freshman Year Experience would be an effort to integrate different components of a first-year experience, such as life in a residential hall, extracurricular activities and programs specific to students’ majors.

“We’re looking to bring all those elements together, update them and coordinate them so they fit nicely as a set in the total experience for all the freshmen,” Meixell said. “We want to make students’ first year more experiential so everything they learn as a freshman doesn’t have to happen in the classroom.”

Meixell said that the biggest change this would bring is the modification of the QU Seminar Series.

“We’re taking the best elements from QU101 and we’re bringing them forward into the new freshman year seminar,” Meixell said. “But there will be some new elements in there too. It’s a little too early to speak too much about those because they haven’t been finalized yet, but it’ll be great.”

The second element of the proposed curriculum, the Breadth Component, would affect the required courses outside students’ majors in the four distributional areas (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and fine arts).

The current UC details the number and type of courses students must take in those areas. The new proposed UC would categorize those courses into clusters according to “themes” or “big questions.”

“For example, if a student is passionate about sustainability and a more environmentally friendly world, then there will be a group of courses that we can recommend they take,” Meixell said. “Those courses would all be addressing the same theme, and [the student] might like to put [their] UC courses across all four of the distributional areas to address their sustainability interest.”

She said that some of the courses might even be multidisciplinary and be taught by two professors from different schools in the university.

Sophomore athletic training major Mollie Kam said she thinks this proposed curriculum change would be helpful for students with undeclared majors, and could help students to diversify their classes.

“In my program I’m prepared for my career but not necessarily well-rounded in classes,” she said. “I like my [current] academic plan, but it doesn’t include more than two or three electives. If the new curriculum makes it easier to have a minor, then that would be great.”

The proposed Integrative Capstone Seminar would be taken during senior year as a way for students to combine what they’ve learned in their major with what they’ve learned in their general education.

“We want to be able to draw from both studies in the major and studies in general education to see the big picture of problems of the world,” Meixell said. “No complex problem is solved with just a single discipline. We want every student to be able to have an integrative capstone that will draw everything together.”

Sophomore Shayna Zoller, a physical therapy major, approves of the idea of bringing different courses together.

“As much as you might hate taking a fine arts course, or a course not related to your major, it can help you learn more,” Zoller said. “For example, my public speaking class breaks up my day; I’ve never left the class once without laughing, and I think that in the long run it makes you a little more well-rounded.”

She said she doesn’t like being restricted in her choices for electives outside her major and would prefer having more variety in order to match her courses with her interests and her plans after graduation.

According to Meixell, major restructuring changes to the curriculum are made every five to ten years. The last UC change was made in 2007, when the Senate introduced a set of essential learning outcomes and faculty mapped their courses to match those outcomes.

“[The Senate’s] project is to take a look at the University Curriculum as a whole, to look at all the elements and consistently restructure, rethink and improve upon them,” said Meixell, emphasizing that they are currently in the “planning phase” of the restructuring and that nothing is settled yet.

She strongly encourages students to get in touch with her or student Senate member Chris Aldarelli at with any questions, comments or suggestions about the new curriculum. The Senate will be discussing all three parts of the new curriculum on Nov. 14.

“Whatever you do and wherever you go, it’s good to always be improving upon the job you have,” said Meixell. “The same is true here. It’s just a matter of continuous improvement, and it’s time for us to open it up and look at it again.”

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