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Core Will Be Reviewed Through 2013

Heights Editor

Published: Sunday, November 11, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

Boston College has recently partnered with Continuum, a multidisciplinary design consultancy that specializes in institutional innovation, to renew the undergraduate core curriculum. The current core curriculum was instated in 1991 and has remained unchanged since.

BC has created a Core Renewal Committee, whose chairpersons include Mary Crane, director for the Institute for the Liberal Arts; David Quigley, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Andy Boyton, dean of the Carroll School of Management. Continuum has established an office in Gasson Hall, where it will follow a five-stage Core Renewal process through the spring of 2013.

“It has been 20 years since the core was last looked at,” said Thomas Chiles, chair of the biology department and Core Renewal Committee member, in an email. “While there are many foundational elements underlying the core that in my opinion are timeless and will always remain of value to our students, we must nonetheless recognize that in the 20 years both faculty and students have changed, as has the world. With this in mind, we need to, and should, ask if the core is preparing our students for the 21st century and the world we now live in and the future. Moreover, from my perspective, there is a real sense that students aren’t necessarily engaged with the core to the extent that I’d like to see, and I sense that faculty and students have lost sight of the rationale underlying the core.”

Crane had similar views.

“The idea is to come up with something that is an expression of BC’s Jesuit Catholic tradition and that is exciting and engaging for both students and faculty,” Crane said. “There is a sense I think that some students see the core as something to get through. Our hope is to come up with a core that people want to take.”

Continuum began the Core Renewal process earlier this fall, holding a series of meetings with University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.; Donald Hafner, vice provost for Academic Affairs; Rev. Jack Butler, S.J., vice president of Mission and Ministry; and Siobhan Kelly, A&S ’15, and Nick Reposa, academic affairs cochairmen of UGBC and A&S ’14, to gain a better understanding of the University’s goals and priorities. Continuum has also interviewed current faculty members, administrators, and students, as well as alumni and prospective students. The firm plans to gather information from these interviews to define a clear vision for the renewed core.

“The process is very systematic to make sure that a wide range of voices is represented,” Crane said. “[Continuum] is trying to identify shared values, and they’re listening to what people really care about.”

“By way of background, Continuum works with for-profit and mission-driven institutions to create innovative ideas and to allow said institutions to realize them as experiences that will ultimately transform the organization and improve the lives of the people it serves,” Chiles said. “They have extensive experience, skill sets, tools, to bring people together, to facilitate conversation, and distill the knowledge learned from the process. In the end, Continuum will tell us ‘what they have learned,’ and it will be up to us working with Continuum to co-create and envision the ideal core experience and path for ongoing core innovation.”

When asked when changes will be made, Quigley said it is too soon to tell.

“We hope to have a renewed articulation of the core’s values and objectives,” Quigley said in an email. “We also hope to launch some pilot courses and co-curricular experiences. Beyond that, we hope to learn through the process what kinds of changes might be desirable. Our hope would be to see some initial experiments unfolding in the fall 2013 semester.”

Continuum and the Core Renewal Committee plan to create a curriculum that will remain relevant to student and faculty needs.

“We’ve asked Continuum to develop a mechanism so that the core is always innovating,” Crane said. “What we’re hoping is that faculty will be able to develop new ideas, and that administrative structures will be in place that will allow new ideas to be tried out on an ongoing basis.”

“I view this as an ongoing process in which we can innovate and reflect on over the years to come,” Chiles said. “The renewal will express the Jesuit Catholic mission of BC.”

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