Shaken to the Core

by Hannah Saulters
news editor

In February, faculty released several statements regarding the upcoming changes to the College’s core curriculum, the first results of which, according to the Timeline for Implementation of New Core, are already in the works on campus. The topics taking priority include the new interdisciplinary humanities sequence and the first-year seminar, which will focus on building skills in communication and problem solving.

The formation of these courses is still in development, but exciting changes are on the horizon, particularly with regard to first-year studies, but also for the Millsaps curriculum as a whole. Dr. Elise Smith notes, “It’s been wonderful to see the energy and enthusiasm of Millsaps professors as we begin to plan for the new Core curriculum, which will be implemented in stages beginning in Fall 2015.” She continues, “I’m particularly excited by the way that we’ll retain some of the strengths of Heritage while approaching the connections among the arts and humanities in some intriguing new ways.”

In a letter addressed to the Millsaps community, Dr. James Bowley, a member of the core review committee and professor of religious studies, highlights the ways in which the Millsaps General Education Curriculum will evolve. As was the case for the pre-existing Heritage program, the new interdisciplinary humanities course will maintain an emphasis on global context and connections. However, it will differ from the current Heritage model in structure and depth. The course will be taught by faculty who, Bowley assures, “will work together to design a fascinating and coherent exploration of key creative works, seminal ideas, pivotal events, and fateful problems that have shaped human experience from prehistoric times to the present.” As Dr. Holly Sypniewski explains via email, “These seminars will share a course framework and common goals but each section will be tailored to the individual instructors’ disciplinary expertise.“

In addition to the changes for first-year students, other classes can expect to see new phrases and requirements on their transcripts and syllabi, including a required business literacy class, a foreign language requirement for all students, and newly minted student learning objectives. The proposal from the core curriculum review committee states that the learning objectives reflect the necessary skills “the Millsaps graduate of the 21st century” should have upon receiving his or her diploma. These include: thinking and reasoning, communication, integrative and collaborative learning, and problem solving and creative practice, all of which emphasize practical application and thoughtful deployment. They will be a central part of the revised format for freshman seminar, but as the proposal states, students will formally engage these objectives at least three times throughout their careers and each engagement will also be an opportunity for assessment.

Another component of the new core is the Major Experience,“a learning experience that directly connects with our vision of producing transformative leaders who will have an impact ‘across the street and around the globe.’” In order to fulfill this requirement, students may study abroad, intern, research, or do field work. It is meant to be a collaborative, hands-on, reflective aspect of the core.

These and other changes are sure to affect the Millsaps community as a whole, but as Millsaps President Robert Pearigen wrote in his announcement of the new curriculum, the College is “an institution that, throughout its history, has been a model of principle and progress.” So, it follows that the curriculum, like the school itself, must progress.