Modernizing Core Requirements Will Provide a More Contemporary Education

As first-year students wander through orientation sessions in packs of no fewer than six, course selection dominates many a conversation, prompting incoming students to choose which classes they will take to satisfy Boston College’s extensive core curriculum requirements. The curriculum has not been revised since 1991, but this year’s incoming students will be offered the opportunity to take new core classes that aim to “apply an interdisciplinary lens to contemporary social problems and perennial questions about the human condition.”

The new core courses will be taught by pairs of professors whose specialities are based in very different disciplines such as music and theology. Of the nine new courses offered, six will employ a “tandem teaching” method, which involves two professors teaching two different courses to the same group of students. These courses will each enroll 19 first-year students. The other three classes will each be team-taught by two professors and will enroll 80 students.

According to University provost David Quigley, the new core courses represent a “renewal, not a radical reconstruction” of the core curriculum, which aims to highlight the application of classroom learning to real-world issues.


 

Team Courses

Julia Keefe / Gavel Media

Julia Keefe / Gavel Media

Understanding Race, Gender and Violence will be taught by Marilynn Johnson, professor of history and C. Shawn McGuffey, associate professor of sociology. The course aims to reveal the sociological and historical backgrounds of violence as it relates to race, class, gender and sexuality. The corequisite lab class will allow students to work directly with Boston-based anti-violence projects. Understanding Race, Gender and Violence will fulfill both history and sociology core requirements.

Global Implications of Climate Change is slated to be taught by Brian Gareau, assistant professor of sociology and Tara Pisani Gareau, lecturer in earth and environmental sciences. Students will finish the course with a better understanding of how political and social structures affect the scientific phenomenon of climate change. Students should be prepared for extensive discussion about the responsibilities of individuals and institutions to protect the environment.

Devin Pendas, associate professor of history and Maxim D. Shrayer, professor of Russian, English and Jewish studies will teach Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. The course will unveil what the practice of genocide tells us about what it means to be human. Students will learn about modern genocides and how individuals experienced such atrocities directly and indirectly.

Megan Flynn / Gavel Media

Megan Flynn / Gavel Media

 

Tandem Courses

While English Professor Min Song teaches Humans, Nature, and Creativity, Holly Vande Wall of the philosophy department will teach Inquiring about Humans and Nature. Professor Song’s class will cover how humans strive to differentiate themselves from nature and how close they are, in reality, to nature. Through the works of Virgil, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Thoreau and Rachel Carson, students will explore humans’ relationship with nature in various contexts.

Amanda Ikard / Gavel Media

Amanda Ikard / Gavel Media

Associate Professor of Theology Brian Robinette will teach Spiritual Exercises: Engagement, Empathy, Ethics in tandem with Assistant Professor of Music Daniel Callahan’s Aesthetic Exercises: Engagement, Empathy, Ethics. These tandem courses aim to make students more aware of their spirituality--not necessarily religion--and of the processes by which they perceive things as aesthetically pleasant. This completative duo will allow students to explore spiritual and aesthetic traditions.

Allison Adair of the English department will teach Truth-telling in Literature along with Sylvia Sellers-García’s Truth-telling in History. These two courses will help students discern the meaning of the word “truth” as it relates to both fiction and history. Students will examine how certain texts and stories gain authority over others that may be more accurate.

Perhaps the strangest pairing of tandem course bedfellows, Epidemics, Disease and Humanity with Mary Kathleen Dunn, associate professor of biology, will be taught alongside Devising Theater: Disease as Metaphor with Associate Professor of Theater Scott Cummings. Students will draw connections between the two disciplines through the practice of experimentation.

Amanda Ikard / Gavel Media

Amanda Ikard / Gavel Media

Behrakis Professor of Hellenic Political Studies, Robert Bartlett will teach Power, Justice, War: The Ancients in tandem with Assistant Professor of Philosophy Aspen Britton’s Power, Justice, War: The Moderns. The two courses will explore the persisting pertinence of the ancient perspective on peace and war and how modern conflicts pose and answer questions of morality and justice.

Jane Ashley, associate professor of nursing, will explore the importance of empathy in dealing with human health in The Body in Sickness and Health. Meanwhile, English Professor Laura Tanner will teach Reading the Body, which will challenge students to explore how bodies and spirits function in concert to create and maintain ideas of what it means to be fully human.

All of the new core classes explore pressing contemporary issues, which makes them much more applicable to daily personal and professional life than some of the courses included in the existing curriculum. First year students may sign up for these courses during orientation and more information is available in Agora Portal.

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Miranda Richard