Smith College Gets $1.4 Million to Map the Curriculum
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Smith College recently received nearly $1.4 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for an initiative that aims to provide greater direction for students navigating the college’s open curriculum.
Smith’s open curriculum does not stipulate course requirements beyond what is necessary to earn a major, encouraging student exploration of many fields. But choosing courses can be a formidable task considering the selection of more than 1,000 courses at Smith and an additional 4,500 undergraduate courses at the other four schools in the Five College consortium.
“Our goal is to provide each student with more focus and direction within the open curriculum,” said Smith President Carol T. Christ. “We recognize that our students would benefit from greater guidance as they navigate the curricular offerings outside of their majors.”
The grant will enable Smith to pursue:
- strengthening academic advising, particularly during the sophomore year when students are required to identify a major;
- developing course clusters that will make connections between various areas of study;
- developing a slate of interdisciplinary upper-level seminars for juniors and seniors while expanding the existing slate of seminars for first-year students.
A critical component of the plan for advising includes launching a program for sophomores during the final week of January interterm. That week, students will perform a self-assessment and develop an electronic portfolio that reflects their work and life preparation in both academic and non-academic contexts.
The grant will also allow Smith faculty to develop interdisciplinary course clusters surrounding specific topics. Envisioned as consisting of four to six courses, the clusters will provide students with a road map for course selection outside their major.
In addition, the grant includes funding to expand the number of First-Year Seminars offered at the college, in order to enable all incoming students to enroll in one. The early seminars will then be complemented by new seminars for juniors and seniors. Called “Presidential Seminars,” those courses will offer advanced work for students outside of their majors. So, instead of seeking out introductory courses when exploring other disciplines, students will be able to select courses that are geared toward their advanced level of study.
Smith is launching the initiative under the direction of Susan Bourque, provost and dean of the faculty, and John Davis, associate provost and dean for academic enrichment, by seeking proposals from faculty.