First-year seminars, Foundations classes replaced with new Connections courses

By Steven Viera,

News Editor

The College recently announced changes to its curriculum that would replace Foundations courses and first-year seminars with Connections. The courses, which have been in development since 2011, are the result of significant effort and consideration from members of the faculty.

The main change to the curriculum is the cessation of all first-year seminars and Foundations courses. Instead, the College will offer “Connections” seminars, split into Connections 1 (CNX 1) and Connections 2 (CNX 2), which emphasize close reading, writing, critical thinking, speaking, and information literacy skills. While the content of CNX 1 and CNX 2 classes may differ, CNX 2 courses are designed to build on skills taught in CNX 1. Each seminar will be capped at 16 students.

“We believe that this will provide stronger grounds for students during their four years at F&M,” said Carmen Tisnado, associate dean of the faculty and professor of Spanish.

The faculty is working to develop new CNX courses, as well as modifying former first-year seminars and Foundations to fit the new model. Examples of CNX courses include “Genes and Medicine,” “The ‘I’ of Music,” “Civil War Fictions,” “The Pill and Viagra,” “Why Shakespeare?” and more.

Additionally, further changes to the curriculum include the elimination of double counting, in which one class satisfies two requirements; for example, a class that fulfills both an art and a non-Western requirement will now only count for one or the other.

In 2004-2005, the faculty voted to make revisions to the curriculum, with a focus on re-evaluating the Foundations component, according to Edward E. Fenlon, associate professor of chemistry. Then, in 2011, they voted again to revise the entire curriculum — not just Foundations.

Both Tisnado and Fenlon pointed out that F&M reviews its curriculum about once every 15 years.

“The process was typical for F&M — it was extremely thorough and detailed, and all aspects of teaching and learning were carefully considered,” Fenlon said. “It took over two years to complete.”

In August 2011, F&M’s Educational Policy Committee (EPC) organized the Faculty Symposium on the Curriculum, where several working groups were formed to address different aspects of revisions to the curriculum. Then, in the Spring 2012 semester, the faculty elected the Curricular Review Steering Committee (CRSC) and junior faculty elected a Junior Faculty Advisory Committee (JFAC); after extensive research and effort, the CRSC and JFAC presented different models to the faculty for discussion and debate.

“In April 2013, the faculty voted to adopt what we are calling the Connections curriculum,” Tisnado said.

Aside from faculty who served on committees like the CRSC and JFAC, many faculty members and professional staff from various offices participated in the review process. According to Tisnado and Fenlon, Alan Caniglia, vice president for planning and vice provost, and Christine Alexander, College registrar, assisted the revision efforts by providing important data to the committee.

“This was a campus enterprise,” Tisnado said.

Now, the process moves away from planning and towards putting the changes into practice.

“Finally, during the implementation planning stage, the Connections Program Committee (CPC) has worked with EPC to ensure a smooth launch,” Fenlon said.

The changes to the curriculum will take effect beginning in the Fall 2014 semester.

 

Sophomore Steven Viera is the News Editor. His email is sviera@fandm.edu.

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