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Faculty Senate talks changes to core curriculum

At its first meeting of 2014, the Faculty Senate on Wednesday discussed potential changes to the Northeastern University core curriculum that would better express the university’s commitment to providing a liberal education to its students.

Richard Daynard, the chair of the Senate Agenda Committee and a law professor at Northeastern, said the subcommittee examined the issue last spring and that there is an opportunity now to delve into it further.

“The current distribution requirements could read as a way of just filling out the major in a rather narrow flavor,” Daynard said. “Our sense was this was not the right way to think about it.”

The core curriculum is the university’s set of institution-wide general education requirements for all students. Its goal is to develop students into lifelong learners who will be global citizens and successful in their careers.

An ad hoc committee created a document for the Senate meeting to present a way the core could be written, focusing on different ways to view and study the world and how Northeastern expects its students become 21st-century global citizens.

The ad hoc committee members stressed the document was not a proposal, but rather a “think piece” that could jumpstart discussions.

“It focuses on types of thinking, learning, analysis, and inquiry as opposed to field-specific requirements,” explained ad hoc committee member Mary Jo Ondrechen, a professor of biology and physics. “I think to prospective parents and students we want to say what is the purpose of this core.”

Many Senate members commended the ad hoc committee for its work and were pleased with what was in the document.

“It is a great opportunity to integrate experiential learning with the liberal education approach,” associate psychology professor Louis Kruger noted. “This is an opportunity to bring the two together and leverage our strengths.”

Daynard said the Senate Agenda Committee will take up the issue at a future date, and then will most likely appoint a committee, with representatives from the entire Northeastern community, to craft a specific proposal.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the Senate unanimously approved two new master’s programs: a Master of Science in International Management in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and a Master of Arts in International Affairs in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.