Although I’d been to campus a couple times, I attended a recent counselor breakfast at Goucher; it’s good to get refreshers and hear about any new programs. Goucher has always been innovative (there’s a reason they’re on the Colleges That Change Lives list!), but they’re revamping things again. “The title of this is Innovation, and that’s apt. As a faculty, we decided to completely re-imagine our curriculum. It’s kind of unheard of – a group of faculty got together to rethink the requirements that in so many places have become a check-off list. The question the committee took on is, ‘How do we move these requirements from the periphery to being central to the college?’ These are now central to helping students think about the essential questions that will help them flourish.”
They’ve just announced 8 new majors, and we got to hear about several of them from faculty members:
- Integrative Art Studies: What makes art? How do people across disciplines translate their work? How do we use it as a tool for social change? This is designed for students who don’t want to be pinned down in just 1 area. We train imagination and help them put creativity into work. There’s a 22-credit core that challenges them to think about what type of artists they may be and expose them to all the interdisciplinary works that are more prevalent. They learn how to market their work, freelancing, entrepreneurship, and collaboration. They can minor in any of the traditional arts if they want.
- Education Studies: the new program is born out of student interest. Many didn’t see themselves as teachers but still had an interest in education. “Maybe they saw themselves in social justice, NGOs, or policy. This is an interdisciplinary way of looking at it by bringing in PoliSci, policy, psychology, and more.
- Creative and Professional Writing: Students take classes in both fields to be more well-rounded. There are classes in grant writing, policy writing, etc: “these are the things they can make a living with,” said the professor sitting with us at the table. He teaches screen-writing and adaptation: “They learn the rules so they can break them properly.” Kratz Center for Writing. They’ll give out $36-442,000 in summer grants (unusually in increments of $3,000) so they don’t have to get a job and they can stay on track for their work. They can win this more than once. The idea is to help them build manuscripts for grad school, publishers, employers, etc. A junior got a 6-figure deal with HarpurCollins. Students also go into editing, publishing, etc. They bring in visiting writers, as well. They’ve had national book award winners.
- Visual & Material Culture: This was approved last year and inaugurated in 8/19. The professor who was presenting on this major said that to her knowledge, Goucher has the first undergrad major in this. “The idea is to rethink the visual in the 21st Things needed to be extended to be relevant. Visual culture is much broader now. It includes the fine arts in the Western tradition, but also globally to include all things that are designed including fashion and monuments.” This is a projects-driven major, combining things like Art History and Historic Preservation. Goucher has a 3,000+ artifact collection, and students are working through cataloguing, preserving, and displaying – starting with the collection that’s been in storage for 100+ years. “Some of it is at Yale on long-term loan; our mummy [yes! They actually have a mummy!!] is at Walters.” Regionally, they use Baltimore as a Community Based Learning (CBL) site to get students out to look at murals, monuments, etc.
- Engineering Science: This interdisciplinary major combines fundamentals across the sciences, comp sci, and programming to prepare students for careers in these areas, and to focus on skill sets to be successful. “We’ve moved problem-solving to the foreground. They all do a capstone to solve a real world project. We want them to be able to contribute to this massive part of the economy,” said the professor. “This is not an engineering degree. Those tend to be narrow and deep/focused. They have a structured curriculum, and you have to be committed and focused. Nationwide, there’s a lot of attrition.” Students can still go on to get a masters in engineering if they wish to do so. They do choose a track to specialize in with upper level classes in their area of interest.
- Integrated Data Analytics combines computer science, math, and stats. “We want the majors to be able to do a lot of different things including econometrics. One of the first projects they completes look at how corruption influences environmental practices. Some look at traffic patterns and public transportation.” They’re building out 2 more tracks: EnviSci (such as where they place hydro-fracking wells) and peace studies. “No other college studies this! They look at things like how grassroots communities use data for advocacy.”
Choosing a student-designed Interdisciplinary Major is also an option. “This is a rigorous, intentional major. Interested students must find 3 professors from different disciplines, and then convince them that these areas mesh. They look at co-curricular, as well.
Students also must take 2 CPE (Complex Problem Exploration) classes during their time here. Professors identify a contemporary problem of significance and have students tackle real issues. The professor telling us about this program taught one called, “This is Human, That is Nature” where students look at how to solve the issue of environmentalism, “which can’t really be done until we rethink our relationship with nature.”