Task force suggests curriculum changes

The Provost Task Force of Excellence issued a report last week that outlined several ideas for improving student life and continuing to improve Tech’s standing as a global leader in science and technology. Composed of faculty, staff and students, the task force was created a year ago to solve issues related to undergraduate and graduate level education.

At the undergraduate level, the task force focused its efforts on implementing changes that would ensure continued success for students.

“We wanted to figure out what we need to do to make sure the current generation of Tech students is as successful as previous generations,” said Ray Vito, vice-provost for Undergraduate and Graduate Studies.

After working together for a year, the undergraduate committee issued its report outlining two major issues for reform. The first idea decided to pursue is calendar reform. “We asked ourselves how we can introduce flexibility into the calendar to allow the students to do things that are very difficult now,” Vito said.

In its report, the committee discussed the possibility of a trimester calendar, which would offer students a full summer semester. “This will make it easier for students who are trying to graduate in four years,” Vito said. The group also looked at the possibility of mini-semesters in January and May that would allow students to conduct an intensive research experience or take an intensive course. In addition, the report considered issuing classes that would not last a whole semester.

The second major idea at the undergraduate level would be to try and increase access to interdisciplinary minors.

“Another thing we looked at is a way to try and give students the ability to pursue minors that cut across the institute and give students a broader and easier access to opportunities at Tech than they have now,” Vito said.

At the graduate level another committee discussed issues relating to interdisciplinary research and faculty structure. The report dealt with categorizing a better mechanism for the creation of new Research Centers and the dismantling of older ones.

“We’ve been ad hoc in making new research centers and taking apart others. That costs money. We need to figure out how to organize them in order to make them more effective,” Vito said.

Another issue that the graduate committee will pursue is the mechanism for hiring and promoting interdisciplinary faculty.

“We want to allow professors to be half time in one department and half time in another, but we have to discuss the basis for hiring these individuals and how they can move up the ladder,” Vito said.

Finally, the graduate committee also looked at how to sustain and promote the growing pool of ideas. “The committee will also discuss how to keep ideas flowing and identify key ideas that our faculty and students generate,” Vito said. He also outlined that the committee would seek to integrate faculty, especially the general faculty to help increase the number of ideas and improve teaching.

Moving forward the task force is planning to have committees to focus on the details of the ideas proposed in the report. “There are no guarantees that anything will happen,” Vito said.

The six percent budget cuts made earlier this year will affect any of Tech’s future moves. Several of these ideas may end up as proposals for Tech’s new President to consider.