X-College committee begins program design

The X-College committee formed over a year ago to explore the idea of creating a “design your own major” program for Tech, as a way to increase curriculum flexibility and student faculty interaction. The committee is nearing the conclusion of the initial brainstorming phase, and it will be presenting its findings and recommendations for next steps on Friday, Dec. 2, to Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson.

“The biggest update is that this will be a new degree instead of a new college, because this would eliminate a lot of the bureaucracy [of establishing a new college]. Adding a new degree still requires a lot of resources, and we are trying to garner widespread support,” said Elle Creel, Undergraduate Student Body President and an undergraduate representative on the committee.

While the program has generated interest, one concern includes maintaining a high level of academic rigor.

“It’s been crucial to identify the design principles to shape the basic design of the program, such that it’s highly flexible, but not completely void of structure,” said Richard Barke, committee chair and PUBP professor. “We want to preserve the Tech brand of a highly rigorous education, so employers and graduate schools can look at it and not say it’s a watered down degree.”

SGA has formed a “shadow committee,” consisting of student representatives only as a way to emphasize and incorporate student input into the creation process of the program, and the committee also welcomes any input from the general student body.

According to Barke, the program may require students to complete the core curriculum and a gateway course before starting the custom degree program in their third year.

Following the gateway course, students would be required to write a curriculum proposal and to obtain faculty support, according to Barke.

There are many potential challenges in the implementation of this program, such as the existing restrictions on course registration, major-based recruitment and the introduction of a custom major program would require changes to these systems.

“The world of education is changing so fast [that] we don’t want to be locked into set modes. We are concerned with the question of the future of education, and this [the X-degree program] can be a laboratory for new forms of learning,” Barke said.

The committee estimates that approximately 100 studentswould be enrolled in this program in its inaugural year.

“It’s not like anything we’ve seen before at Tech, but if Tech is to be one of the best engineering schools in the world, it must be willing to try things that are different,” said Nicholas Robson, an undergraduate representative to the committee.