X-Degree makes strides

Photo by Tiara Winata

Planning is currently in progress for the creation of “X-Degree,” an interdisciplinary major program that would allow students to individualize their course studies, while maintaining the same rigor of other Tech majors.

“The program would have a huge number of design options. The program would require students to integrate ideas from other disciplines and methodologies to a particular problem. The intended primary benefit is to allow non-traditional students who work hard to be able to craft a program of study which makes sense to them,” said Richard Barke, Associate Professor in the School of Public Policy and X-Degree committee chair.

X-Degree is being planned by both faculty members and SGA. They hope to finalize their proposal this May. The planning committee hopes to pilot their degree in Fall 2014.

A gateway class, which would required to for students in the X-Degree program, is being piloted in Fall 2013. The class would be an Honor’s Program course. However, the X-Degree will be open for any student who applies.

“A lot of the rigor would be ensured by a ‘gateway class.’ Many of the other universities we have talked to has said that a gateway class is crucial to a program’s success,” Barke said.

They would pilot a class of about 10 students, but they hope the degree would eventually grow to 25-50 students per year.

Rigor would also be ensured through faculty advisors and a faculty oversight committee.

Another area of contention is when students will be able to apply to the “X Degree.”

“SGA has strongly recommended to us that students should have to wait to finish their freshman year before applying. That way, they can see if what they are looking for is already available in an existing major. A counterargument to that, though, is that some students have said they are interested in Tech because of the X-Degree and that plan may deter them. If they were very entrepreneurial, we might consider incoming freshman,” Barke said.

Students would still be required to complete the core classes required by the Board of Regents regardless of when they enrolled in the X-Degree program.

“The X-Degree is not a way around what programs already exist at Georgia Tech. Students will still be graduating with a Bachelor of Science,” Barke said.

Similar programs are currently available at other universities such as Duke and UVA. The planning committee hopes to differentiate the Tech program by its rigor.

“Duke has Program II, which is smaller than what we propose. But half of the students who apply to it don’t get in. And half of those apply again. There would be no guarantee with [X Degree] either—if the proposed major is not ‘Georgia Tech’, then we would say no,” Barke said.

While the planning committee agrees that the program needs to be interdisciplinary, they are still unsure exactly what that will mean.

“We haven’t decided yet whether the student’s programs would have to include engineering or be science and technical, or if a major could take place solely within the College of Sciences” Barke said.

The planning committee wants to make sure that the X-Degree is in keeping with the spirit of other Tech classes.

A few of the prototypes students have come up with would have fit better in colleges like Emory or UVA, but that program doesn’t fit in with Georgia Tech. In the end, it has to be a Georgia Tech degree,” Barke said.

The planning committee has not decided what the actual name of their major would be.

“There is a formal name and then what everyone will call it. We think it will always be known as ‘X-Degree,’ but we haven’t decided what will go on the actual diploma yet. We want it to be descriptively accurate but so it doesn’t also hurt the student,” Barke said.

Students in the X-Degree would be strongly encouraged to intern and study abroad. However, the planning committee is unsure how co-oping would work under the program.

“We are absolutely adamant about encouraging [internships and study abroad]. With Co-ops, we certainly wouldn’t stand in their way, but we are unsure at this point. The question has been raised,” Barke said.

The planning committee is also unsure registration logistics due to possible issues with major restrictions.

The planning committee hopes the ‘X Degree’ will fit in with Tech’s ‘Strategic Plan,’ which includes alternatives to traditional forms of learning.

“[Other universities] have said that for Georgia Tech to undertake this degree program is notable and admirable. If we do this right, then Georgia Tech will be raising the bar for all,” Barke said.