In a few years, a large portion of the freshman program, New Student Seminar (NSS), used for the past 15 years will be drastically different, according to Margaret Preston, Augustana’s curriculum council chair.
The reconfiguration process started in 2008, Preston said, when a group of faculty, the General Education Task Force (GETF), began working on a proposal that will affect the “package” of classes required by each student for graduation. Preston said the proposal was recently brought to the council, which is now targeting the topics the task force faculty wish to change. This includes NSS.
According to Professor Mitchell Harris, the curriculum that dictates the core classes at Augustana has not changed in around 25 years. He also sits on the curriculum council with Preston.
“It was probably due time,” Harris said.
When the GETF presented its proposal to the curriculum council, Harris said open forums were held in order to get feedback from other faculty. In the process, faculty identified around five problems in the core curriculum and recommended changes be made to the general education requirements.
Faculty proposed a new program for freshmen called “Journey,” which Harris called a “near universal expression.” The GETF suggested that NSS be reworked to include a semester-long, two-credit course, but Harris said the professors were concerned about the possible staffing requirements. Staff who teach NSS already do it as an overload course and receive a stipend for their work.
“The general consensus was, ‘If we’re going to redo it, why don’t we really redo it?’” Harris said.
He was assigned the task of building a new model, and has spent the past year researching other schools’ programs.
Harris looked at the systems other Evangelical Lutheran Church in America schools use, along with a cross-applicant pool and their first-year programs. He also reviewed first-year programs of distinction and read professional writing on the subject.
Harris said he has identified five basic models based on his research so far. These include both semester and year-long classes which operate around a theme and include the freshman writing requirement within the class, according to Harris.
The council presented two choices to a variety of faculty and students on Nov. 12 and 13. Whichever option they choose will be applied to the new plan called for by the proposal, according to Preston.
“We’re trying to decide which design we want to implement,” Preston said, who added that the effective date of the new plan is unknown because of this step, but that students will know by the end of the year.