Jeff Philpott answers questions about the new Core Curriculum

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Jeff Philpott: 2012-2013 is the plan right now; that might slip to 2013-2014. There’s a lot that needs to be done. Many faculty members will need to redevelop courses. The Provost’s Office has provided money to support those efforts, to offer workshops for faculty members, to help them understand the requirements of the Core, to develop a sense of ownership of those requirements, and to support them in developing new courses. We think that will be an exciting opportunity for the faculty members, but it’s also a lot of work. This probably means developing 100-200 new courses across the university. And then secondly, all of our admissions materials, our advising materials, the Registrar’s systems, the details of how students transfer from community colleges, all of that needs to be examined and revised in light of the new Core. There’s a lot of work to do. 

The Commons:  How does the timeline for the revision and implementation of our new Core compare with the process at other schools? 

Jeff Philpott:  I know some universities that have been discussing Core revisions for seven years and haven’t gotten to where we’re at. I know other universities that have done it in a year. We took a year and a half to develop the outline of the new Core. For some people, it was too fast; for others, it was about right. I think the implementation will likely take us a year and a half to get it right. And it’s important to get it right. We don’t want to put a Core in place that isn’t ready for our students, and that faculty aren’t ready and supported to teach. 

The Commons:  How many courses will need to be overhauled or created anew? 

Jeff Philpott:  A lot of them. It won’t require a complete overhaul of all of them. Many of the courses that are already offered in departments like English, history, philosophy, Fine Arts, theology and some of the social sciences will very easily transfer over with some minor tweaking. The natural sciences courses will probably require more work, in part because we are doubling the number of those courses in the new Core, and these new courses won’t be the traditional introduction to a field, the survey courses. So that’s a place where some more faculty positions are likely to be needed and faculty members are going to need to spend some time thinking about developing courses that are thematic, as opposed to introductory courses. Some people in that college are really excited about that and are already doing that in courses they’re teaching now. For example, Sue Jackels developed a course in the chemistry of food and nutrition several years ago, and a course like that would be a wonderful module 1 course in the new Core. General Science developed a new course on renewable energy—that would be a wonderful module 3 course in the new Core. But I think science is where we’re going to have to work to develop the most new courses, primarily because we’re doubling the number of courses that will be offered. 

The Commons: How many faculty are affected? 

Jeff Philpott:  Right now about 225 professors teach in the Core every year across 24 different departments in five different colleges and schools. So the short answer is a lot.  

The Commons:  What are your thoughts on being reappointed director of the Core Curriculum? 

Jeff Philpott:  I’m very excited about being reappointed. When I first took this position, I started attending conferences and reading about issues on curriculum and particularly Core curriculum design, and became very interested in some of the models and research out there for helping students learn and grow. To be the Core director at the time when we’re both discussing a new Core and then implementing a new Core that builds on some of those models is an engaging challenge for me. I also know the process has been both difficult and exciting for many people. Change is never easy. We have many faculty members who have invested a great deal in the courses that they teach and are incredibly loyal advocates for the current Core, and many people are sorry to see that change, and I understand that. So, at times, it’s been a difficult process, and I appreciate where people are coming from when they raise those concerns. Part of my goal as I move forward with the implementation process is to reach out to all of the faculty members on Seattle University’s campus, especially those who teach in the Core, and to get them involved in the details of developing these courses and a curriculum that remains true to our Jesuit character, that frees up faculty members to teach in ways that are exciting to them and that educates our students well. I’m sure it will be a challenge at times, but I’m looking forward to it. 

The Commons:  Anything else? 

Jeff Philpott:  Implementing a new Core is really an all-hands-on-deck kind of activity. While the faculty have primary ownership of the curriculum, staff members of all sorts, administrators, students, they’re all important in this effort. They’ve been involved in developing it this far, and they need to be involved as we move forward. Certainly our advisors, administrative assistants in departments, people in Student Development and admissions all have something to contribute. Everybody who works with students has a stake in the education of our students, so I’m open to including a wide variety of voices in this process and creating a strong sense of collective ownership in this program. This really should be a flagship program for the university that we all understand and can all be proud of.  

For more information, you can visit Core revision.   

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