Virginia Tech will develop an action plan to “review, refine, and revitalize” its core curriculum, and University Provost Mark McNamee has announced the first steps in the process. McNamee addressed core curriculum issues in a recent letter to the faculty, which, he said, must take the lead in the process.
Effective in academic year 2004-05, McNamee will authorize the Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching to set aside $25,000 for Core Revitalization Initiative Rewards as a way to encourage and reward innovative work on core-related projects.
The provost said he sees great promise in interdisciplinary sequences that address several core areas in integrated and creative ways and has asked core committees to develop a streamlined process to make the substitutions possible for the 2004-05 academic year. “We need to remove barriers to innovation and to have a mechanism for fast-track approval of promising pilot programs and courses,” he said. He will work with department heads, deans, the University Core Curriculum Committee, and the Commission on Undergraduate Studies and Policies to adjust existing structures to accommodate new processes.
Another step announced by McNamee is to ensure that modes of evaluating the core as a whole and of assessing individual areas become key components of reviewing, refining, and revitalizing the core. Regarding one of the individual areas—writing and discourse—he said he would provide support at the level of university oversight and identify additional resources for the work that “will be required to develop, implement, and assess the student competencies for the speaking-visual-writing requirement as it transitions from the core curriculum to the department level.”
McNamee also plans to hold a mini-retreat on April 30 to address ways to align the university’s core values with the core curriculum, to improve the coherence and integration of the goals of existing core areas, and to establish an agenda for the next academic year that focuses on delineating any changes needed in administrative and governance procedures and determining if Tech should pilot a distinctive, integrated first-year experience for undergraduates.
He also said he agrees with the Summer 2002 Working Group, which “saw merit in referring to the core areas by name rather than by numbers and in having the area goals displayed prominently on course syllabi.” As an incentive to naming the core areas, the provost’s office is sponsoring a competition for the person who develops the best acronym for the seven areas and will award a prize from Australia, the native land of Diane Bell, the American Council on Education Fellow who is spending a year at Virginia Tech.
Bell is working with McNamee and others to prioritize the issues and develop effective strategies to improve the core curriculum.
Additional information is available online at www.provost.vt.edu under Core Curriculum Initiatives.