January 25, 2012

Arts College Adds Six Minors to Meet Demand

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Over the last year, five departments  added a total of six new minors, bringing the total number of minors offered by the College of Arts and Sciences to 42. The new minors, in classics, classical civilization, mathematics, history, physics and anthropology will provide more opportunities for students to expand their education, Peter Lepage, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences said.

“There is a desire to provide advice to students that will guide them to a deeper appreciation of, and greater mastery over, the department’s discipline. Departments also want to provide an incentive for students to delve more deeply into the subject,” Lepage said.

The new minors are available to students across all colleges, which Lepage said “can be particularly useful for students in other colleges who are not able to major in Arts and Sciences subjects.”

To register a new minor, a department must send a proposal to the Educational Policy Committee, which oversees policies from grading to the academic calendar. After the proposal is accepted, the faculty votes on it, said Prof. Erich Mueller, physics and director of undergraduate studies in the department.

According to Mueller, the new minors will also allow students to explore different disciplines without overloading their course loads.

“Some of these students, they come in, they are interested in so many things … and by the end of sophomore year, they realize that even if they can do it, they are not getting [as] much out of multiple majors [as] they thought they would,” he said.

Mueller said that the increase in minors may have been due to “an evolution in the administration’s view on minors.”

Additionally, the arts college’s new offerings may have resulted from increased interest in the disciplines, as opposed to smaller enrollment. For instance, Prof. Lars Wahlbin, mathematics, director of undergraduate studies in the department, said the number of math majors has increased in the last few years.

Wahlbin said the minor may reflect the recently growing popularity of higher-level mathematics courses.

“We have not advertised it heavily because we are stuffed to the gills, but we have already enrolled 11 people in four months,” Wahlbin said. “There is no question that mathematics at the upper levels have become more popular in the last five years.”

Mueller noted that there was also an increase in the number of graduates majoring in physics; the department saw approximately 10 more students in the major in the last two years. Every year, students have asked if a minor is offered in physics, he said.

Minors also allow students to receive official recognition for in-depth coursework in these fields, even if they are not in the arts college, Wahlbin said.

“We hope to allow students outside of the college to have formal recognition,” he said.

Prof. Hayden Pelliccia, classics, said the minors also allow students to explore new subjects, according to a University press release.

“Our hope is that the growing number of students who are interested in the cultures, literatures, languages, history, philosophy, art and archaeology of classical antiquity, but who don’t wish to major in classics, will use this minor as a guide toward a more balanced understanding of the ancient world,” Pelliccia said.

According to Lepage, offering more minors allows students to have more academic flexibility than if a student takes two majors.

“The large number of courses required for two or more majors can severely restrict a student’s other options,” Lepage said. “This pressure is greatly reduced if that student does a major and a minor rather than two majors.”

Mueller said minors allow students to avoid the onerous workload of another major while maintaining their acadmic freedomm.

“We allow students to explore where they want to go, and protect them from overloading, and the minor is a great way to do that,” Mueller said.

Some students, excited about new opportunities open to them, said that the minors will give them greater flexibility in choosing what to study.

“Although I had not considered it before, now that there are these new minors I can study those subjects in a way I could not when there were just majors,” Michelle Jeffers ’15 said.

Original Author: Caroline Flax