Macalester Today Summer 2010

kahty murrayShaping the Future Mac

What does Macalester do well? Not so well? What curriculum and faculty will make us the college we want to be 10, 20, or 40 years from now?

The faculty’s Educational Policy and Governance (EPAG) committee decided it was time to take on questions like these. So they solicited input from the faculty through proposals, town hall meetings, and an online forum, and then proposed a curricular development plan. “They came up with some enormously strategic thinking,” says Provost and Dean of the Faculty Kathleen Murray. “The plan joins 8 or 10 other criteria that we consider when prioritizing faculty hiring.”

Some key points:

Strong, core liberal arts curriculum remains essential. Two areas highlighted for attention across disciplines are:

• Asia. This recognizes that an understanding of Asia is crucial when discussing not just language and culture, but also economics, environment, social change, etc. (A new major in Chinese language and literature was approved last spring.)

• Historical depth. A modernist outlook should not overwhelm the historical perspective.

Areas of distinction, where Macalester can stand out:

• The global city. As an urban campus with a global focus, we have unique opportunities to study urbanization locally and around the world.

• Collaboration across disciplines through team teaching, to be supported by a new Fund for the Advancement of Collaborative Teaching.

As an example of a hypothetical teamtaught course, Murray proffered a course on air pollution in China. “You could look at air pollution from an environmental studies perspective and from an economics perspective. They would likely have two different sets of concerns. How do we reconcile them? Can they be reconciled?”

When hiring faculty, there are many factors to consider, from student demand to retirements. With this new curriculum policy guide, EPAG is offering a strategic look at how those decisions might shape the college.