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Fletcher Jones Grant to Change Science GEs

November 16, 2009

by Wyatt MacKenzie
Fletcher Jones Grant to Change Science GEs

Although CMC received a grant from the Fletcher Jones Foundation back in last April to "develop a suite of new introductory science courses over two years, to be taught in cooperation with The Keck Graduate Institute," there's not a lot of awareness around campus of what exactly the changes will mean or even that they are coming.Essentially, the new curriculum is intended to solve the two major problems with the current science GEs-- the fact that they are prohibitively difficult to get into before senior year and the fact that they bore most students out of their skulls. This will be achieved by introducing a range of new, more topical science classes intended to be taken by underclassmen (and at least initially only available to them). The first of these classes, BIOL 84LJT: Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology, which will be taught by Professor Emily Wiley of the Joint Science Department and Professor Steven Casper of KGI, debuts next semester and promises to "introduce students to molecular concepts and techniques underlying the evolution of genetic engineering for commercial purposes including pharmaceutical development/production, cloning, tissue generation, genetic testing, and biological enhancement."

These courses will also de-emphasize traditional lab-based study and instead use lecture, discussion, and case-studies in an effort to draw out the connections between policy, economics, and science.  According to Chris Wiedey, CMC's Director of Foundation & Corporate Relations, the new classes aim to "align more closely with the existing college curriculum, while still presenting fundamental scientific concepts. These courses will not be isolated, compartmentalized components of the curriculum. Instead, we expect them to complement CMC's demonstrated strengths in economics, government, and public policy."

One current Joint Science professor, who wishes to remain unnamed, admits that some students can be "adversarial" about their GEs and hopes that "the more concrete idea of showing exactly how scientific thinking affects other fields would help engage otherwise leery students," and that "anything that would encourage students to take a science course early and of their own volition will ultimately lead to happier outcomes for everyone... excitement and enthusiasm go a long way towards making a course worthwhile... students feeding off of the faculty's enthusiasm and vice-versa in a feedback loop."

The scheduled implementation of the new curriculum means that most of us will never experience it, but it represents a not insignificant step in CMC's ongoing efforts to balance its dual nature as a liberal arts school and a government-econ specialist.

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