Campus / News / April 20, 2016

Knox to add STEM, design minors

In an effort to expand the curriculum, Knox College will be offering four new minors at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

“We are trying aggressively to revitalize our curriculum,” Chair of the Curriculum Committee and Professor of Mathematics Kevin Hastings said.

In order to achieve this goal, the college is considering adding new majors and minors — a process which has already begun with the addition of Statistics, Astronomy, Health Studies and Design to the 49 other minors Knox offers. According to Hastings, there has not been a change involving this many minors in Knox’s curriculum since 2001, when the Renewed Knox Curriculum went into effect.

Before then, minors were not offered as part of Knox’s curriculum. Instead, there were a few interdisciplinary concentrations, such as Latin American Studies. In order to appear more marketable, the college decided to implement minors into the core curriculum.

“We decided in 2001, with the Renewed Knox Curriculum, that minors would be a good thing. It provides a kind of a stamp for qualification,” Hastings said.

According to Assistant Professor of Physics Nathalie Haurberg, new minors appeal to students who do not necessarily know what they want to study. The recent additions could help Knox attract students who may overlook liberal arts schools that offer a limited number of majors.

“Seeing that it’s an option as a minor let’s you know that, hey, you can do this. You can learn stuff about this at this school,” Haurberg said.

Haurberg also explained that these specialized minors will prepare students who have an interest in such fields. If a student is interested in environmental studies but also in geology and the cosmic history of the Earth, an astronomy minor tied to an environmental studies major would allow them to tailor fit their education instead of having to create a major.

About a year ago, Hastings, Haurberg and several other faculty members attended a Mellon workshop in order to push for the new minors. Funding from the workshop, as well as external grants, went toward the creation of the minors as well as the equipment required for classroom learning. Equipment purchased for the astronomy minor, for example, included a new mount and camera for the telescope and an expansion of the observation deck over the Science and Math Center.

The new design minor, meanwhile, resulted from student interest and recommendations made during in-depth departmental self-studies. In the past ten years, a number of students have created self-designed majors and minors in design. The Art Department is not creating a new minor so much as combining the classes Knox already offers.

After completing the studies, a team of experts, including other faculty members, were invited to review and give recommendations to the Art Department. Creating a design minor was one of the highest recommendations given to the department. The experts noted that the Art Department has everything it needs to create a great design minor — it just needed to formalize it.

Chair of Art Mark Holmes believes that formalizing the design minor will provide students with a more structured curriculum. He noted that students who self-design a minor can only take two courses in any one department, which may mean missing out on some fundamental classes.

“We found that becomes a real limitation … because the core of the minor is all visual,” Holmes said.

Sierra Henry

Tags:  astronomy curriculum design minors

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