The biology and English department chairs are looking forward to curriculum changes in upcoming semesters, which they hope will benefit University of Richmond students and make major requirements more flexible.

April Hill, the biology department chair, has worked at UR for 13 years. As department chair, she is aware of plans to change curriculum requirements that will go into effect in the fall of 2018, Hill said.

The Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees were the same for a long time, Hill said, which made things difficult because students in the field of biology require a unique variety of skills and background courses.

Hill said that part of the change would include adjustable math requirements, using the example that students would be able to take quantitative courses such as statistics instead of calculus.

“We’re not doing it to increase our number of majors, we’re doing it in response to what we’ve heard from our students over the past years,” Hill said. “We find that a lot of our students will go off to graduate school and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I really wish that you’d recommended I take computer science or statistics.’”

This flexibility was particularly important for Jack Scheutzow, a sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB) major.

“I have a lot of friends who were upset because this semester and last semester... [the department] barely had enough classes for all of the majors,” Scheutzow said. “This coming semester, I’m very impressed with how they included more courses. I have seen an improvement there.”

Although impressed with this change and how the department has responded to some student complaints, Scheutzow pointed out other issues he has observed. He said he was frustrated with his current ecology class because he is on a pre-medical track and is not pursuing a career involving ecology. However, he has to take the class to fulfill one of his major requirements.

“Should people be exposed to ecology as well as genetics depending on their interests? I’m not going to be using anything related to jellyfish or bean beetles in my future,” Scheutzow said. “Yes, I’m learning science and we’re doing experiments and getting into the community and thinking from that perspective, but I think it’s a little disorganized.”

Hill sent the biology majors an email on Oct. 23 detailing the curriculum changes for next year, including a plan to change the BA degree to cultivate students’ interdisciplinary interests.

“We definitely have a lot of pressure to get enough upper level courses for our students to graduate, but I actually think these changes will give our students a little bit more flexibility,” Hill said.

The English department chair, Louis Schwartz, who has worked at UR for 28 years, has a similar view of past curriculum adjustments and upcoming changes in his department.

“The one change that we did make last year was to the prerequisite structure for the major," Schwartz said. "The major required two specific 200 level courses. We decided last year that it created too much of a narrow doorway into the major.”

Currently, the English department is undergoing academic program review, a process that happens every seven years. The department is in the preliminary stage of that process, which will be completed in May of 2019.

“One of our priorities is very, very likely to be curriculum because the department has undergone some changes in recent years," Schwartz said. "There’s been a number of promotions, people have gotten tenure, the department has got a very different makeup than it did when we established the present curriculum."

UR as a whole is undergoing a rethink of first-year programs and general education requirements, which the English department plans to take into consideration, Schwartz said.

“Students have reacted very positively and in fact, there’s been an uptake in the number of major declarations this year, which we hope is a trend,” Schwartz said. “The doorway into the major is much easier and I think that has encouraged students to explore it.”

Grace Holzer is a junior English major who said she remembered getting an email about the prerequisite change last year.

“I think the reasoning behind it was to make the English major more accessible and less tedious,” Holzer said.

Contact news writer Kiersten Ness at kiersten.ness@richmond.edu. 

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