Bryn Mawr to Offer Half-Credit Courses for Fall 2010

Posted April 2nd, 2010 at 11:54 am.

Beginning in the Fall 2010 semester, Bryn Mawr students will have yet another option as they explore their academic opportunities and attempt to fit their many interests and the College’s varied offerings into a four course semester.

For the first time, Bryn Mawr will be offering a slate of half-credit, seven-week, courses in addition to traditional semester-length offerings.

Half-credit courses will be offered in biology, chemistry, classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, education, geology, psychology, and Russian. Students can type “QUARTER” into the keyword search on the tri-Co course guide to see a list of the new half-credit courses.

“A freshman who doesn’t know how to narrow her interests may really benefit from trying two different subjects in one course ‘slot,’ thus sampling five subjects in a semester instead of only four,” says Dean of the Undergraduate College Karen Tidmarsh.

“And for our upperclass students, courses like those being offered in archaeology, psychology, and Russian provide a chance to spread their academic wings a bit and pursue an even wider variety of subject matter than was previously possible,” adds Tidmarsh.

Half -credit courses are one of several significant curricular changes to come out of the Curricular Renewal Working Group, a group of faculty, students and administrators that has been meeting since May 2008 to reexamine Bryn Mawr’s curriculum. The group plans to finish its work by May 2010.

“The faculty involved in these new courses deserve a lot of credit,” says Provost Kim Cassidy. “These aren’t watered-down versions of existing courses. Each instructor has to create a course that makes sense as a stand-alone offering and conforms to Bryn Mawr’s high standards of academic rigor and content and yet isn’t of such a scope that it ends up being even more intensive than a traditional course.”

Half-credit courses are offered at a number of other leading liberal-arts colleges, including Haverford College, that  have looked for ways to increase student academic options and allow students to  master challenging and diverse subject matter.

“One of the hallmarks of a liberal-arts education should be engaging with unfamiliar and exciting new material,” says Cassidy. “On the more pragmatic side, a liberal-arts education is not just about majoring in a particular subject, it’s training students to think and problem-solve in new ways in preparation for professional change. An English major who can focus intently on chemistry or biology can certainly make the case that she’s prepared to learn and adapt in today’s fast-paced professional environment.”

As part of the curricular renewal process, the faculty has also approved changes to the foreign-language requirement that will take effect for the Fall 2011 incoming class.  It has also created a pilot program titled “Kaleidoscope,” that connects multiple courses, their students, and faculty for a single semester (or in some cases across contiguous semesters) through common problems, themes, and experiences for the purposes of research and scholarship.

Preregistration for Fall 2010 courses takes place April 5-16.

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