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In keeping with a recommendation by the Task Force on Undergraduate Education, the College Curriculum Council is continuing its reviews of concentrations in seven departments this year, said Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron. On the 2009-10 agenda are East Asian studies, South Asian studies, physics, gender and sexuality studies, American civilization, public policy and American institutions and Latin American and Caribbean studies.

Though the order of concentration reviews is mostly determined by the broader departmental external reviews that they follow, Bergeron said this year's lineup demonstrates "an emphasis on multidisciplinary departments." She said that a priority of the review is getting departments "to articulate their goals apart from a list of required courses."

Some of these departments are already wrapping up the review process, which involves completing a self-study, hosting a subcommittee from the CCC, surveying faculty and students in the department and submitting a final proposal for approval by the CCC.
The proposals may include changes which stem from the CCC's suggestions, as well as from the department's own plans — whether recruiting additional faculty, which requires funding approval, or restructuring course requirements in the concentration. 

Sheela Krishnan '10, a student representative on the CCC, said that during the review discussions there is "definitely a lot of back-and-forth. Everyone has their own opinions and everyone's opinions are heard, which is great. It's amazing in that everyone comes to the table with open minds."

Krishnan, a human biology concentrator who was on the subcommittees for the South Asian studies and East Asian studies reviews, said she has been able to witness "the inner-workings of course offerings" and "how a humanities concentration is achieved." As a student, she said she has enjoyed seeing "how the concentration ties in with the idea of liberal learning at Brown."

Arthur Matuszewski '11, a former Post- editor-in-chief who is serving his second year as student representative on the CCC, said he thinks the review process is crucial in keeping up with the changing needs of students. "Seeing the new curriculum be reinvented and reinscribed has been the most phenomenal part to me," Matuszewski said. "As a student (representative on the CCC), in part, defining Brown becomes defining what you want your own educational experience to be. It's fascinating feeling like you're creating your own game."

Hye-Sook Wang, associate professor and chair of East Asian studies, said the department had not conducted this type of self-examination since its inception more than a decade ago, and having a concentration review allowed the faculty to consider changing the structure of the undergraduate program. The department is debating eliminating the current country-focused track system, and doing so would necessitate a revision of the advising framework, Wang said. By undergoing the review, the department received insight on the country-track question from the CCC, particularly with regard to how similar departments handle the issue. The CCC also independently recommended clarifying wording about course requirements on the department Web site, something Wang said the faculty had not previously considered. Wang said the review was useful because there was "two-way communication. It was a reciprocal process."

Bergeron said reciprocity is a particularly important aspect of the second round of concentration reviews. "I think trying to articulate clearly the intellectual goals (of a concentration) needs to be an iterative process," Bergeron said. "It needs to be a conversation."

Bergeron also said she has been pleasantly surprised by the outcomes of the reviews. "Faculty at Brown care a lot about their students and their concentrations. Ultimately I find this conversation very enriching because you find out how much people really want to make their courses of study better."


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