Shift to four-credit courses begins

In response to continuing budgetary difficulties, Geneseo is beginning a transition from the course load of five, three-credit classes to one of four, four-credit classes that will require departments to remodel their required curriculum.

In May 2009, President Christopher Dahl unveiled the Six Big Ideas, a program of six strategic initiatives to be discussed by task forces comprised of Geneseo faculty. The "Re-thinking the Course Load" task force has spent over a year researching issues associated with changing the course load. This past summer, the task force made further progress toward the development of a proposal with the help of representatives from the English, math, psychology and geological science departments.

Provost Carol Long, alongside Dahl and the Strategic Planning Group she chairs, is overseeing the Six Big Ideas initiative.

Long said that the task force co-chairs, sociology professor Anne Eisenberg and former English professor Richard Finkelstein, worked with a group of faculty over the summer to get an idea of how department curricula would have to change in the wake of the transition.

"We asked the departments to develop a kind of template for what would happen to their curriculum," Long said.

Ganie DeHart, chair of the psychology department, said that her department has positive thoughts regarding a change in course load.

"As we met and looked at the possibilities, we realized that this is an opportunity to rethink the major and make changes we've wanted to make," she said.

As for developing a template regarding what the major might look like with a four/four course load, DeHart says the department is still working through the details.

"We have a couple options we've developed for changing the major," she said. "One option is a low impact option which would reduce the number of courses. The other option is more extensive."

Paul Schacht, chair of the English department, said that his department also worked extensively on its template for a restructured major. According to Schacht, professor Beth McCoy, who represented the English department at summer meetings addressing the transition, "spent many hours simply thinking through how an English major might look if it had 10 courses as opposed to 12."

"At the first department meeting, professor McCoy presented her plan to the department to serve as a starting point for discussion," he said. "We expect that over the course of this year, we are going to continue discussing how the English major could look with 10 courses and we expect to come up with a plan in the spring."

Long said that reducing the number of required courses would save money for the school and would be a "great improvement in the quality of education," but would also result in "more intense courses."

The college still has much work to do before the plan can be put into action. Long said that this type of transitions has taken anywhere from three to six years at colleges similar to Geneseo.

"We are looking to give the departments until about the first of February to come up with, at least in a conceptual way, how they would make the shift in their departments from a five- to four-course load," she said. "We could at the very earliest start a transition the year after next."