Faculty, staff, and administrators began discussions about establishing a new Liberal Education curriculum for Whittier College last Fall. It has been about 20 years since the College has implemented a change in curriculum and, for that reason, seems to need an update, according to Professor of English dAvid pAddy, who is on the faculty executive council for developing the new curriculum.
In addition to updating the curriculum to be more timely, Professor pAddy also hopes the newer staff can connect with the new curriculum, as they did not have a say in creating the current one they are teaching.
“What’s most important is answering: does the curriculum we have now speak to the newer faculty we have?” said Professor pAddy. “Does it speak to students? The outside world? Does it excite people and make us look interesting in the academic marketplace?”
The council for establishing a new curriculum consists of professors in departments ranging from arts to sciences and at least one WC alumnus in order to create an ideologically holistic liberal arts education for students in the future.
In establishing a new curriculum, its creators hope to better both students’ and faculty’s experiences at WC — beginning with the way students view the curriculum.
The current WC curriculum can be summarized by the ‘Four C’s: community, communication, cultural perspectives, and connections, all of which are disciplines students must take courses in to receive a more rounded liberal arts education. However, because of these requirements, students may feel they distract from their major or focus of study — a negative perception pAddy would like to see change.
“One of the reasons we’re trying to change [the curriculum] is [to stop it from] being a checklist of things for students to get out of the way.” says pAddy. “Ideally, students should be thinking of themselves as not just part of a major, but of a larger Whittier College experience. Liberal education curriculum should be a story you tell about this place.”
As for the story the new curriculum will be telling, it is not yet decided. Faculty hope to develop a model for the new curriculum by the end of this school year, with the next steps including student feedback from an array of majors, ages, and living situations.
Thus far, according to Professor of Sociology and Chairman of the new curriculum committee, Rebecca Overmyer-Velasquez, faculty have studied “how students learn best in order to draft curriculum models.” In August 2019, the committee presented three curriculum models to administrators at the faculty retreat to get their feedback.
“Our next step is to get feedback from current students on key elements of our draft models,” commented Overmyer-Velasquez. The new curriculum, however, is still in its early stages. “We don’t know yet what the new curriculum will look like and what exactly it will do,” said Professor Overmyer-Velasquez. “We do know that it is time for a new curriculum, however, since it’s been almost 20 years that the current one has been in place. And times have changed …”
As to the way times have changed, Professor pAddy argues against the popular modern notion that the curriculum should only focus on preparing students for a specific job. Instead, he would like students to know that, in creating a new curriculum, they should expect to become more well-rounded people and develop skills to succeed in any market, regardless of their job position.
To students who may fear this change, Professor pAddy urges them not to worry.
“The new curriculum is not additive,” he says. Instead, he assures that it will be designed to allow for more “choices, flexibility, and independence” in enrollment.
Furthermore, it will likely be implemented in the upcoming couple of years in a way that benefits all students. Those who entered WC under the old curriculum will finish their education with the same standards, while incoming students may be introduced to a new curriculum so that students can graduate on time.
Whittier Scholars Program students are encouraged not to worry as well, as pAddy says that their personalized schedules will be able to be tailored flexibly to the standards of the new curriculum as well.
As for more specific information about the new curriculum, Professor pAddy can only hint that it will involve the use of “themes” as opposed to the Four C’s students are used to. For now, student readers can expect a survey coming soon to provide feedback on possibilities for our new curriculum and stay tuned for updates on the story by reading the QC.