Curriculum task force focuses on minimizing course load

By Cory A. Thompson – [email protected] – staff writer
The Faculty Senate votes this week on a proposal that removes topical clusters among other changes, designed to streamline the liberal arts core of UNC Asheville’s curriculum.
“The curriculum review task force was trying to decrease the total maximum number of hours that a student would have to take,” said Patricia McClellan, assistant provost of academic administration. “If this document is voted through, then we could see these changes as early as next fall.”
McClellan said the new curriculum aims to offer efficiency and an overall reduction to student workload. On the backend, the new model should free up faculty resources to focus on teaching and learning.
“Nearly everyone on the task force agreed the labor-intensive, largely committee-work-driven oversight of the ILS had become unmanageable and had begun to affect the quality of the student learning experience,” said the proposal, which can be found on the Faculty Senate’s website.
Though the cluster system recently won an award from the National Center For Science and Civic Engagement, the supervisory demands of the system began to interfere with both faculty and students’ ability to teach and learn.
“The majority of the task force members agreed that the ILS topical clusters were unsustainable and often problematic for many students,” the proposal said.
Attempting to appease cluster requirements left some students taking far more courses than required, the proposal said. The task force recognized students scrambling to fulfill liberal arts requirements and missing out on the spirit of liberal arts education.
“These students had few or no credits available for courses they might want to take to explore other interests, as we would hope any well rounded liberal arts student would do,” the proposal said.
The most popular cluster option, Human Health and Illness, currently boasts twice as many enrollees as the next contender and almost 30 times as many enrollees as the least popular cluster.  The ease of this cluster has much to do with its popularity, according to McClellan.
“Unlike some of the other clusters, Human Health and Illness can be completed with only 100 level classes,” McClellan said. “These classes are also common AP and transfer classes.  We’ve had new freshmen that have already completed this cluster before taking a class here.”
Under the proposed policy, students will choose a three-hour “scientific perspectives” course and a three-hour “social science” course instead of a topical cluster.  Department chairs and the deans of natural and social science will collaborate to compile the lists. Health and wellness promotion, which would no longer be a required course, may soon fulfill the social science requirement.
“The health and wellness department was unable to support the demands of the current ILS HWP requirement without hiring more faculty members,” the proposal said. “In this climate of fiscal limitation that this very important aspect of our ILS might be delivered in another, perhaps more sustainable way.”
Options to integrate health and wellness into the curriculum include informal interdisciplinary collaboration and the inclusion of health and wellness topics in already-existing LS 179, LS 479 and HUM 414 classes. For transfer students, the LSIC 379 will now be optional.  Writing intensive and information literacy intensive classes will also be moved from the liberal arts core and placed into departmental curriculums.
“The writing intensive and information literacy intensive classes would be embedded within other requirements like the majors,” McClellan said. “A math requirement and the diversity intensive class would remain.”
The process of reviewing the ILS curriculum began more than two years ago, according to McClellan. The committee welcomed everyone who wanted to participate and progress was slow. On Nov. 7, after a brief introduction, two years of deliberation will come to a vote.
“Right now, if you tried to do ILS in the most inefficient way, it could involve 67 to 69 hours,” McClellan said. “After the changes, the maximum total credit hours will be 47.”