Students in SEAS Get Liberal Arts Minors

Beginning next year, students in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science will be able to minor in liberal arts subject areas for the first time.

SEAS will offer six new minors: English, history, political science, philosophy, music, and architecture. Though SEAS students have always been able to take classes in these departments, they will now have the minor designation added to their transcript if they complete the required coursework.

"We are really trying to open up the University as much as possible to our students. We think it's a strength of being here," SEAS Vice Dean and Chairman of the Committee on Instruction Morton Friedman said. Friedman gave his final approval on the new minors last week.

The push to add the liberal arts minors to the SEAS curriculum, however, was largely student-driven. Adding minors had been talked about for years in the Engineering Student Council, ESC Academic Affairs Committee President JaMel Nelson, SEAS '03, said.

Beginning in September, Nelson, who is also ESC President-elect for the 2002-2003 school year, and members of his committee surveyed first-years to determine interest in pursuing liberal arts minors. Armed with statistics on student support, they then went to SEAS Dean Zvi Galil and the SEAS Committee on Instruction to see how to go about getting approval for the minors.

"Our initial approach was ëif it's possible, great.' We really tout our engineers' broad education," Galil said.

After a year of research and discussion with the individual departments, the Academic Affairs Committee presented a proposal to the COI, which is made up of a faculty member from each department and determines academic policy. The minors were approved on April 24.

A seventh minor, in psychology, was not approved by the COI because the COI determined that not enough psychology courses fulfill SEAS students' non-technical requirements for a psychology minor to be attractive to students.

But some students, like Marie Thomas, SEAS '04, disagreed. A biomedical engineering major, Thomas said she had hoped that psychology would be approved this year. "Biomedical engineering has a lot to do with neuroscience, and neuroscience and psychology are really related," she said. The ESC Academic Affairs Committee will make further attempts to get the minor passed next year.

Nelson notified SEAS students of the change via e-mail on Tuesday.

"People have asked me why we didn't announce this before pre-registration. In addition to it only being passed on the 24th, the committee and the COI wanted to make sure that the deans and departmental advisors knew requirements for the minors and the new policy in general before we announced the minors to the students," Nelson said.

While the new minors are not official minors offered by the departments, students who complete the required courses or number of credits will have the minor designation appear on their transcript. English, history, music, and political science will all require 15 credits. Music will require 17 credits, and architecture will require 18 credits.

"It's all [the other department's] courses, but it's engineering which takes the responsibility for saying to students this will show up on your transcript and it will say minor," Friedman said.

The specific minor requirements and approved courses will be published in next year's course bulletin and are partly modeled on Columbia College pre-medical concentrations, which allow students additional flexibility. Students who have additional questions will be able to ask their advisors or class center deans.

Students will not be able to make any course substitutions, however.

"If the minor is take any six courses, fine. That's easy for everybody. . .but if the minor says you have to take courses A, B, C, [students] cannot come and say I want to take this course and not that course. If they start to really be demanding ... these departments may say, ëwe won't do it,'" Galil said.

In addition, all the coursework for the new minors will need to be completed on top of a SEAS students' specific coursework for his or her major, though some of the courses may count towards SEAS students' non-technical requirements, courses which are not math or science based.

"It should be possible for a student without too much strain. In the end, it is still more than the standard requirement. A student could conceivably start and decide it is too much work," Friedman said. "They will still have taken some good courses." Friedman and Galil estimate a student will have to take between two and five additional courses to complete a minor.

Though it will be understandably harder for juniors or seniors to complete the requirements, any student who completes the requirements will have the minor designation added to his or her transcript starting next year. Nelson estimates at least 10 percent of the 1200 SEAS students will begin pursuing a minor next year, and both he and Deans Friedman and Galil have received a lot of enthusiastic responses via e-mail already.

"We've gotten a lot of e-mails from students particularly interested in the music department. I've found out we have large numbers of students in engineering who are professional musicians, who have been playing 10 or 15 years already," Friedman said.

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