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Hoot Interview: Krauss describes history, goals of curriculum changes

Published: January 21, 2005
Section: News

THE HOOT: How does the curriculum process fit into the integrated planning process, how much of the process is the curriculum change?

PROVOST KRAUSS: Lots of universities develop what are called strategic plans and they do it every ten years or so, to take a look at where theyre going. And we do a lot of strategic plans here at Brandeis. What president Reinharz wanted was an integrated plan. And what he wanted was, all of the different components of the university, as exemplified by the senior administration, to work together to identify where do we want to be in 5 to 7 years? What are the most important, pressing priorities for the university? And once some sense about those priorities was achievedhow do we get there? What do we do now to get there?

KRAUSS: I was a very different planning process and it was really, it was quite exciting.

KRAUSS: So this planning group would meet sometimes twice a week, which is a lot of time to commit to this, so what Im trying to say is it was a very serious, very intensive effort. One of the good outcomes, what came out of it, was that we each of us began to understand what the other persons responsibilities were and what they thought they needed to achieve their goals.

KRAUSS: Dean Jaffes task was to take a deep look at Arts and Sciences, which is something it hasnt done in quite a while, and to understand how its resources were currently being used and what kind of curriculum do we have and what, if we asked the faculty, which we did, where would you want your program to be in five years?

KRAUSS: So there were a lot of pleas in some of these reports, for example, more courses in Asian studies. There is a lot of evidence that a lot of students are going over there and taking courses. Every single recommendation for curriculum change he proposed came from one of these reports. As he likes to say, the only addition that he proposed in his plan that didnt come out of these reports was the proposal that we teach graduate students how to teach, that we actively train students and how to be good teachers, which we dont currently do.

KRAUSS: Everything else came from faculty suggestions, so thats an important issue. The things he proposed not continuing to do, those didnt come out of the faculty suggestions, but his attitude was, weve got to start from a position where, if we want to add things, we need to be grown-up enough to say we may need to give some things up in order to do this. At least lets start up from a balanced position and do that analysis.

THE HOOT: How do you balance the fact that we are a liberal arts institution with the student needs? For example, maybe even if students choose East Asian, maybe its not necessarily what they need, or maybe theres something else they also need.

KRAUSS: Students need a lot of things. You need choices. We try to recruit an intellectually curious student body that is serious about its own education and that wants to have available lots of different kinds of curriculum and we try and meet that high expectation;

we like that. Thats a good thing. The world is a global world and East Asia is a huge part of our present and it will be a huge part of our future if you just look at the demographics. The biggest growing economies now are India and China. So if we want informed citizens of the world, we have to have a curriculum thats broad and deep. We are also a liberal arts institution, and there is a sort of core body of knowledge that constitutes a strong liberal arts education and we need and do try and provide that liberal arts education, but the world is a big place, we attracts students that want different things out of their life and want to learn different things, so we need to have both a bedrock curriculum that is a liberal arts education and additional programs that reflect new areas of knowledge, new emerging areas of knowledge, interests of the students.

THE HOOT: So do you see the administrative structures of Arts and Sciences changing at all?

KRAUSS: I think the department structure will stay strong. There may be more strength given to the interdepartmental programs which are offering a lot of the courses and where right now, they dont have the same clout, so to speak, as the departments, and thats problematic from a curricular planning perspective. So, Adam has made some proposals to give the interdepartmental programs more voice in curriculum and hiring decisions and I think that there is probably a fair amount of support for that.

THE HOOT: Is that the trend then? Adding new interdepartmental programs? new departments?

KRAUSS: Well were not adding new departments, I cant remember the last time we added a department. There have been interdepartmental programs put online and there have been programs taken offline. Theres an interesting chart in Adams presentation, if you go to the tables, its like the third or fourth figure, and it shows the past five or ten years and it shows the new programs that have been added to the curriculum and old programs that have been discontinued in the curriculum. So you can see, how dynamic the curriculum can be.

THE HOOT: So, if you say the structure of departments now seems to cover things, and the interdepartmental programs kind of cover the rise and fall, does that mean you would plan to keep all the existing departments and work within that structure, or are you possibly eliminating or changing around departments?


THE HOOT: So every department we have now will continue to exist?

KRAUSS: Theres no active plan now to change the number of departments we currently have.