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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Proposal to change USEM, UWS

Published: October 14, 2005
Section: News

A faculty committee established to review the current University Seminar in Humanistic Inquiries (USEM) program has proposed several substantial changes to the program.

In a written proposal, the UCC-USEM Review Committee recommended several changes to the USEM program, including the creation of disciplinary-specific USEMs, the elimination of the +W seminar option, and the restructuring of the university writing-intensive requirement.

The committee stated that there were major complaints from students and faculty regarding the current system, including dissatisfaction of the student body with available class selection, concerns of the students and faculty over the increasing size of seminars, and the worries of some departments that faculty resources are depleted by USEM quotas.

The proposal suggested that to address decreasing USEM selection and growing class sizes, faculty members should be able to offer disciplinary USEMs specific to an area of study and that do not necessarily engage in humanistic inquiries. The committee argues that by making the USEM more appealing to faculty via increased flexibility in USEM topics, volunteers would more easily be collected for the USEM program, thereby increasing the number of USEMs available, which would variety and decrease class sizes.

Moreover, the proposal suggests that disciplinary USEMs will allow students to find their USEMs more meaningful to their own areas of study, and that disciplinary USEMs will reduce departmental qualms over USEM quotas by providing first-year students with an introduction to their field. These USEMs may possibly count towards major, minor, and other distribution requirements. However, a USEM may not be an introductory course.

Carol Ortenberg 06, Appointed Student Representative on the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and the only underclosely with [Union President] Jenny [Feinberg], [Director of Union Affairs] Aaron [Gaynor], and others to take part in the process [during which] they interviewed four candidates over [the course of a] week.

The search committee was looking for broad admissions experience, an understanding of our mission, and someone with passion for their work, said Eddy.

In regards to the choice of Villanueva as the new Dean of Admissions, Eddy remarked that we found Gil Villanueva to be our best candidate because of his passion for his field, wonderful charisma, and ability to bring the Brandeis message to ever increasing numbers of students.

Villanueva has spent the last eight years working as Senior Associate Dean of Admissions at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA and before was an admissions counselor and then Assistant Dean of Admissions at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA.

In a Sept. 27 community email, Eddy wrote that during [Villanuevas] eight years at Bucknell, he played a major role in the transformation of that institution from a highly selective to a most selective institution, achieving significant increases in applications, SAT scores [of applicants], numbers of [minority] students… and geographic distribution of the undergraduate student body.

When asked why he was leaving Bucknell to come to Brandeis, Villanova explained that the opportunity to serve one of the top universities in the nation was more than enough of a reason for me to apply for the position. Not many places can claim to have achieved so much in such a short period of timeand of course, the opportunity to be the lead manager of an admissions office was also part of my motivation to leave Bucknell for Brandeis.
Villanueva was especially attracted to Brandeis during his on-campus interview because he had the opportunity to interact with students and faculty. A certain intellectual rigor was readily apparent to [him], he said. Villanueva also said that this refreshing insight was further enhanced by a kind of respectful civility among community members. I thought, This is a place that truly promotes learning through open and active dialogue.

When asked what his goals for Brandeis were, Villanueva said that as Dean of Admissions he aims (among other goals) to develop and implement strategic long-range planning efforts, including budgetary implications and targeted communications plans;

provide leadership for the universitys relationship with high schools around the country and abroad, and for other influencers in the college guidance community;

and to identify ways to improve Brandeiss station among the elite universities in the nation.

In the Sept. 27 email, Eddy wrote that Villanueva is an enormously personable, energetic, and accomplished senor admissions officer and when asked by the Hoot why Villanueva was chosen as the new Dean of Admissions, she said, wait until you meet him youll understand immediately.