Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, July 17, 2018

School of Public Affairs curriculum to undergo major changes by fall 2017

Three degree programs in SPA will respond to revamped core curriculum requirements and student demand to double major

School of Public Affairs curriculum to undergo major changes by fall 2017

The School of Public Affairs building, now known as Kerwin Hall. 

By fall 2017, the School of Public Affairs will make significant changes to three degree programs by decreasing required credit hours, eliminating or adding courses and switching required courses to prerequisites, SPA's Interim Associate Dean Saul Newman said. 

The changes will take place for the political science, law and society and justice and law degrees as a response to AU Core, the new general education curriculum set to begin in fall 2018. Student demands to either double major or pick up a minor also influenced the restructuring of the general education requirements, Newman said. The CLEG major will not change at this time, keeping the 57-credit hour requirements, he said.

Under AU Core, all undergraduate students entering AU in fall 2018 will navigate through their general education requirements in four years, replacing the current two-year program students complete during the first half of their time at AU.

“Decreasing the number of credit hours is not an attempt to strike courses from the books,” Newman said. “Instead, we hope that students will have the freedom to choose the classes they want to take.”

Courses in the political science degree program will decrease by more than 30 percent of required credit hours, Newman said. He noted that the credit requirements will be reduced from 58-59 credit hours to 39-40 hours. Newman approved the department’s proposal on Feb. 12, and said that by mid-July the new changes for SPA will be seen in the 2017-2018 course catalog since Provost Scott Bass has approved the proposals.

Overall, the political science major concentration courses are decreasing from 27 to 24 credits, and the non-concentration credits are also reduced from 27 to 24 credit hours. More specifically, 18 credits will be required in 300-level courses or above, and six credit hours for courses that are 400-level or above.

An interdisciplinary focus falls in line with national higher education trend

Newman said that the significant changes are in line with a broader trend in undergraduate education.

“In general, the standard disciplinary walls in academia are starting to break down,” Newman said. “Political science has lots of connections to math and statistics, and also connections to psychology, sociology, anthropology and economics. Most disciplines do, and we’ve already recognized this with our CLEG major -- which focuses on communications, legal institutions, economics and government.” 

Newman said that having a political science degree is great, but having a political science and economics degree helps students apply knowledge to each field. A focus on flexibility for double majors is one of the hallmarks of AU Core, which is intended to free up students’ schedules to take more classes outside of their major.

“A lot of students want to double major,” Newman said. “We already have an interdisciplinary major, but a double major allows you go into more depth.”

Law and society, justice and law programs will change in SPA 

Law and society and justice and law will also decrease over 30 percent of required credit hours and eliminate some courses by fall 2017, Newman said.

For the law and society major, two courses will be eliminated: the legal process course and the justice and public policy course. However, a new course, JLC 281 “Introduction to Legal Studies Research,” will be added to the course catalog, Newman said.

By lowering credit hour requirements from 54 to 36, the concentration in the major will be reduced from 18 to 15 credit hours, Newman said.

The justice and law degree will decrease from having 21 required credit hours to 15 hours. Many courses will be eliminated, such as three credits in law and society, concepts of punishment and the terrorism and homeland security practicum courses. Electives will be cut off at 12 credit hours as well.

The future of SPA after AU Core 

Newman said that SPA is a little ahead of the rest of the schools at AU by quickly responding to AU Core and to the undergraduates’ desire to beef up their resumes with extra areas of study to increase their chances of finding a good career once they graduate.

He said that SPA is willing to add new courses to its curriculum to support the student demand of having more class time discussing race and ethnicity.

“Student leaders are meeting with administrators over the summer to discuss issues surrounding the recent spree of hate crimes at AU,” Newman said. “We are open to adding more courses that align with students’ interests.”

He said that SPA will have to wait a few years to see data on how students will respond to AU Core and to the new changes in degree requirements, but they are willing to adjust their degree programs to make sure students are getting what they want out of their college education.

“As students go through the new degree programs, one major question will be ‘What are the choices students are going to be making?’” Newman said.  

sdolezal@theeagleonline.com


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