Arts and Sciences Council went out with a “major” bang Thursday evening.
The council reviewed proposals for three new degree programs at its final meeting of the academic year. Members of the council unanimously approved a new biophysics major, financial economics minor and concentration for the economics major, as well as an East Asian studies certificate.
“We were all very excited,” said Arts and Sciences Chair Ruth Day, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience. “It was a very intense student suggestion-led initiative. It underwent very thorough examination and back and forth revisions. We look forward to seeing students in [the programs].”
The objective of the biophysics major is to offer a coherent program for undergraduate students with interests in both physics and biology to receive a B.S. and A.B. degree.
Many council members commented on their surprise that the major, dealing with the study of physical aspects of processes that enable cellular, tissue and organismal function and survival, did not already exist.
“This field is not new,” Day said. “It has been around for decades. I was surprised to see it wasn’t here before.”
Keith Whitfield, professor of psychology and neuroscience and chair of the curriculum committee, noted that biophysics is a growing field and that the links to the medical school would make it easy to use the technology and expertise there.
The council members also approved a financial economics minor and major concentration, which was a result of observations drawn from the financial markets in the past year.
The minor and concentration narrow the scope of existing courses and investigate the financial sector and its interactions with the “real” sector of the economy, according to the proposal submitted by Patrick Bayer, chair of the economics department.
“There is a huge demand for these types of courses,” Bayer said. “We want our students to be different when they go to Wall Street.”
Lee Baker, dean of academic affairs of Trinity College, noted that the proposal put a “distinct Duke stamp” on the broader liberal arts approach.
“Grounding the proposal in the liberal arts tradition was smart,” Baker said.
The math-intense program also hopes to better complement Pratt students interested in economics.
The third newly approved program, an East Asian certificate, will address the strong student demand for educational programs about China, Korea and Japan.
According to the proposal, the Asian and Middle Eastern studies major focuses primarily on language and literature, but does not offer courses in sociology, political science, economics or other social science disciplines.
The Asian/Pacific Studies Institute hopes to build the program on Title IV funding received from the Department of Education.
In other business:
George McLendon, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, gave a presentation discussing the major accomplishments of the last five years including the improvement of faculty quality and curricula.
He noted that from 2005 to 2010, 130 faculty members were replaced and extensive recruiting of faculty led to the improvement of mentor-student relationships.
“This is where people really wanted to be, so we gave them a chance to do it—not for bragging rights, but for the students,” said McLendon.
He added that major goals for the next five years include a greater commitment to liberal arts, the enhancement of Duke’s global presence, defining and leading intellectual paradigms and engaging students to form a community of scholars.
“We need to be fully aware of what the national trends are, but need to not get too caught up in them,” McLendon said. “There are a lot of things that are right and we need to celebrate them.”