After Dean of Arts and Sciences Laurie Patton emphasized the integration of career interests and academic passions during a talk last Wednesday, Program II seems likely to be at the center of a change in the University’s vision.
Program II, the individualized degree program that allows select students to develop their own major, could expand in size and prominence in order to accompany the increasingly integrative and interdisciplinary academic currents. But Patton noted in an email Wednesday that such changes will not take place in the near future.
“There are no immediate plans to change Program II,” Patton said. “We have asked the faculty committee in Program II to study what kinds of successful proposals have come through over the course of the last several years.”
Alvin Crumbliss, former faculty chair of the Program II committee, praised the program for offering students an alternate route to earning a degree and for encouraging them to think about their career goals when designing their own curriculum. But he acknowledged that not all students are equipped to design their own program.
The program has doubled in size over the past decade, increasing from 23 students to around 40 students per class. Self-designed majors have ranged over 17 interdisciplinary areas, many based firmly in the humanities.
For students pursuing the sciences, one issue they face with Program II is the difficulty of assimilating more rigid science curricula into the interdisciplinary approach of Program II.
“Science majors’ curricular requirements are vertically structured, which makes it more difficult but not impossible for them to do Program II,” Crumbliss said.
Crumbliss added that students specializing in science are often required to take more prerequisite courses, giving them less flexibility to pursue Program II.
Junior Hannah Anderson-Baranger, who designed a Program II major entitled “Sustainable Art and Design: Ethical Creation in a Globalized World,” said she wanted to pursue a Program II major since freshman year. She added, however, that her previous experience in a typical major program confirmed her interest in Program II.
“If anything, the classes that I chose to take [for my original major] solidified my commitment to my program,” Anderson-Baranger, a Chronicle columnist, said. “I wasn’t really satisfied with any one of these disciplines—the thing I was most passionate about was this interdisciplinary field of sustainable arts.”
Although she has taken many courses in environmental studies, Anderson-Baranger has also taken a number of natural science courses in preparation for her program.
“Having a basic scientific understanding of how things work is important,” Anderson-Baranger said. “If I talk about the ozone layer, I want to know what that means.”
Anderson-Baranger added that she believes her Program II degree will help her forge an eventual career in sustainable fashion design.
For now, the program will remain unchanged from past years.
“We can talk to students who have completed Program II in that same time period,” Patton said. “From there we can judge what successful, engaging and meaningful interdisciplinary projects look like for students., and then we can think about how that interdisciplinary spirit can best be utilized across the rest of the curriculum.”
Norman Keul, Program II director and associate dean of Trinity College, could not be reached for comment.
Correction: The article has been corrected to reflect the accurate name of Anderson-Baranger's major and the nature of her coursework, which does not include environmental policy but focuses on environmental studies.