As the class of 2001 has changed and grown at Yale, so has the Blue Book.
Reflecting an emerging emphasis on racial studies and a continuing drive to improve undergraduate science education, several new academic programs and departments have been created over the last four years.
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology was granted departmental status in 1998, and African American Studies was promoted to a department in 2000, making them the only two new departments in the last 30 years. Academic offerings have also been expanded in recent years by the creation of the Ethnicity, Race and Migration secondary major and the Program in Cognitive Science.
Departments are institutionalized at Yale and each department offers a major, while programs are more tentative and sometimes experimental.
EEB was created when the biology department split into two departments — EEB and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. At the time, faculty said the separation of the two disciplines had more to do with research at the graduate level than undergraduate education.
This spring, the Committee on Majors heard a proposal that would recombine the two separate undergraduate majors into a single biology major while retaining the separation of the departments. The committee approved the proposal early this spring.
“The reasons for separating the two departments never had much to do with the right shape of the undergraduate major, so I’m very pleased to have once again a unified biology major,” Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said.
Timothy Goldsmith, director of undergraduate studies for MCDB, said the move will correct current problems.
“What we have been doing for the last three years has been presenting a pair of majors that succeeded in one sense, but failed in one sense to convey the unity of biology,” Goldsmith said.
But Lisa Neel ’01, an MCDB major, said the two distinct majors was not an issue.
“It was separated when I was a freshman,” Neel said. “I came [to Yale] interested in one thing and I got to do it.”
Other developments in science education have come with the creation of a cognitive science major in 1998, which combines aspects of computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, psychology and philosophy.
Frank Keil, director of undergraduate studies for Cognitive Science, says the major has done well since its inception.
“It’s taken off,” Keil said.
Six members of the class of 2001 are slated to be the first to graduate in the major.
Studies in the Environment is another science program that has received recent attention. After years as a secondary major, administrators announced in May that Environmental Studies would become a standard major for the 2001-2002 academic year.
Just two years after EEB gained departmental status, the Program in African American Studies received a similar promotion. The Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, made the program a department in February of 2000, shortly after its chair Hazel Carby offered her resignation, questioning the administration’s support of the program. She withdrew her resignation after the Corporation’s decision and remains the chair of the department.
Carby said departmental status has invigorated African American Studies.
“It’s clearly done a lot to everybody’s spirits to know the University is committed to the program,” Carby said.
Under its new status, African American Studies is able to make its own faculty hires, but remains interdisciplinary in nature, sharing faculty with departments including History and Sociology. Carby said more faculty searches are being planned for next year.
Amanda De Zutter ’01, an African American studies major, said she thinks the department is growing well.
“It’s still in transition, but they are doing everything they can as fast as they can to fortify the department,” De Zutter said.
The Ethnicity, Race and Migration major is also a new program that was created as a secondary major in 1997. Though the initiative remains small — only four seniors majored in it — students have positive views of the experience.
“It’s the best thing that’s happened to me at Yale in terms of a major,” said Steven Shafer ’01, who also majored in sociology. “I speak Spanish and Chinese, and I’m very interested in immigration, and I wanted to find a way to integrate my understanding of Hispanics in the United States and Chinese in the United States.”
Carby said the departmental status of African American Studies and the creation of the Ethnicity, Race and Migration major have complemented each other well.
“Ethnicity, Race and Migration is an innovative interdisciplinary major that is able to succeed because of departments like African American Studies,” Carby said.