In recent years, Yale has capitalized on a booming endowment and flowing alumni gifts by launching initiatives that will change the face of the University. The $500 million overhaul of Science Hill will jump-start science education, the residential college renovations will make campus life more attractive, and the new Center for the Study of Globalization will establish Yale as a global center of learning.
Now, without departing from the University’s commitment to its ongoing projects, President Richard Levin has decided to take a serious look at the undergraduate curriculum.
Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead will lead the project — Yale’s first extensive review of the undergraduate curriculum in three decades — and he and Levin presented the first elements of the project at Thursday’s faculty meeting.
Few would dispute the exceptional strength of Yale’s undergraduate curriculum, especially when compared with the lack of focus on undergraduate education at many other Ivy League universities. Factors like the accessibility of professors and students’ freedom to choose classes make our undergraduate system one of the nation’s best, and Brodhead’s review should leave these strengths unaltered.
Nevertheless, the project comes at a convenient and appropriate time, as the University prepares a plan of action for its fourth century. At the center of this plan lies Levin’s stated goal for the University to become a leader in higher education the world over, an objective he focused on during his address at the tercentennial academic convocation.
This will be no easy task, but the decision to take a fresh look at the undergraduate curriculum is an important early step.
A review and possible expansion of the residential college seminar program could potentially accompany the current college renovations.
Yale’s commitment to the sciences, evidenced by Levin’s 2000 promise of $500 million worth of improvements, can succeed only if the administration makes an equally bold effort to integrate the sciences into the framework of undergraduate education.
Finally, Yale’s goal to become a global university can be achieved only if the undergraduate curriculum reflects a similar emphasis on global studies and increased opportunities for international students.
Brodhead and the members of his committee must work to create academic reforms in concert with the University’s nascent investments and expansions. The University must work to integrate its greatest physical resources — its lecture halls, its labs and its research institutions — with its greatest intangible resources — the creativity and skill of its students and faculty.
Levin’s decision to launch an academic review at this time is to be commended, and Brodhead’s committee must realize that it has a tremendous opportunity to change not only the face of the University, but also the heart of its operations.