As the committee performing Yale’s first academic review in three decades warms up for a year of inquiry into the University’s undergraduate curriculum, all members of the Yale community should know the upcoming year is one in which they will be able to affect significant policy change.

For students, there is no more central part of the Yale academic experience than the choice of classes, eventually a major, and often, a concentration within that major. Some students come to Yale specifically to pursue one course of study, while others wait until their junior year to finally decide upon a major.

Regardless of the academic path they have pursued as students, faculty members or otherwise, all associated with the University would benefit greatly from than a thorough evaluation of Yale’s programs of study.

With that charge in mind, the Yale Daily News today launches a long investigation of our own. Each Thursday for the rest of the academic year, the News will publish an in-depth review of a University undergraduate program or department. The examination of Yale’s engineering programs that appears on today’s front page marks the first piece of the series.

The aim of these reviews is to analyze the state of the University’s departmental structure as we now it, and to reflect on where certain programs have been and where they may be headed. We will examine both disciplines long ingrained in Yale’s culture, like history and English, and recent forays into new areas of acadmia, like African-American Studies and various area studies programs.

Through these analyses, we hope to paint as complete a picture as possible of the nature of each program. We will work largely from the input of those who immerse themselves daily in Yale’s scholarly life — current students and professors — but we will also seek the wisdom of alumni and faculty who have moved on to other areas of Yale or the world.

Finally, we will strive to place the performance of Yale’s programs within the context of higher education around the world. We will compare the size, experience and reputation of the faculty that comprise Yale’s programs with the same measures of teaching and research strength at competing institutions.

There is no better time to embark upon a thorough review of Yale’s academics than now. As Yale President Richard Levin has pointed out, the University’s major building campaigns, especially the $500 million Science Hill initiative, have laid the infrastructure for a rethinking of undergraduate science curriculum for majors and non-majors.

In the humanities, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and their aftermath doubtlessly will change the way we approach the study of philosophy and politics, likely necessitating an emphasis on emerging disciplines like area studies and perhaps rekindling interests in topics like military strategy.

When the administration decided to embark upon its academic review, it set the tone for a year of discussion. Through our own investigations and analyses, which are entirely separate from the University’s, we hope to provide both food for thought and a forum for discussion. Through extensive interactions with people throughout Yale’s academic spheres, we hope to gain understanding not only of why Yale’s programs have developed the way they have, but also how they can be improved to better fit the needs of students in the decades to come.