At the Tercentennial academic convocation last October, Yale President Richard Levin announced a plan to conduct a comprehensive review of undergraduate education at Yale.
Under the direction of Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, four subcommittees were created to evaluate specific academic fields. The four task forces, composed of six to eight members each, are responsible for the biomedical sciences, the physical sciences and engineering, the social sciences, and the humanities.
During the first few months of the academic review — Yale’s first in 30 years — the Yale Daily News has conducted a weekly series evaluating several departments and programs at Yale.
As one of Yale’s few selective majors, the international studies program is currently under review by the social sciences subcommittee and has been criticized for its supposed lack of focus.
William Foltz, the outgoing chairman of the International Studies Program, said the complaints he receives point to two opposite problems.
“I get some folks complaining it’s too broad and some saying it’s too narrow — a lot of it depends on the student’s initiative,” he said.
Offered only as a second major, more than 75 percent of students in the program have chosen history, political science or economics as their primary field of study. Currently, students can count classes in departments ranging from political science to chemical engineering towards the major.
In response to criticism that the curriculum lacks focus, Foltz said that the subject itself covers a wide range of topics.
“International studies is by nature a broad subject that can be reviewed from a variety of angles,” he said. Foltz said there are no plans to modify the interdisciplinary element of the program.
“We looked very seriously at the major this year and thought about having it as a stand-alone major and rejected that idea,” he said.
Next year, history professor John Gaddis will take over Foltz’s post as the chairman of International Studies.
Film studies, a major that traditionally draws 12 to 15 students per class, has attracted twice as many interested students in the past two years. While the outgoing senior class has 12 film studies majors, the rising senior class has 25 majors.
As a result of this rapid growth, the program has struggled to expand its resources to accommodate student demand for more course offerings and increased funding.
Program of Film Studies co-chairman Charles Musser ’73 said he attributes the sudden swell of student interest to recent changes.
“[The program] has been put on a starvation diet for many years,” Musser said. “You give it more resources, and the reservoir of interest responds.”
These changes have included the addition of two senior faculty members, Musser and co-chairman Dudley Andrew.
Musser said there are other faculty appointments planned for next year in the areas of black cinema and multiculturalism in the media.
“[They] will contribute to the program in terms of offerings and diversifying the profile of the faculty,” Musser said.
Musser added that he believes the administration has been trying to keep up with the expansion of the major.
“I think the administration has made a real commitment to film studies,” he said. “Actually, as we speak, we’re still sort of waiting to hear about some things that will happen next year.”
In January, the Religious Studies Department approved changes in its undergraduate curriculum that will take effect in the fall.
The revamped curriculum will be divided into four groups — comparative, thematic surveys; broad introductions to particular religious traditions; introductory and intermediate specialized religion courses; and advanced specialized topics.
Christine Hayes, director of undergraduate studies for the major, said in an e-mail that this change will emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of the major.
“Currently, the department’s course offerings are divided by discipline, creating the impression of parallel tracks within what is actually a very interdisciplinary and interconnected major,” she said.
Additionally, Hayes said Religious Studies will be adding a number of classes in the upcoming year, including two courses in world religions.
Hayes said the department also hopes to expand its faculty resources in the areas of Buddhism and Hinduism in future years.
With Hayes on sabbatical next year, the acting director of undergraduate studies will be religious studies professor Frank Griffel.