Professors offered a bonus for CORE curriculum

With the new core in its second official year, the University has had some difficulty in filling positions to teach the Signature II Christianity and Culture in Dialogue course for the spring semester and has offered full-faculty the option to teach the course in addition

The core is offering any full-time faculty $4500 to teach Signature II as an overload to the standard faculty load for the spring semester, the same amount paid to professors for teaching a summer course.

Roseanne Mirabella, founding director of University Core Curriculum and associate professor of Political Science, attributed the need to offer full-time faculty the option of teaching an overload course to the budget issues on campus, particularly hiring restrictions and the reduction of adjunct professors.

“It is unfortunate that our core is rolling out with this economic situation,” Mirabella said.

Mirabella said that when the core was being designed, a goal was for the courses to be taught strictly by full-time faculty, for freshman students to interact with senior faculty, which has been successful so far. An adjunct professor has yet to teach a Signature course.

“Here we are, the core, an interdisciplinary department, not affiliated with any college or department, so we have to go to departments and have faculty volunteer to teach in the core,” Mirabella said.

Marian Glenn, course coordinator for the Journey of Transformation course and a biology professor, said that staffing 60 sections of one course can be “pretty challenging.” Unlike other courses, the Signature courses are not taught by adjunct professors or graduate students. However, Glenn said that most professors who teach Journey of Transformation once will teach it again.

“When we started the university core, we decided that this would be an opportunity to have a small discussion-based class with a full-time faculty member,” Glenn said.

The ‘Signature Courses’ included in the core curriculum are: Journey of Transformation, Christianity and Culture in Dialogue and Engaging the World. The Signature Course Curriculum Committee includes members of faculty throughout the university and is responsible for reviewing core curriculum.

There were 66 sections of Journey of Transformation in the fall and six sections will run in the spring. There were 15 sections of Christianity and Culture in Dialogue in the fall and 41 sections will be running in the spring. Journey of Transformation is primarily a fall course, while Christianity and Culture in Dialogue is a spring course, according to Mirabella.

Mirabella explained that some members of the faculty may be unfamiliar with teaching the texts in the Signature courses. In order to prepare them, they are required to take a Faculty Prep Session.

For taking a Faculty Prep Session in order to prepare to teach Journey of Transformation, faculty will receive $1000 for the semester-long preparation that takes place on every other Friday. The professors will then teach the course the next semester. The readings are provided to the faculty by the SCCC.

Professors who teach the Signature core for the first time will also receive a $1000 dollar bonus. For the third section of the Signature courses, if a professor develops and teaches their own section of Engaging the World, they receive a stipend of $3000.

Glenn said that a benefit to teaching the Journey course has been interacting with members of the faculty from different departments.

Mirabella said that members of the faculty meet weekly for lunch to talk about the texts.

“Faculty found it enriching for them to converse with other faculty in cross-disciplines, who they probably wouldn’t had have (the opportunity to), without these courses,” Mirabella said.

In addition, Glenn has taught the Journey course four times and said that teaching it for the first time can be difficult as professors adjust to the new course material and the discussion-style of conducting class.

“(We are) getting students used to taking a discussion course and faculty used leading to a discussion course,” Glenn said. “But it becomes a new way of conducting classes. Now, I do less lecturing in my other classes and more discussion, so I think that this has carried over.”

Nancy Enright, an English professor, also helped to create the Journey course and has taught Journey multiple times. She described her experience teaching it as extremely positive.

“It’s also been a challenge to teach texts I have never taught before at all, like Plato’s ‘Symposium’, for example,” Enright said, in an e-mail interview. “The inter-disciplinary nature of the course is interesting, and I especially have liked the aspect of service learning, which is an option for faculty and which I have always included. I find that students almost always like doing the service.”

Enright said that the negatives in the course are the large number of items included, films, responses, journals, etc, and because the course is very structured, this offers less flexibility for the instructor. However, Enright said that these problems can be worked around.

Peter Savastano, assistant professor of anthropology and a member of the SCCC, was involved in formulating the Signature courses. He also taught Christianity and Culture in Dialogue two semesters ago and is currently teaching it as part of one of the Honors Colloquiums.

Savastano described the texts in the core classes as being foundational to Western culture.

“For this reason, I see these courses as crucial to our student’s education and in order to find them ready to live in the rapidly changing and increasingly complex world in which we live. In order to live in such a world one needs to know from whence one comes, historically, culturally and religiously speaking, and both Signature one and two (and now Signature three) provide this background and foundation,” Savastano said in an e-mail interview.

On the staffing issue, Savastano said, “As with any new endeavor, people are hesitant to change or to take on a project about which they are unfamiliar. I hope that as the new core becomes more widely implemented faculty members will confidently volunteer to teach the Signature Courses.”

Savastano also added that part of the problem with recruiting faculty to teach in the core has to do with not having enough faculty members able to teach courses in both their department and the core.

“I know that the administration is in the process of remedying this problem and I have every confidence that as it is remedied more faculty will sign-on to teach Signature Course,” Savastano said.

Mirabella said that she has complete confidence that all the open positions will be filled within the next few weeks.

“We wanted teaching in the core to be something that faculty aspire to,” Mirabella said. “That’s our goal and so far, we have succeeded.”

Author: Staff Writer

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