Curriculum Committee: Meeting 2

1. Credit allocation for seminars

Currently there are no guidelines on the number of credits a seminar is worth, and no standards for the work required.

The following guidelines were adopted:

  1. One-credit seminars meet for a limited time. Grades are nominally based on one assignment, presentation, or paper.
  2. Two-credit seminars meet for a substantial part of the semester. Grades are based on two different types of work (assignments, presentations, papers).
  3. Three-credit seminars meet regularly for the entire semester. Grades are based on three different types of work; a final may also be given.

2. Student performance reviews

The faculty have not held a meeting to discuss student progress/performance in several years. There is some feeling that these meetings did more harm than good; on the other hand, the faculty now have little general sense of how students are doing.

These review meetings served two purposes: first, to generate feedback to the students, and second, to keep the graduate faculty informed on the progress of the students. After considering possible alternatives, the committee concluded that meetings of the graduate faculty to discuss the students are important, but that careful preparation is needed to insure that such meetings are constructive. This matter should be discussed in a regular faculty meeting before the next student performance review is scheduled.

3. Rotation of faculty assignments

Some courses have become tightly bound to individual faculty members. This may deny new faculty members a significant role in graduate education.

The following proposal was adopted:

  1. Faculty normally teach a mixture of graduate courses, graduate seminars, and undergraduate courses.
  2. Graduate teaching assignments rotate among available faculty.
  3. A faculty member may teach a given course no more than three times in a row.

4. Qual exam schedule

The committee discussed the factors governing the schedule of qual exams. These are normally held in early September. While it may seem desirable to set definite dates well in advance, this is not possible in practice because both examiners and students may have observing runs or other commitments which can't be anticipated.

5. Minimum/nominal syllabi for grad. classes

At present the choice of subject matter seems to be left entirely to the instructor's discretion.

This item brought up several complex issues. One concerns the architecture of the graduate program - what subjects are appropriate and necessary as part of a modern graduate education? Another concern is the balance between the academic freedom of individual instructors and the needs of the graduate program as a whole.

Before any real discussion of these issues can occur, we need to know, in some detail, what subjects we are currently teaching. Some professors have made syllabi available, often on the Web; similar outlines will be requested from other instructors, and augmented where necessary by student notes.

6. Mentoring of 1st-year students

With a large intake of new students in the fall, this seems a good time to examine how students are advised during their first years at the IfA. Such advising takes two forms: interpretation of University rules, and informal guidance in navigating graduate life at the IfA. University regulations are not well understood by most of the faculty; Jim Heasley, Esther Hu, and Gareth Wynn-Williams are knowledgeable in this area, and new students should be made aware that they can go to these people for help. Students with TA or RA positions often go to the faculty members they work with to obtain guidance; others get help from their 699 advisors. These informal mechanisms appear to be adequate.

Joshua E. Barnes (

Last modified: May 25, 2001