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March 02, 2016

Committee offers recommendations for Rochester Curriculum

students listen in classroom
A committee that reviewed the Rochester Curriculum says the benefits of the curriculum clearly outweigh the costs.

A committee tasked with reviewing the Rochester Curriculum has recommended a number of modest changes to allow greater freedom for student exploration and to better prepare students for life after college.

The committee—comprising faculty, staff, and students from across Arts, Sciences & Engineering—spent a year reviewing the curriculum. It’s the first time the curriculum has been reviewed since it was approved by the Faculty Council in 1995 and took effect for the class of 2000. The committee was appointed by Peter Lennie, provost and the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences & Engineering, and  Richard Feldman, dean of the College. John Jaenike, professor and chair of the Department of Biology, served as committee chair.

The Rochester Curriculum was founded on three principles: freedom, passion, and discipline. Students have the freedom to select areas of study that interest them and the ability to pursue their interests with passion. The curriculum also requires of them the discipline to design their course of study. The committee says it recognizes that there is a potential trade-off between freedom and breadth of knowledge as encouraged by a core curriculum. However, it concludes that the benefits of the current structure clearly outweigh the costs.

Learn more

The full report has been posted online at The committee welcomes feedback at

The report offers 33 recommendations in five general areas:

General education

Recommendations include explaining the rationale and goals of the Rochester Curriculum clearly to freshmen and advisors; minimizing dead-end tracks that cannot be used to fulfill the requirements of a major or cluster; and recognizing bonus clusters to encourage students to explore new areas and pursue them in some depth.

Writing and communication

The Rochester Curriculum features a writing requirement, which includes primary writing and upper-
level writing within the student’s major. Among other recommendations, the committee highlights expanding the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program’s role in partnering with academic departments to develop discipline-specific upper-
level writing courses.

Experiential learning

The committee notes that although the College offers many opportunities for experiential learning, several issues need addressing, such as course numbering and barriers to student research.
Recommendations include encouraging department chairs to request funds in their instructional budgets to cover some of the teaching for faculty heavily involved in supervising students doing independent study. The committee also suggests publicizing the availability of Discover Grants to expand undergraduate research opportunities and the availability of the Community-
Engaged Learning Fund.

Global engagement

The committee encourages increasing student participation in globally oriented activities and growing exchange programs with partner universities around the world. Departments should identify several international programs that they can particularly recommend to their majors for study abroad.

Career preparation

There are a number of career-related initiatives currently offered or being considered to empower students to pursue the right career path, including the development of an e-portfolio program, a proposed career and internship center course, and additional upper-level writing courses.

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