In fall 2020, Augustana is introducing three new majors and a new project-based core. The core applies to everybody but the new majors are for a subset of students. There are no new majors for science yet, however, they will be coming.

It is somewhat correct to say the new curriculum is affecting the arts-based majors because it is art majors that have come first, but in the next few years there will be new majors with science. However, everyone is going to be participating in the new project-based core no matter what degree they are in. What is different about the new majors is that some of the traditional majors have been repackaged into multidisciplinary groups. I spoke with Karsten Mundel, Associate Dean, and he says: “These new majors help coherently mix some of these different disciplines together into what I think are unique offerings in Alberta.” The programs are driven more by interest in a topic than by pure discipline. This way students are not taking classes that are completely irrelevant to what they are focusing on in their major. In the new curriculum these classes will actually work toward your major and be relevant.

The three new majors are Creativity and Culture, Ethics and Global Studies, and Law, Crime and Justice Studies. The disciplines within the new Creativity and Culture major include Art, Art History, Drama, English, Languages, and Music. The subjects that will be combined into the Ethics and Global Studies major are History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Religious Studies. And the Law, Crime and Justice Studies major will explore History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology. In order to offer these three new multidisciplinary majors, Augustana has reduced the total number of low enrolment majors being offered and will no longer be accepting applications to the suspended majors. Students that are currently in those majors can continue on until graduation. If you are a third or fourth year student you will not be affected by the new curriculum. Current students (with 45 credits or less at the end of Winter 2020) will have the option of moving into one of the new multidisciplinary majors by speaking to a Student Advisor.

These new majors are aimed to give students the skills needed to excel in the workplace, or get into graduate school, or a professional program. Mundel states: “we know when students graduate from Augustana they are going out into the world of work. Out there you will work in multidisciplinary teams on problems that do not have easy solutions, so through these courses we are helping students to prepare for that world of work. It is a benefit of experiential learning and emphasizes our multidisciplinary advantage, expertise, and service learning”. I also talked with Dr. Rebecca Purc-Stephenson, who is the Chair of the Committee working on the new curriculum. Overall the new curriculum is being implemented to distinguish Augustana students, as Dr. Purc-Stephenson articulates: “The best thing I think is that it will be a definite value add to students learning experience and give them a competitive advantage when they graduate because they will have real experiences. The other thing is these new majors give students a greater variety of education through the multidisciplinary approach, and allow you to target the things you are really interested in. Networking is something people have to be good at, I think that this collaborative learning it is setting you up for that and ensuring that people understand the value of group work and know how to approach it, so they are not only learning, but also applying what they learned”.

Currently the core is set up where students take a few courses in different categories. The Augustana core has been reformatted and is no longer a bunch or courses to check off, but rather, a series of courses that build on each other, and that will allow you to work on a project with an actual stakeholder (whether that be on campus, in the community, or across the world) so that you get practical experience while completing your degree. It starts with a first year seminar, and then in second year students will take a collaborative learning course. In third year students will partner with a real stakeholder in a six-credit community partnership project where they work with a small group on a specific problem. Finally, in fourth year, students ‘perform’ in an advanced integration project worth six credits.

(Originally published February 5, 2020)

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