Students looking to start fulfilling their Spanish, English or physics majors may find their concentration requirements are different than they originally anticipated.
Beginning in the fall 2011 semester, the programs will have new concentration requirements. Most of the changes will be to the concentration prerequisites, with some of the alterations regarding the number of classes a student will need before declaring their major.
The Department of English Language and Literature previously had two prerequisites classes for its undergraduate concentration — English 297: Introduction to Poetry and English 298: Introduction to Literary Studies. However, the department decided to remove the poetry class as a prerequisite and instead make it a requirement for concentrators to take a higher level poetry class once they have already declared.
The Department of Physics is also tweaking its introductory classes. In this case, the department is making changes so the track is more relevant for students studying life sciences and pre-medicine rather than engineering, according to Timothy McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau professor of physics and astronomy.
Instead of offering Physics 125 as the class for non-engineers, Physics 135 will be the primary class aimed at life sciences and pre-medicine students.
McKay said the content for many students taking Physics 125 was often “not very relevant.” He added that classes should provide a connection with the natural world.
“We should have a new kind of physics class that aims to teach people how life works instead of how random things in our technology work,” McKay said. “That’s what got us started on this path.”
Physics 135 was first introduced in 2006, but it was only this academic year that class enrollment surpassed that of Physics 125, according to McKay. However, only Physics 135 will be offered next year.
The changes to the physics curriculum have been anticipated for a while, McKay said. He added that they are concurrent with fundamental changes occurring in science disciplines around the nation.
“(The University of) Michigan is kind of out in front on this across the country,” McKay said. “The course materials we’re using here are being picked up and adopted by other universities.”
The Spanish concentration within the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures is also shifting its prerequisite courses by combining Spanish 275 and 276 to create Spanish 277. Like the other new courses, the class will debut in the fall.
According to Juli Highfill, an associate professor of Spanish, these changes are part of an attempt to bring the program more in line with the French concentration curriculum.
“We think that this will make our program more effective and interesting for students,” Highfill said.
Highfill also said the changes will allow the department to more effectively channel its resources and offer more upper-level classes in the future.
“We’re hoping that by reducing our prerequisite to one course, we can direct more resources to the upper-level courses, and then offer more sections. We don’t yet have permission from the college to offer many more because of budget pressures, but we’re hoping over the next few years that we can offer more because we know that’s a huge problem,” said Highfill, referring to students’ difficulties enrolling in Spanish classes.
Many students seeking to take Spanish classes have struggled in the past few semesters to get into the courses. Department officials have attributed this to the large number of students interested in studying the language. French Prof. Michele Hannoosh, then-chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, wrote in an e-mail that within the Spanish program, there are “more combined concentrators and minors than any department in LSA apart from economics.”
Highfill said this is a problem the department is still trying to solve.
“The number of majors just keeps growing faster than we can grow in terms of faculty and offering more courses and sections,” she said.
LSA junior Lauren Hanley wrote in e-mail interview that she is optimistic about the changes being made within the Spanish department.
“I really hope this restructuring allows the professors to teach more classes so that everyone that wants to can be involved with the Spanish department,” Hanley wrote.
LSA junior Katherine Riley, president-elect of the Undergraduate English Association, said she thinks the English department’s new prerequisites will encourage more students to choose the concentration.
“It will definitely make a lot more people consider being an English major because there’s only one prerequisite,” Riley said. “After they take that one prerequisite, they can really just jump into the major and start taking the really fun classes that are super specialized.”