UCC revises Interdisciplinary Cluster requirements

The University Curriculum Council (UCC) approved revisions to the Pathways curriculum in order to help students who wish to study abroad but feel the experience may delay their graduation. Starting in spring 2019, courses taken abroad will be eligible to count towards the Interdisciplinary Cluster. The UCC also approved a brand new cluster that requires participating in a faculty-led study abroad program.

The Interdisciplinary Cluster has been a point of concern for many students as they attempt to complete the Pathways curriculum. Glenn Kroeger, chair of the UCC, proposed the idea after consulting with Katsuo Nishikawa, director of the Center for International Engagement, and Andre Martinez, the assistant director for Study Abroad, to maximize study abroad use in Pathways as well as to improve the completion aspect of clusters.

“We’re making other changes to try to streamline the way students can count study abroad in Pathways in general,” Kroeger said. “What we did is we changed that rule [that all cluster courses had to be taken at Trinity] to allow one course from study abroad to count. The [updated] rule can apply to any cluster, it’s just that you have to make a case for why it fits.”

For a course taken abroad to receive credit, the student must make a proposal to the Interdisciplinary Cluster Steering Committee within the UCC that justifies why the course should count.

“Most students go abroad before they’ve completed their cluster, and they’re anxious about being able to fulfill the cluster requirement when they return,” said Betsy Tontiplaphol, professor of English and member of the Interdisciplinary Cluster Steering Committee. “Under the new policy, students might be able to use some of their coursework from abroad to push forward on the cluster while they’re away from Trinity. I emphasize the ‘might,’ however. At the core of the cluster requirement is coherence, and students will have to demonstrate to the faculty in their chosen cluster and to the members of the Interdisciplinary Cluster Steering Committee that the course in question truly fits with the rest of the cluster.”

UCC introduced a new Interdisciplinary Cluster, “Beyond Globalization,” for this spring. This cluster includes more options than any other cluster and has a focus on international issues with a requirement that at least one course taken must involve a faculty-led study abroad program.

“We would want any interdisciplinary program to ask themselves, ‘Is there a cluster version of what we have to offer?’ ” said Duane Coltharp, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, concerning curriculum and faculty development and a member of the UCC. “Beyond Globalization comes out of a lot of faculty members who are interested in international stuff and so it’s not a surprise that they would put something together.”

Dante Suarez, an associate professor of finance and decision sciences who proposed the new cluster to the UCC, believes in the importance of international awareness and human interactions.

“Globalization is here to stay. A graduate of this cluster will potentially benefit from a deeper awareness of the multicultural realities we encounter and the way our own views are affected by the social context we inhabit,” Suarez wrote in an email interview. “This cluster directs students to different ways in which they can academically contextualize their thoughts, knowledge and international awareness of themselves.”

Earlier this year, 78 seniors were concerned with graduation because they had not fulfilled their Interdisciplinary Cluster requirement. Kroeger predicted that this number has gone down, as students have worked with the Office of the Registrar and Michael Soto, associate vice president for Academic Affairs concerning student academic issues and retention.

“We’re looking at other adjustments to clusters — in fact, we’re looking at other adjustments throughout Pathways to make it easier for students to accomplish, but to accomplish the same goals. We’re not just trying to throw things away and make it less meaningful,” Kroeger said.