Board of Visitors discuss New College Curriculum, sense of community for students

Presentations concern academics, mental health and international students

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 The Board discussed academic programs, as well as student life concerns such as international students’ quality of life and improving the mental health of students. 

Paige Waterhouse | Cavalier Daily

The Board of Visitors met Thursday in the Rotunda for a meeting of the Academic and Student Life Committee. The discussion focussed on topics including academic programs, international students’ quality of life and improving the mental health of students.

The Board took a considerable interest a New College Curriculum presentation by Brie Gertler, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Gertler recounted events leading up to the vote that implemented the program permanently for future students, starting in 2020. 

“We were focussed on designing a liberal arts curriculum that will prepare students for engaged citizens locally, nationally and globally that will equip them for lives of purposeful vocation and a dynamic rapidly changing world,” Gertler told the Board.

After her presentation, the Board asked questions about how the New Curriculum will function. They voiced concern over taking professors out of their fellowships for two years in order to teach engagements, or disrupting four-year major tracks for areas such as economics or science majors.

However, Gertler countered that point by saying that teachers actually benefit from teaching in the New Curriculum.

“After they [the College fellows] teach for two years, they then return to their department, say this experience has reinvigorated their sense of teaching, and our hope is that they share these best practices with their colleagues,” Gertler said.

The Board also reviewed Hoos Connected, a program created by psychology Prof. Joseph P. Allen. Currently in its third semester of existence, the program puts 6 to 12 first-year or transfer students into small groups to discuss adjusting to life at the University.

Although Allen is excited by the programs results in reducing stress and creating student connections, he wants to slowly approach implementing it on a large scale. He envisions training undergraduate students to lead these groups to reduce cost, while also considering making it a one-credit course to encourage participation.

The program wrapped up with a panel of international students discussing their own adjustments to life at the University. Derrick Wang, a fourth-year College student and student member of the Board, moderated the conversation between fourth-year College student Carl Söderlund, third-year Commerce student Yaru Li and second-year College student Micaela Vilanova.

Although the University has more than 2,500 international students, Li’s rhetoric emphasized the difficulty of moving from her home to life in America.

“I face a dilemma about how to make friends not from China while preserving own identity,” Li said.

Vilanova then echoed Li’s words, adding that Hoos Connected would be a great facilitator in overcoming cultural differences to create lasting relationships.

The Board agreed with Vilanova’s solution, with Board member Barbara Fried saying “I think this is a great idea and will benefit the University community.”

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