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Keene State Launches New Integrative Studies Program

July 17, 2006

Keene, N.H. 7/14/06 - "The Evolution of the Little Red Schoolhouse," " Technology and Civilization," "Ethical Implications of the Holocaust." Some Keene State College first-year students will be taking these classes instead of the traditional English 101 essay-writing course next fall as part of a pilot program that will launch the transition into the College's new Integrative Studies program. These and ten other courses are part of the "Thinking and Writing" component of the new curriculum, and will be offered to 260 of the 1208 first-year students.

"The Thinking and Writing course will use content from any academic field across the campus," says Nona Fienberg, dean of arts and humanities. "Faculty will engage students in using the topics in these classes to build a foundation for thinking and writing at the college level."

"Quantitative Literacy" is the second 4-credit course in the first-year "foundation" of the new 44-credit general education curriculum required of all students. Students will choose topics from any discipline and focus on developing quantitative reasoning and analytical skills. These classes will be offered in the 2007-08 school year.

The development of the 4-credit Integrative Studies courses dovetails with another curriculum change aimed at enhancing student engagemement on campus: by the fall of 2007, the College will switch to a 4-credit model. Students will take fewer (usually four) classes per semester, creating an opportunity for greater depth and breadth in course work.

KSC's Integrative Studies program, which was developed over three years, reflects a national trend toward integrative learning in liberal arts colleges. It draws on the Association of American Colleges and Universities Greater Expectations report, which calls for teaching and learning in intentionally connected ways. While today's incoming students have mastered the basic skills needed to acquire information, according to the report, they tend not to have the ability to see connections between seemingly disparate information or to see problems from different perspectives and make conceptual links.

"Young people [need] to think synthetically and to understand that the essence of education is the courage and ability to make value judgments," Stanley Katz wrote in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. KSC's Dean Fienberg agrees: "Colleges need to prepare students for careers and for lives as informed citizens in the fullest possible way. Developing the curriculum has been a transformative and thrilling challenge for the entire campus." Last fall the Davis Educational Foundation awarded Keene State College a grant of $233,834 to help fund faculty-initiated institutes to develop new courses and to help faculty to incorporate integrative learning experiences into existing classes. (The Davis Educational Foundation was established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after his retirement as chairman of Shaw's Supermarkets.) This summer's institutes were held on the pilot Thinking and Writing classes, and the Quantitative Literacy courses that will be offered in the fall of 2007.

These curriculum changes add momentum to a campus-wide discussion on academic excellence initiated by new KSC president Helen Giles-Gee. "We envision a College that embraces academic excellence within a context of civic responsibility," she says. "We are in pursuit of excellence. There is no other path for us."