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Rediscovering Discovery

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
December 3, 2008

In 1999, faculty members began looking at the core curriculum for undergraduates with the goal of reshaping it to better serve 20th century thinking. Now, final recommendations to the Discovery Program have been sent to the Academic Affairs Council and a vote by the faculty senate is expected early next year.

While it is a measure long past due—the general education courses that were instituted in 1984 haven’t been reviewed since then—Discovery’s co-director says the changes aren’t about fixing a “broken system.”

“The gen ed program at UNH isn’t broken; it has a lot of strengths but the world has changed since 1984 and we can do better,” says Barbara Prudhomme White. “That’s why the Discovery Program builds on what we had. It’s not throwing the baby out with the bath water; it’s taking the baby and saying ‘what can we offer students to better prepare them for the 21st century?’”

The Discovery Program, the result of a three-year comprehensive study, was created to provide a cohesive educational roadmap that integrates the general education component with the student's major from their first semester through their capstone experience as seniors.

The program focuses on the first-year experience, an understanding of the disciplines, and interdisciplinary understanding and integration. The capstone project can be anything from an engineering major’s final project to a nursing student going out on clinical, Prudhomme White says.

“It is a defining moment in their education and can be an experience or course,” Prudhomme White says. “It is intended to integrate the expanse of knowledge gained in the undergraduate curriculum with their major area of study.”

Two components of the Discovery Program that have been implemented are the University Dialogue and the INQ 444 first-year inquiry courses. The inquiry classes encourage students to develop skills that will support engaged learning throughout their education.

“Currently the only requirements are gen ed courses,” Prudhomme White says. “The Discovery Program was designed to more explicitly link a broad liberal arts education with major areas of study; we augment  academic work with an emphasis on inquiry, interdisciplinary work and integrative learning.  Inquiry-based courses are a first step in the process.”

An overarching piece of Discovery is The University Dialogue, which attempts to engage the UNH community in a series of discussions and activities centered around a common theme such as energy or, this years’ topic, poverty.  Ideally, faculty will use these broad themes and topics to engage students in discussions that are interdisciplinary.

For more information on the Discovery Program go to http://www.unh.edu/academic-affairs/discovery/.  


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