Interim dean takes hard look at Clare College

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[Image courtesy of amazon.com]

By Emily Rosman

Clare College has been a debate for a long time in St. Bonaventure University’s history; even the name of this common core program has been continuously debated.

Most recently some have questioned whether Clare College has been adversely affecting student’s decisions to attend Bonaventure or if it’s not a factor in their decision until they arrive and take a Clare course. After speaking to the dean, a professor, and a couple of students, one thing is for sure: Clare College could use some restructuring.

Guy Imhoff, interim dean of Clare College, started out by saying that the program could have a lot of potential. He believes that one of the biggest obstacles of the program would be that most people do not understand the purpose behind the courses they are required to take. Instead of seeing it as “general education guided through an intellectual journey,” students tend to question why they have to take classes that do not appear to pertain to their majors.

James Fodor, professor of theology and a regular instructor of the Intellectual Journey course, agreed with this concern. In addition, Fodor recognizes the natural impatience of young people ready to prepare for their career, which is why it is not surprising that most students view Clare College as “an unnecessary diversion through the liberal arts.”

“The problem is that vocational training by itself, let alone what is on offer in our thoroughly consumerist culture, is woefully deficient in resources to sustain anyone over a lifetime,” Fodor said. “That’s why students must be exposed to a much broader and deeper set of intellectual memories and cultural achievements in order to know what kind of questions—and hence life purposes—really truly matter.”

Additionally, he understands that taking Clare courses is not often enjoyable for students because it forces them to think about ideas that are unfamiliar to them. However, he believes that the alumni are a good example of why Clare College is important. They demonstrate “the merits of being liberally learned.”

But understanding Clare College is not an issue students have to handle alone. Imhoff further suggested that the connection between professors of Clare courses needs to be strengthened. Many students have reported noticing that certain sections of the same Clare Course are easier than others or are taught differently.

This is something that Imhoff wants to correct and he has already begun the process. He has met with the professors of the core Clare College classes, which include Intellectual Journey, Catholic and Franciscan Heritage, Foundational Religious Texts of the Western World, and The Good Life, and has started to discuss one common teaching curriculum for the courses.

Fodor agreed with this as well.

“Professors tend to fall back into their own field to teach what they know and there becomes a skewed kind of class which results in different learning experiences,” he said of Intellectual Journey.

Students have also noticed. Junior Jillian Hammell has observed that some classes have quizzes or assignments while others require essays on the material they learn, making the course curriculum change based on the professor. She believes that since the material from the text is the same, there is a commonality between sections of a specific course, but that the assignments or amount of work given varies.

Sophomore Kristen Brush said that Clare courses are beneficial to a liberal arts education. She stated that they help make education well rounded. However, some courses, such as the Natural World course, are difficult for people who do not specialize in the subject being taught, she said. Even though it is a challenge, the courses were still helpful to her education, she added.

Over the summer, Imhoff reported that the admissions office looked into statistics of incoming students because they were curious if Clare College influenced their decision. Based on the surveys they gave out, they found that Clare College did not appear to negatively affect any student’s decision to come to Bonaventure.

At the most recent Student Government Association meeting, Imhoff asked students if they liked their Clare College courses. About half of the students in the room raised their hands, while those who did not raise their hands either had a negative opinion on the courses or were undecided.

This further exemplifies that altering Clare College is a large task to take on, given that each student has a different opinion.

One thing that everyone can agree upon, however, is that Clare College needs some adjusting and improvement.

rosmanea13@bonaventure.edu

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