EDITORIAL: Bridging the Academic Gap

This semester’s debut of Bridge Courses, one-credit classes aimed at instilling practical skills to seniors and recent graduates, challenges the assumption that learning can only take place in traditional, three-credit courses that meet two or three times per week.

The program, which was created through Georgetown’s Designing the Future(s) initiative aimed at pursuing universitywide pedagogical innovation, currently offers six courses in seminar- and discussion-centered environments for 15 to 20 students each. Each class falls under one of two categories: “Personal and Professional Development” and “Revisiting the Core,” which explores topics covered in earlier courses at Georgetown.

But while these courses currently exist to ease students into post-graduation life, Bridge Courses — and other experiments with standard classroom structure — are the first step toward innovating the classroom experience for Georgetown undergraduates of all years, granting access and flexibility to expand skillsets for an ever-evolving labor environment.

As of now, these courses are restricted to seniors on the verge of entering the workforce or graduates who are acclimating to the new professional world. But to truly dispatch a fleet of competitive Georgetown students ready to tackle the changing labor landscape, the university should integrate these one-credit courses into the curriculum for Georgetown undergraduates of all years.

By re-envisioning the traditional classroom structure, Bridge Courses provide the opportunity for Georgetown students to hone skills or develop specialties that help them prepare for the job market. For students who do not have room in their schedules for another standard three-credit course, Bridge Courses offer the possibility to acquire new skills in data science, social media optimization and public speaking, all on high demand by employers but difficult to acquire without individualized training.

Beyond this, Bridge Courses also enhance the applicability of certain topics to rapidly changing world events. The time it takes to adapt a subject into a new curriculum — to analyze a theme or situation, conduct research, cultivate a body of literature and create a syllabus — often lags behind rapidly evolving fields, such as communications, marketing or current events.

One-credit classes such as “Foreign Policy Under Trump,” taught by Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs of the School of Foreign Service Daniel Byman, allow students to investigate subjects that do not yet have the academic body of work for a full three-credit course at Georgetown. This program, then, is crucial in bridging the gap between evolving fields and subject matter, which may often suffer from an academic lag.

With the access Georgetown provides to adjunct professors who possess niche-specific, transferable and employable skills that can greatly benefit the student body, Georgetown should further tap into this resource to maximize each school’s capacity to prepare students for post-graduation life.

While these skills are important for seniors, they also ought to be integrated into the curriculum for freshmen and sophomores who are still exploring their interests before declaring a major. The flexibility of the hours with Bridge Courses allow these underclassmen to explore new topics without necessarily committing blocks of time, an aspect that could prove enormously advantageous for their personal growth.

Moreover, professional development could start as early as freshman year, as many enter Georgetown without knowing how to negotiate a salary or other practical skills. Allowing underclassmen into classes such as “Life Negotiations,” currently taught by attorney Andrew Caffey, could provide a new generation of Georgetown students with targeted knowledge to remain competitive upon graduation.

We commend Georgetown’s experimentation with the new Bridge Courses and encourage the university to integrate this innovation into classrooms across Georgetown’s four schools. Moreover, this Editorial Board encourages the university to expand this opportunity to underclassmen seeking to expand their professional toolbox well before they leave the university and enter the workforce.

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