University Provost James O’Donnell has taken the lead in bringing Georgetown academic life to the forefront. He announced yesterday the formation of two working groups that will evaluate both the academic experience at Georgetown and the future of the curriculum in the coming months.

The groups hope to publish one report by next fall and spend the entire 2008-09 academic year focusing on a campus-wide discussion about their findings.

One committee will focus specifically on analyzing and evaluating different ways to broaden classroom learning on campus, focusing on the interplay between research and teaching. The committee will be headed by headed by associate English professor and assistant provost Randy Bass, and will consist of faculty and student representatives.

O’Donnell will chair the other committee, which will also be comprised of both faculty and students, to review changes to the university’s core curriculum.

O’Donnell said this group will attempt to determine the expectations of Georgetown students and how the many different and diverse students can gain the most out of their college education.

The committees will meet on a continuous basis throughout the winter and spring, although O’Donnell said that reshaping the curriculum and implementing the changes will likely be a multi-year process.

“We’re getting started on what I think is an exciting process,” he said.

He added that the curriculum has hardly changed in recent years, noting that the university’s policy on double majors has been the largest change from the past 30 years.

O’Donnell said that the working groups will perform surveys and set up a blog to solicit students’ opinions on how the university can make curricular changes. GUSA will also be consulted in the organization of student involvement.

O’Donnell also wants faculty to play a large role in the process. “We know the best new ideas come from the work [of] the faculty,” he said.

One difficulty will be reshaping the core in such a way to fit in with the goals of all four undergraduate schools at Georgetown, O’Donnell said. He said that representatives from all four schools will be actively involved in the discussion, especially to determine which academic priorities they share.

The university’s admissions process will also be reviewed by both committees in these discussions. O’Donnell said that the marketing and financial elements of the admissions process are particularly important, especially since Georgetown has fewer students requiring financial aid than at other elite institutions.

“This is the theme of the fundraising campaign so we can recruit more aggressively,” he said.

The groups will address learning in the 21st century, O’Donnell said, adding that “increasingly students who come from abroad” are becoming part of the dialogue.

O’Donnell said the Intellectual Life Report, drafted this past spring and under review this fall, will affect the groups and the course of their discussions.

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