SFS Council Debates Science Requirement
Published: Monday, February 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 02:02
The Bachelors of Foreign Service Review Committee will issue recommendations on a possible new science requirement for the School of Foreign Service based on results of a recent survey.
The survey, which was completed last semester, covered aspects of the BSFS program ranging from the core curriculum to the lack of student space.
Almost one-third of SFS undergraduates, about 453 students, responded to the survey. When asked if a new science requirement would improve the core curriculum, 33.1 percent said yes, while 51.6 percent said no.
"International affairs contain a lot of scientific dimensions," Azi Hussain (SFS '15), a representative on the SFS Academic Council, said. "Many people don't realize that, which is why there is some hostility towards such a requirement."
According to Council President Lucas Stratmann (SFS '12), the committee is still working through the logistics of implementing such a requirement.
"One of the most obvious problems is the implication of further burdening students with a curriculum that already has heavy requirements," Stratmann said.
The Review Committee is exploring various ways to incorporate the proposed science requirement in the curriculum.
"We're thinking about making it a course like "Map of the Modern World," a one-credit course [in which] you will learn about aspects of science that are relevant to international affairs," Hussein said.
Another option includes clearing room for the additional requirement by counting the freshman pro-seminar as one of the two required humanities and writing courses and eliminating one of the three history requirements.
According to Stratmann, the divide in student opinion reflects two opposing views on the proposed science requirement. The first is that science is only relevant to students majoring in Science, Technology and International Affairs, and the second is that only a basic understanding of socially relevant science, such as nuclear weapons and climate change, is applicable to all majors.
"Students are opposed to hard sciences such as biology, physics or chemistry," Stratmann said. "If we have a clearer idea of what [the requirement] would be like, I think there will be a shift in opinions."
In the fall, Chair of Faculty for the SFS David Edelstein proposed different models for pilot classes. One option proposes an introductory science course that would consist of lectures on broad concepts about science experimentation, measurement and the scientific method. The lectures would be supplemented with small discussion sessions that connect science with global issues.
Another proposal would utilize faculty who are teaching existing science courses for non-majors in the College and professors interested in science's relationship with international affairs.
Once the committee finalizes data analysis and recommendations, the Academic Council will release results of the survey and hold town halls to communicate their ideas with the student body.
"[The science requirement conversation] came up during my freshmen year … but it sort of quieted down in my sophomore and junior year," Stratmann said. "It's been on and off, but I think the survey will provide a more concrete idea and clearer direction for what we can work on."