The Academic Program
Wesleyan’s academic mission is described in the University Catalog:
Wesleyan is committed to the values of learning in the liberal arts and sciences and to the academic programs through which that commitment is expressed. The University aims to produce broadly educated graduates who, by virtue of their exposure to the myriad intellectual and social resources of the institution, are prepared to pursue productive and meaningful lives.
Wesleyan academic program spans 39 departments and programs and includes 44 majors and graduate degree programs in six fields. Graduate programs are offered in ten disciplines. Oversight of the academic program is a shared responsibility of individual faculty, department chairs, academic deans, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the Educational Policy Committee.
Undergraduate Degree Programs & Curricular Coherence
The Wesleyan undergraduate program takes a three-pronged approach:
1. Breadth – General Education Each student is expected to select courses from across the range of academic disciplines. This General Education component insures that the majority of students will take at least three of the 34 courses needed for graduation, in each of the three broad areas of the curriculum: the arts and humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences and mathematics. Within these general areas, students are expected to enhance their education in breadth by selecting courses from more than one discipline.
2. Depth – the Major Every student must complete a major, requiring in-depth study in one discipline or one interdisciplinary area. A minimum of eight advanced courses are required to complete a major at Wesleyan, but no student may count more than 14 courses in any one department toward graduation. This insures that students do not over-specialize in a single discipline.. In addition, —% of Wesleyan students complete an honors thesis, further advancing their in depth study of a specific area. New majors developed in recent years include Iberian Studies and a redesign of the Women’s Studies major into Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. New majors are developed by faculty in the relevant discipline(s), reviewed by the Education Policy Committee. No majors have been discontinued in the last five years.
Major programs are assessed annually through regular planning reports completed by each department and through the more complete reviews of all departments and programs.
3. Skills – Essential Capabilities The Wesleyan faculty have identified 10 essential capabilities that each undergraduate should master through his or her four year education. These capabilities are described below. Courses that focus on one of these capabilities are labeled in the course catalog (print and on-line) as a tool to assist students and their advisors in selecting courses that help students master these capabilities.
Since the last re-accreditation, Wesleyan’s faculty has continued to assess and refine the Program in Curricular Renewal – A Wesleyan Education for the 21st Century, which was adopted by the faculty in 1998. In 2005, Wesleyan laid out a plan for insuring excellence in all areas on the university in a document entitled Engaged with the World: A Strategic Plan for Wesleyan University. A cornerstone of this document is a reaffirmation and strengthening of the essential capabilities, those capabilities that the Wesleyan faculty, through intensive, collaborative discussion, have agreed are essential for our graduates.
The revised list of capabilities include:
The ability to write coherently and effectively. This skill implies the ability to reflect on the writing process and to choose a style, tone, and method of argumentation appropriate to the intended audience.
The ability to speak clearly and effectively. This skill involves the ability to articulate and advocate for ideas, to listen, to express in words the nature and import of artistic works, and to participate effectively in public forums, choosing the level of discourse appropriate to the occasion.
The ability to understand, evaluate, and contextualize meaningful forms, including written texts, objects, practices, performances, and sites. This includes (but is not limited to) qualitative responses to subjects, whether in language or in a non-verbal artistic or scientific medium.
The ability to understand and use numerical ideas and methods to describe and analyze quantifiable properties of the world. Quantitative reasoning involves skills such as making reliable measurements, using statistical reasoning, modeling empirical data, formulating mathematical descriptions and theories, and using mathematical techniques to explain data and predict outcomes.
The ability to make, recognize, and assess logical arguments. This skill involves extracting or extending knowledge on the basis of existing knowledge through deductive inference and inductive reasoning.
Designing, Creating, and Realizing
The ability to design, create, and build. This skill might be demonstrated through scientific experimentation to realize a research endeavor, a theater or dance production, or creation of works such as a painting, a film, or a musical composition.
The ability to reflect on moral issues in the abstract and in historical narratives within particular traditions. Ethical reasoning is the ability to identify, assess, and develop ethical arguments from a variety of ethical positions.
The ability to understand diverse cultural formations in relation to their wider historical and social contexts and environments. Intercultural literacy also implies the ability to understand and respect another point of view. Study of a language not one's own, contemporary or classical, is central to this skill. The study of a language embedded in a different cultural context, whether in North America or abroad, may also contribute to this ability.
The ability to locate, evaluate, and effectively use various sources of information for a specific purpose. Information literacy implies the ability to judge the relevance and reliability of information sources as well as to present a line of investigation in an appropriate format.
The ability to analyze and develop informed opinions on the political and social life of one's local community, one's country, and the global community, and to engage in constructive action if appropriate. As with Intercultural Literacy, study abroad or study in a different cultural context within North America may contribute to a firm grasp of this ability.
During the 2005-06 academic year, task forces were charged with crafting specifications for each of the capabilities. The following year, each academic department reviewed its courses and assigned one or two capability labels to any course that meets these criteria. Students will begin to enroll in the newly-labeled courses in 2007-08.
Wesleyan offers the Ph.D. degree in biology, chemistry, mathematics, molecular biology and biochemistry, physics, and ethnomusicology. Programs leading to the master of arts degree are offered in astronomy, computer science, earth and environmental sciences, mathematics, music, physics, and psychology. Admission to the graduate program is limited to a select number of students each year, to insure that each student has the opportunity to pursue research with a Wesleyan faculty member. Ph.D. candidates complete a dissertation and master’s candidates are required to write a thesis. Although graduate students do not regularly serve as the primary instructor for undergraduate courses, graduate student assist in instruction, particularly in laboratory courses. A graduate pedagogy course is offered for graduate students in all disciplines.
Wesleyan’s continuing studies division offers a degree a Masters of Liberal Studies degree and a Certificate of Advanced Study. MALS students complete a program of study with a concentration of courses in one area of study. Over the past five years, a concerted effort has been made to ensure that the graduate liberal studies program is every bit as rigorous as the regular undergraduate and graduate programs. Instructors in the graduate liberal studies program are, for the most part, tenured and tenure-track faculty of the College. An advisory committee of Wesleyan faculty reviews and approves all courses and faculty selected for inclusion in the graduate liberal studies curriculum.
Integrity in the Award of Academic Credit
Requirements and standards for all Wesleyan degrees are clearly spelled out in the catalog and on-line. New courses, and substantive changes to existing courses, are reviewed by the academic deans, as delegated by the Educational Policy Committee. Credit for courses taken elsewhere, either by students transferring to Wesleyan or by matriculated students who take courses at another institution, are carefully evaluated to insure that they meet the strict criteria for Wesleyan credit. Credit is not awarded for experiential or non-collegiate learning. As described above, all continuing studies courses, both credit and non-credit, are reviewed by a faculty committee. Similarly, the Office of International Studies, which oversees study abroad programs works with a faculty advisory committee to insure the integrity of any off campus program for which students are awarded Wesleyan credit.
Wesleyan’s honor system [http://www.wesleyan.edu/studenthandbook/3_honorsystem.html] includes a honor code to which all students pledge to maintain standards of integrity in the academic enterprise. The honor system is directed by a board of students which is responsible for reviewing cases of alleged misconduct.
Assessment of Student Learning
Wesleyan collects a wide variety of data to support and evaluate its planning efforts. Our data sources include internal databases, external data, surveys, and focus groups. In addition to internal data sources, Wesleyan regularly participates in a data exchange with Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE), to which we submit a variety of data about the institution, such as applications, financial aid, salaries, etc., and receive detailed data reports in return. We also recently joined the National Student Clearinghouse, which allows us to determine where students transfer if they leave Wesleyan before graduating.
Wesleyan regularly conducts a range of survey research projects for evaluation purposes. To understand where Wesleyan stands compared to our peers, we conduct much of our research in conjunction with COFHE, that allows the sharing of survey results among participating schools. We survey graduating seniors every spring. Data from these surveys are used for some of our benchmark measures. We have also participated in COFHE’s last two Parents Surveys and its most recent Alumni/ae Survey. The institution also participates in COFHE’s surveys of enrolled students that are conducted almost every year.
In addition to COFHE surveys, Wesleyan uses surveys conducted by other external groups for evaluation. The Higher Education Research Institute’s CIRP Freshman Survey has been conducted at Wesleyan for more than 30 years. It provides a view of our incoming freshmen class. We have also begun administering the College Board’s Admitted Student Questionnaire Plus on a regular basis to gather information about the opinions and college choices of our admitted students.
We also conduct many in-house surveys written specifically for Wesleyan. For several years we administered a course access survey to understand the issues surrounding registering for courses, and we recently conducted an orientation evaluation survey, administered to first-year students at the end of their first semester. Faculty and staff are also surveyed on an irregular basis on such topics as satisfaction with rental housing and use of library resources. In addition, the University has developed its own tools and methods to assist with survey administration, for example, conducting studies of how prizes and different methods of contacting students affect the response rate for surveys of students.
In addition to collecting data to construct measures for evaluation purposes, Wesleyan also conducts in-depth analyses on special topics. Recent examples include an analysis of Senior Survey data to assess student satisfaction with instruction, an investigation into gender equity in faculty salaries, a study of student-athlete admissions and academic performance, and an ongoing study of retention and graduation behavior
In addition to the assessment measures described above, Wesleyan evaluates its effectiveness in the academic enterprise through regular, required evaluations of every course. At the conclusion of each course, students are asked to complete a standard valuation of the course and the teaching in that course. Students are also asked to rate their own effort in the course. These evaluations provide an opportunity to students to provide quantitative ratings as well as written comments on various aspects of the class. These evaluations have been conducted for more than 20 years, allowing the University to make comparisons over time. We are currently in the process of moving to an on-line data collection method in order to maximize the return of these evaluations (the first round on on-line evaluations yielded a 90 percent response rate), quick turn around to faculty, and the ability to access the data in a more flexible way. Teaching evaluation data are used by faculty to assess their own teaching effectiveness, by Wesleyan’s tenure and promotion committee when reviewing cases, and in the annual merit-based compensation review.
Wesleyan also conducts reviews of each of its academic departments and programs on a 12 year cycle, with three departments or programs scheduled for review each year. This process was launched in 2001 and, as of 2006, 13 departments had been reviewed, with three more slated for 2006-07. These comprehensive reviews start with a detailed self-study by the department, including a historical look at the curriculum, the deployment of academic resources, changes in the field and in the major, and plans for the coming years. A panel of outside experts in the field, is then invited to campus to meet with the department, its faculty and students, over a two-day period. The review culminates in a written report from the outside committee for review by the department, deans, and the VPAA.