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The Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education supports a number of academic initiatives for the College, including specialized May Seminars and Institutes to build the teaching capacity of the faculty, workshops on the Third Year Review process with a focus on composing Teaching Statements, new curricular initiatives such as Applied Liberal Arts as well as established ones like the LSA Theme Semesters, and periodic reviews undertaken on behalf of the LSA Curriculum Committee. These reviews often spawn a host of new avenues for curricular reform and innovation.
In the 2015-2016 academic year, a Race & Ethnicity Review Committee was charged by the Dean with assessing the College’s R&E degree requirement for LSA graduation. They were asked to make recommendations concerning the goals for the requirement, how the goals are being met, assessed, and evaluated, and if the LSA Faculty should consider changing the requirement in any way. The committee submitted their report in May 2016. We are beginning to implement some of their recommendations. R&E Review Committee Report.
Established by a vote of the LSA faculty in 1990, the requirement was a response to the 1987 Black Action Movement – BAM III, the third such movement since 1970. Sparked by a U-M student radio announcer’s racist remarks, the movement drew attention to the harassment of Black students in the residence halls, the insufficient attention to minority student admissions, and the controversial handling of an altercation in South Quad by University and Ann Arbor police. One of the goals of the movement was a required course dealing with the historical and contemporary issues of race and racism locally, nationally and internationally.
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R&E is now a staple of the College’s curriculum. Courses that serve the Race & Ethnicity Degree Requirement prepare undergraduates for life in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. They help students contextualize their own experiences in relation to others by providing them with skills for critical analysis and communication. Roughly 100 courses offered by departments across the Humanities and the Social Sciences fulfill the College requirement.
While no one went officially on record advocating the elimination of the requirement and although multiple forms of assessment yield mostly positive results in meeting the goals of the requirement, the committee made a number of recommendations to strengthen the requirement and its courses, including:
- Increasing the visibility and transparency of R&E courses.
- Creating more avenues for faculty and GSI professional development and training.
- Promoting discussion and dialogue in R&E courses.
- Providing more resources for students enrolled in R&E courses.
- Providing positive incentives and rewards for R&E teaching.
- Simplifying the R&E course approval process for faculty who have had two courses approved for R&E certification.
- Being more innovative and creative with R&E.
The Office of the Associate Dean seeks to seed and support a variety of new R&E-based initiatives, including a “Global R&E” focus to enrich learning opportunities for courses located outside of the United States and in an international and global context, and an “R&E Engagement” project to bring the dialogue techniques and expertise of the Intergroup Relations Program to R&E teaching and learning.