By Clinton Dick
“Responsibilities for the Future,” or LAS 499, is out the window. As of next fall, the class, originally part of an older curriculum used at Southwestern, will no longer be offered. Students will now have a newer and up-to-date class for learning certain skills they need prior to graduating from college.
The new course is called PREP 499 and will be offered next year as a capstone course. Stephen Woodburn, associate professor of history, spearheaded the operation to transition from the current class to the new one.
“We’ve known for some time that we need to get rid of LAS 499,” said Woodburn. “During the summer, the panel for the college discussed what they liked and didn’t like about Southwestern. The panel got the message to the trustees that it was unanimous about wanting to get rid of the class.”
The change isn’t just from the idea of changing the “Responsibilities for the Future” class. The change is a part of an entire reform of Southwestern’s course catalog and curriculum that has been in effect since 2007.
“It was the last thing to go in this reform,” said Andy Sheppard, vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty. “The faculty was convinced it was time to make a change. It wasn’t that the faculty thought ‘Responsibilities for the Future’ was bad, it just makes more sense.”
The panel also decided that there needed to be a way to gear students up for their after college life.
“I thought about that and how to make it work,” said Woodburn. “I had to check with the registrar on how to work this out. I had to check with financial aid on how students finance it. The idea was to get students thinking about career preparation on the first contact with their advisor.”
Woodburn collected the inputs of the faculty as well and drafted up a proposal, which was approved by the faculty to allow for the new course. As of now, each academic division is constructing the course syllabus.
Because each division at the college is different, it will be different from advisor to advisor as well as from student to student what work the class will entail.
“It is going to vary from program to program,” said Woodburn. “For example, in history we are going to add some reading about clarifying your goals and applying for jobs. Some of that professional advice will help students. There is a core of common requirements such as a resume and a cover letter. Most instructors are going to have some electives such as maybe you need a book to help you understand or maybe you need to go out and get some experience in your field to put on your resume.”
Woodburn said that advising at the college normally takes place in the cracks and the students who want the most help get the most help by going and seeing their advisor regularly. Up to this point advising has meant mostly help with course selection. PREP 499 is focused on students meeting with their advisors and doing work that gets them prepared for the future in their specific degree area.
“The advisor can attach, now, credit to it,” said Woodburn. “It takes something that we have in place and uses it for a better purpose. All of the work in the class is work that every one of us needed to be doing already.”
The class does count for academic credit and students will receive a grade for it. However, those who have already completed LAS 499 are no required to take PREP 499 to graduate. LAS 499 will be offered for the final time this upcoming summer.
The content of PREP 499 deals with a variety of things. Michelle Boucher, associate professor of English and director of general education, said that what will be required will be different for each person, but she has seen a few proposals from other divisions and there is a lot of commonality.
“It is more of a course that focuses on professional preparation such as writing a resume, attending events such as workshops or conferences, doing research and job investigations and will most likely involve some kind of internship experience or something related to an internship,” said Boucher.
Because of the change of content and requirements to the course, Woodburn said the biggest criticism he has heard thus far deals with the workload and only having one semester to complete it.
“I hear people say that next year’s seniors are going to have to do four years of work in one year. I think that is a misconception,” said Woodburn. “If you look at what you have to do, you have to do work to get ready for life after graduation.”
Even as the change is made, Woodburn said there are those who are still wary about the transition.
“Resistance to change was what it was, but there were many who said we need this,” said Woodburn. “There has been some second thoughts about are we sure we know what we are getting into and the answer is ‘no,’ but we are figuring it out as we go along and it is the right step.
Clinton Dick is a junior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.