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The Next Chapter for Gordon: Detailed Summary of Academic Changes


While this reconfiguration of portions of Gordon’s academic program is the first major academic restructuring at the College in many years, it is important to realize this is not the first time Gordon has adapted to meet the changing needs of students, families and the many organizations who hire Gordon graduates. Most importantly, one crucial constant remains true: Gordon’s core identity will not change, even as we adapt the core values of a residential liberal arts education—still the most common experience—to meet the rapidly evolving needs of students, families and employers in the 21st century. 

An eye toward the future

We know the future of liberal arts is education plus preparation, and we’re committed to strengthening that synergy at Gordon. In meeting the financial objectives for streamlining the academic portion of the school’s operating budget, the goal was not simply to cut, but to strengthen by consolidation where possible and reallocate where needed—both to reduce operating expenses (which will help keep down the cost of a Gordon education over the long term) and to reinvest in areas where Gordon is particularly strong or needs to expand what it can offer students. 

Gordon currently offers more than 90 areas of study (in terms of majors, minors, concentrations or specialty programs). Only 13 of those 90 areas of study are part of this strategic restructuring and were carefully chosen as part of the budget planning process. Our hope is to provide a variety of educational pathways for students that go beyond the traditional limits of “major” or “minor” and are designed to ensure every student is better prepared for a greater purpose. All Gordon students will have a viable way forward toward their life and career aspirations. Keep in mind that any curriculum changes will be incremental, and most academic programs will not look different next year. 

Revised Programs

As part of the realignment in the academic division, a small number of previously singular majors are being integrated—combined as areas of study that benefit from a larger cohort of students, synergies in curriculum and pathways for jobs or internships, and efficiencies in use of campus resources and teaching staff. Though the specific umbrella name for the area of study may change, these are the configurations:  

Political Science, Philosophy and History (PSPH)

The Political Science, Philosophy and History departments will be merged into one administrative department, and all department faculty worked over the summer to revise their curriculum to better meet the needs of incoming students across these three disciplines. Gordon will continue to offer majors in these disciplines as part of a comprehensive liberal arts education.

The philosophy major will now include four concentrations (of which students must choose one): political theory; justice, peace and conflict; law; and language and linguistics.

Physical and Applied Sciences (including 3-2 Engineering)

Physical and Applied Sciences is a new major that relies on the foundations of each discipline while building on the strength of the liberal arts tradition. Gordon has a strong legacy in the physical sciences and encouraging our students to take what they learn in the lab to make a difference in the world. Our Physical and Applied Sciences major encourages students to cross pre-supposed boundaries, preparing them for scientific inquiry and development of the future.

Continuing pathway—3-2 Engineering: Our hallmark 3-2 Engineering program will continue to prepare young men and women who are called to become engineers and technologists.

Planned pathways—physics: As a specialty area of study often leading to graduate study in physics or engineering or jobs in the high-tech industry, physics is now moving beyond the artificial disciplinary walls of the academy; physics and the technologies that come from its application are everywhere, and the new program allows us to reflect this deep integration in our curriculum. Effective in the fall of 2019, new students will be able to choose a physics track within the new Physical and Applied Sciences major. This will prepare students in physics and engineering, but also offer the opportunity to study how this discipline can be applied across a wide range of fields.

Social Work/Social Welfare/Sociology

Introduced as a major after the College merged with Barrington in 1985, the Bachelor of Arts in Social Work degree led to eligibility for the first level of professional licensure and eligibility for advanced standing in Master of Social Work (MSW) programs. In recent years, strict guidelines from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to maintain an accredited social work program have become financially challenging for the College. Of the entities accrediting Gordon programs, CSWE enforces the most stringent load requirements which have become increasingly difficult to meet. As a result, the social work program is joining with elements of sociology and psychology to become a social welfare program.

The new social welfare program will prepare students for entry-level, generalist practice in social work, social welfare and social policy within the context of a Christian liberal arts institution. The program maintains a commitment to the value and dignity of every person and the mandate to address social and structural inequality. Graduates are prepared to work in a variety of settings to help bring about peace and justice, improved social welfare and social transformation. 

Please note that admission into an MSW program is accessible through a variety of undergraduate majors such as social welfare, psychology and sociology. Students with that end goal should talk with their advisors to formulate a workable plan.

Planned pathways: Gordon students currently in the social work program will be able to complete their major as planned according to the catalog of the year they enrolled at Gordon. Additional pathways include a minor in human services and/or sociology, all of which build on Gordon’s historic strengths across multiple fields of study and are designed to provide more flexibility to better meet student needs and interests. Please work with your advisor or contact the chair of the department, Dr. Kaye Cook,

3+1 Middle School Education (5–8) and Secondary Education (8–12)

Planned pathways: In the newly reconfigured 3+1 middle/secondary school education program, students will first earn a degree in the particular academic area of your interest. Once the undergraduate program is complete, they will seamlessly transition into an accelerated master’s degree in education to prepare you for Massachusetts licensure (at Gordon’s affordable graduate-level tuition rate). This approach to licensure may allow qualified students the option of completing their content area in an accelerated time frame saving time and money.

Discontinued Programs

Recreation, Sport and Wellness

Recreation, sport and wellness (RSW) has traditionally been a well-regarded niche program at Gordon. In 2014, the RSW major merged with kinesiology, with the intention of developing greater synergies among the programs, which the College has not been able to achieve. While the program has benefited from dedicated and distinguished faculty support, it is no longer fiscally sustainable in its current configuration.

Planned pathways: The College will be making greater investments in growing pre-health science through kinesiology and biology, with a plans underway to develop a track under in business administration for students interested in sports management and a possible coaching track through the Division of Education. 

Combined Languages, French and Spanish

Likewise, these three niche programs are excellent in quality, yet have been challenged in drawing a sustainable number of students choosing to major in them, which reflects a national trend in the study of languages at smaller liberal arts colleges. These areas of study will still be offered as minors. 

Planned pathways: Rather than offer these as major areas of study, qualified students interested in studying these areas would pursue them as Pike Scholar (specialized individual program) opportunities. Foreign language continues to be an important part of our core curriculum.

Learn more about the Priorities Committee’s process for arriving at these changes ➔


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