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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 gold standard for excellence—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. 

Newly Integrated Majors

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 will be involved in determining how to structure majors and programs in the department’s three disciplines. Gordon will continue to offer a substantial curriculum in these disciplines as part of a comprehensive liberal arts education. The faculty, however, are exploring ways to integrate some of these areas into new majors.

At this point, political science and international affairs will continue as free-standing majors. New dual majors between the disciplines are under review, such as “history and philosophy,” and “history and political science,” as well as revised versions of separate majors in philosophy and in history. This process is in its early stages; decisions about the subjects outside of political science and international affairs have not yet been made.  

Growing synergies will exist amongst the three disciplines. For example, a political philosophy course could count toward philosophy, a contemporary African history course could count toward international affairs, a public history course could count toward political science.

Planned pathways: An important priority within the new department will be supporting new opportunities for vocational exploration in each of these fields (e.g. internships in law, government, museums, etc.). This work was well underway prior to the merger; bringing these programs together will allow faculty to build on these past strengths.  

Sociology and Social Practice

With a revision of the social work program at Gordon (see below), this new integrated major will be constructed to draw on the historic strengths at Gordon of both sociology and more applied studies of social work. 

Biochemistry and Integrated Science

Science programs have always been an important facet of a Gordon education. They can also be expensive for smaller colleges to maintain at a premier level, particularly with investments in lab space and equipment in majors that do not have a large number of students. The College will continue its investment in biochemistry, which became a formal area of study at Gordon in the fall of 2017.

Planned pathways: Effective in the fall of 2019, new students looking to study chemistry at Gordon will do so through an expanded/integrated biochemistry major, rather than a stand-alone chemistry major. This will strengthen student cohort sizes and provide a more efficient use of Gordon resources. 

Reconfigured Areas of Study

These are programs that will no longer be available to new students as majors starting in the fall of 2019 but will remain as majors for current students through the 2021–22 academic year. The pathways for facilitating study in these areas, or in achieving desired professional outcomes typically associated with them, are briefly outlined here. Starting Monday, May 13, faculty and advising staff will be assisting students in navigating these changes. 

Social Work

This is an excellent program that became a major at Gordon after the College merged with Barrington in 1985. The Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) leads to eligibility for the first level of professional licensure and eligibility for advanced standing in Master’s of Social Work (MSW) programs. Admission into the terminal degree in the field, an MSW, may be obtained through a variety of undergraduate majors such as social work, psychology and sociology. In recent years, strict guidelines from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to maintain an accredited Baccalaureate in Social Work Program have become financially challenging for the College to meet. (CSWE is the only entity that accredits Gordon programs that has such strict load requirements.)

Planned pathways: Providing social work electives in a track with sociology and psychology will give students the opportunity to be prepared for an accredited MSW Program, however they will not be eligible for professional licensure at the BSW level or for advanced standing in MSW programs. The current cohort of social work majors will be able to complete their accredited social work major and thus be qualified to apply for licensure at the BSW level and advanced standing in an MSW Program. 

Physics and Applied Sciences

As a specialty area of study often leading to graduate study in physics or engineering or jobs in the high-tech industry, physics requires a large investment in lab space, equipment and lab support for a relatively small number of student majors. A full set of traditional upper-level courses and labs with limited numbers of students is hard to maintain. Yet over the past decade, Gordon College has made such investments and this program has flourished: the results speak for themselves. We are now extending that vision to move 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.

Planned pathways: Effective in the fall of 2019, new students will be able to choose a physics track within the new physics 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.

Middle School Education (5–8) and Secondary Education (8–12)

This is another specialty area with one of Gordon’s stronger programs (education) that has unfortunately drawn low numbers of students majoring specifically in these two areas, making it difficult to sustain financially as a standalone area of study. 

Planned pathways: New students looking to major in these areas will move to a post-baccalaureate licensure program. This approach to licensure may allow qualified students the option of completing their content area in an accelerated time frame saving time and money.

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 plan to develop a track under 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.   

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. The College is also exploring developing a minor in Spanish serving allied health and mission fields. A smaller cohort of faculty will oversee core language requirements. 

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


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