Forget Sector and Foundational requirements — the College of Arts and Sciences may soon require students to fulfill credits outside of the classroom.
This possibility was revealed in the recently released School of Arts and Sciences Strategic Plan.
The new credit is explained under the Research and Engagement subheading of the Plan’s Undergraduate Education section: “The College will explore instituting a requirement that students amass several such credits for graduation,” it reads.
This requirement would “include research, work/internship experience, or community engagement.” The Plan proposes to “put theory into practice through a new kind of credit on the transcript, distinct from academic credit.”
This new focus came about as a result of something administrators already see occurring in the student body.
“Our students do things that contribute in very valuable ways to their worldview and education, but are not necessarily worthy of a c.u.,” School of Arts and Sciences Dean Steven Fluharty said. “It’s more experiential, but it should be acknowledged on the transcript.”
However, it is still unclear how this type of requirement would look in practice. It has not been determined whether the new type of credit would be required or merely honorary, and many details still need to be hashed out.
Unlike the Wharton School-wide email prank of last year, that claimed to require an hour of community service of all in the school, this requirement will actually be implemented in the coming years.
“Right now the idea is just in the ‘gleam in somebody’s eye’ stage,” College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dennis DeTurck said. “We’ll begin to frame a proposal later this semester, but it’ll just be the beginning. This isn’t something that will be happening next year.”
Regardless of how the idea takes shape, administrators say student opinion will be taken into account.
“It’s something that we’ll talk about with the Committee on Undergraduate Education, and eventually with the entire faculty and then we’ll get input from students too,” DeTurck said. “We don’t want to just impose this without consultation far and wide.”
So far, students have expressed a wide variety of opinions. “I definitely think the College should require community service, research or internship credits for graduation,” freshman in the Huntsman program in International Studies and Business Menelaos Mazarakis said. “There are so many benefits associated with getting involved with those activities.”
Although some smaller colleges around the nation have required community service or internships, most of Penn’s peer institutions emphasize these activities, but do not require them. Administrators believe that the requirement may give graduates out-of-the-classroom experience that will give them an edge in a changing job market.
“It’s a good way to emphasize the fact that the arts and sciences aren’t ‘the other,’ that they are pathways to practical things,” DeTurck said.
The importance of hands-on experience, for both employment opportunities and general skill-building, is reflected in other programs within the University. Students in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences must complete a senior design project, Wharton students get an immediate taste of the business world with Management 100 and School of Nursing students build real-world skills through clinical work.
Requiring work that is not purely academic would allow the College to join the other undergraduate schools in their emphasis on the practical.
“This is something that makes the connection between theory and practice,” DeTurck said, “Between study and implementation.”
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