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A new U.S. Cultural Diversity requirement for the College of Arts and Sciences's Class of 2012 was unanimously approved at the faculty meeting on Tuesday.

The requirement "aims to develop [student] knowledge of the history, dynamic cultural system and heterogeneous populations" of the United States, according to its proposal.

Specifically, it will examine the changing American environment through courses focused on race, gender, religion, ethnicity and sexuality.

The list of potential courses boasts over 160 options that range from African American history to the sociology of religion, with a focus in the humanities and social sciences.

For Penn students, it may not be all that new.

The new requirement should not be an "overwhelming burden on students or faculty," since many students take such classes naturally, College Dean Dennis DeTurck said.

The committee ran a list of potential courses against the courses taken by the Class of 2006, and DeTurck said about two-thirds of those graduates would have fulfilled the requirement anyway.

Since December 2005, members of the Committee on Undergraduate Education and the College Dean's office have been working diligently with an appointed task force composed of students and faculty members, to put together the requirement.

And despite the gap in time between the initial idea and its implementation, most College faculty were never worried.

The task force was "cautiously optimistic" going into the meeting but was fairly confident it would pass, Sociology professor and task-force chairwoman Grace Kao said.

"It's good to have faculty speaking as it were with a strong voice and bringing what has been a remarkable process to a conclusion," DeTurck added.

A new committee, to be established in the fall, will soon compile an official list of courses.

And in the meantime, those involved seem relieved not only with the results but also with finally reaching a decision.

"It was a very long process, but I'm thrilled" with the outcome, said College senior Shakirah Simley, the former chairwoman of the Undergraduate Minorities Council and a member of the task force.

This newfound focus on U.S. cultural diversity follows a trend in higher-education curricula.

For example, Harvard University recently revised its general education curriculum to include both "Societies in the World" and "U.S. in the World," Kao said.

Harvard "has been thinking about these issues and so have lots of other schools, and I think [by adding the requirement] we're doing the right thing," she said.

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