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Vagelos Laboratories of the IAST, Roy and Diana 3340 Smith Walk Credit: Youngjin Kwak

Freshmen in the Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management may need to reconsider their course of study after a recent change in the program’s offerings.

On Monday, freshmen in the program — which offers a dual degree in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School — received an email stating that they could not choose cognitive science as their College major. Any student who had already declared the cognitive science major, however,  would be not be asked to switch.

The email, sent by an LSM administrator, explained that “experience has shown that students majoring in Cognitive Science simply have not covered an amount of basic science consistent with the philosophy and purpose of this program.”

Because LSM students graduate with degrees from two of Penn's schools in four years, they must plan their courses carefully in advance. The second semester drop period had already ended when the announcement was made, but the program’s administration said students will still be able to graduate on time.

“The timing is before advance registration for the fall, which means that first-year students are not so far along in one major that they have no other choices,” LSM Director of Administration and Advising Peter Stokes said, adding that students concerned about completing another major are encouraged to consult with him.

Despite the sudden news, LSM students are hopeful that their academic futures will not be set back.

“I don't foresee this impacting my graduation time. I was considering two different majors offered in the LSM program,” a student who preferred to remain anonymous said. “I kept this in mind so that no matter which major I chose, I would be making progress towards graduating. That being said, this definitely changes the classes that I had planned for the next few semesters. I'll have to talk to my advisor and upperclassmen to determine an alternate course plan for the next three years.”

Because cognitive science is not listed among the offered majors on the LSM website, past majors had to obtain special permission and few Vagelos students enrolled. The option became more popular in recent years, however, and Stokes said the program saw an increasing need to revaluate whether the major belonged in the program.

“The Vagelos Life Sciences and Management program is designed to give students an understanding of scientific innovations, and how to manage and promote them,” he said. “A foundational education in basic science is an essential part of that design.”

“Cognitive Science is a tremendously interesting, interdisciplinary major,” Stokes added. “However, in the context of this particular interdisciplinary program, LSM, with its specific goals, it is felt that the students need to be sure to acquire first and foremost an understanding of the basic building blocks of science.”

Students say the change would not prompt them to leave the program.

“I still would have applied to LSM because I'm interested in the intersection of healthcare and management,” the student in the program said. “I also love the sense of community and mentorship that LSM provides.”

Regardless, some may have to abandon a course they already began.

“I actually really loved the interdisciplinary breadth of classes that cognitive science offered,” the student said. “I would get to take BBB classes along with computer science and psychology. It was an interesting mix of science, humanities and analytical subjects.”

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