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Week 12--Evaluating Bryn Mawr's requirements

Anne Dalke's picture

Please read the Bryn Mawr College mission statement and current requirements. Think out loud here about the ways in which you feel these current requirements contribute to that mission. Then read the proposed new "breadth requirements" (handed out in class on Tuesday) and explain how you think they represent a changed path towards the mission statement.

pxie's picture

I appreciate the efforts.

After I finished reading the revised curriculum system, I really can’t find anything “revised” or “improved”. It is basically the same thing we are having now, but under fancier titles, for example, “Cross-Cultural Analysis” and “”Trans-Temporal Analysis”. A sophomore who had a glimpse on the paper joked that the biggest difference is that we only have to take five classes, one for each, to fulfill the divisional requirements rather than six, which she thinks is a big improvement.  However, I still appreciate that our faculty are striving hard to provide us a better education. The education I have received in China taught me that it was students’ responsibility to select the most useful combination of courses from the resource available. Thus, no matter whether you become a “winner” or a “sucker” in the future is determined or controlled by yourself, but has nothing to do with schools’ education success or failure. Here in the United States, colleges are more aware of their responsibility to educate and prepare their students to career challenges or further academic challenges.  I feel myself a little off topic now. Let me get back. To some degree, I appreciate the divisional requirements in Bryn Mawr. It “forces” students to go out of their comfortable zones and explore the fields they might never explore unless forced to. Moreover, it also helps the students to form a broader scale of knowledge and solid skills of reading, writing and critical thinking, which is definitely helpful in their later life. Overall, I appreciate the efforts that our curriculum committee and our faculty are making to make Bryn Mawr a better institution for education.  


maliha's picture

Divisional Requirements

The mission statement says one of the goals of the college is to encourage diversity in perspectives. The current divisional requirements don't really reach that goal. People who are not interested in certain topics may take classes on them, in order to fulfill requirements. However, the students will not take these classes seriously because the only thing they care about is getting through them. You can't force students to care about something that they don't, but the divisional requirements at least try to expose students to various fields, which I think is a good thing.

      Also, the proposal does not intend to change the classes that are offered in any way; it only asks for faculty to examine their courses and choose the best-fitting approach. Although Imagination and Interpretation may sound better than Division III or whatever, if the content of the classes are not going to be changing, there is little use in wasting so much effort arguing about what they are called.


ED's picture

One simple question about the

One simple question about the mission statement-- do you think it turns people off that the last time it was updated was 1998, or makes people feel confident that it's been the same for over a decade? It's superficial, but the '90s seem outdated to me. On the other hand, the content of the statement still holds pretty true, and I also like it that Bryn Mawr has an "Approved by the Board of Trustees December 1998" sign at all. It feels very right that an important board 'approved' the mission statement. Someone mentioned in class last week that website layout (and the theme of a school's advertisements in general) can have a big impact on how highly people regard the school. The mission page is a little boring-seeming. But other that that, I think the mission itself has some striking/individualized qualities that are true, such as  "a community... democratic in practice." I like the following sentence, but think it's too long: "Bryn Mawr teaches and values critical, creative and independent habits of thought and expression in an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum for women and in coeducational graduate programs in arts and sciences and social work and social research. "

rmilitello's picture


 I feel that the faculty at Bryn mawr has done a good job in trying to come up with a curriculum that will support the mission of the college. However, I do think that as much as supporting that mission is up to the faculty, it is up to the students as well. Bryn Mawr certainly does a good job of providing a rigorous education. Though, as much as I like the idea of a closed curriculum sometimes it can feel a bit restrictive for some. For example,   I don't agree that one math class is going to "give the student an appreciation of the value of quantitative analysis", sometimes if students have a difficult time with math after one math class they never want to take it again! However, the mission statement does say that it tries to "encourage" a pursuit of knowledge, so the truth is, that if it doesn't work out in one subject, the point is the student tried a number of things, not just the things she thought she would be good at. Sometimes it just so happens that we think we won't like something, but because we have to take it we end up realizing that we might really like that class after all. 

I think that the new requirements may help in that it is trying to uphold the part of Bryn Mawr's mission statement that says Bryn Mawr values "critical, creative and independent habits of thought." I think that with some of the new requirements, for example the new language requirement, will help to encourage a greater pursuit of knowledge. People don't like doing things because they have to, but rather because they want to and are genuinely interested. I think that a greater freedom of choice makes for a more student population that is much more enthusiastic about the education they are receiving. 

Jessica's picture

The new curriculum may backfire..

Oops, sorry I posted without logging in.. So here' my take

I like that classes can be classified under two divisions under the new proposal. This allows the classes to be categorized as they truly are. With this and the new five requirements, I believe that the new curriculum will be much more flexible than the current curriculum, suiting students who are looking to explore new areas.

However, it also raises a concern--this proposal may backfire on the central mission of "exposing students to a variety of approaches to inquiry and promoting that liberal education must be more than a strong training in one discipline." For incoming freshmen, it is easy to take classes in what interested them in high school. The flexibility of the new curriculum may allow students to take classes around only a single discipline (especially with classes being classified under two labels). From my experience, the current curriculum, which has more solid requirements, gave me a stronger drive to take courses in humanities, a discipline that I am not really into. When I was in the process of choosing classes for second semester, I tried to avoid intense literature classes because I didn't find them very interesting. However, I had to fulfill the humanities requirement (Div III). So I was searching for classes and I almost chose a literature class on Physics. But I happened to come across Ethics (Philosophy) and Literature and Politics of South African Apartheid in my search, so I ended up registering for those! I think current curriculum gives a stronger push to explore different disciplines to freshmen, who would tend to choose their favorite subjects because of their awful high school classes. (In high school, most people's favorite classes depend on how much they like their teachers)

However, I agree with Hilary on foreign language requirement.

nbagaria's picture

Too specific...?



After reading the mission statement, I feel that the college is doing an excellent job in keeping with the ideas and ideals outlined in the statement. However, I do feel that it is this very statement that is holding the college back from any significant change. In trying to follow to the statement, which was approved more than a decade ago (1998), the college is getting in its own way. It seems as though the statement wants to go one way and the college another.

 I also believe that the statement is worded in a way that defines how it should be followed and this by itself takes away from the ideals of the statement. I feel that a statement should not define an academic curriculum but rather the curriculum should lead to the statement. Almost like a self fulfilling prophesy in the sense that if the academic path is set right and the students are given a certain degree of flexibility while still ensuring that they have at least been exposed to subjects outside of their comfort zones, the college will have achieved its goals.

 I also think that the statement is a bit too specific in what it expects out of its students. I think a statement should state the basic ideal of the college in such a way that it allows an individual to take any path the individual wants to a predetermined end. Such, as the college's goal to make  "students to be responsible citizens who provide service to and leadership for an increasingly interdependent world."


Avocado's picture

Just a new way of doing things, I suppose...

 Though the lack of language requirement for me does stick out.  I think it is very important for peoples to know, or at least be acquainted with at least ONE language other than their native one.  I feel like the US in general lags behind in the language department~ and this is extremely frustrating.  Vexing, I should say.  Foreign language introduces in it of itself new perspectives, new nuances and social ideas and practices by its structure alone, and I think all persons should be able to experience that.  

That said... it would be nice to be in a classroom where everyone involved actually wants to be there.  Persons who are just filling their language requirement have a tendency, I think, to parlent en anglais, which does discourage and somewhat annoy those of us who wish to actively speak and practice our français.  I understand that they have to fill the requirement, and can understand an entirely lacking interest in all things french and francophone.  BUT it does tend to turn a college atmosphere into a high school one, which I think these new requirements mean to avoid.  I think freeing up that option is a good idea, and will lend itself to more engaged and satisfied students everywhere.  I think the worry is that students will choose not to pursue language on their own, thereby lessening the degree to which our worldly mission statement applies to us.  So it is a tradeoff, between trusting the student body to become of its own mission statement, or of the school to enforce what mission it should like us to represent.

ygao's picture

Sounds fresh

After reading the Bryn Mawr College mission statement and current requirements, i feel that the requirements define the statement quite well. The college requires six divisional requirements which correspond to the mission statement "through considering many perspectives do we gain a deeper understanding of each other and the world." The variety of divisional courses that we are required to take really do " emphasize learning through conversation and collaboration, primary reading, original research and experimentation," and the language requirement really do "encourage students to be responsible citizens who provide service to and leadership for an increasingly interdependent world" as stated in the mission statement. I feel that by fulfilling the requirements, students really do accomplish the mission of the college.

However,I do feel that the new proposal for the requirements is much more liberal, wide-spread in academic areas and practical for a college curriculum. It gives students more varieties of perspectives of academic life in college, which makes it more interesting for the students and really brings new ways of thinking in that it specifies each category more clearly of the mission or the knowledge to be learned. More opportunities and freshly categorized areas of studies can satisfy the need of a new start for college students. Students can explore different divisions instead of really taking classes quite similar to the senior year of high school, which fall into the current divisions quite well, as many freshmen do. I feel that the proposal gives a new and even more liberal definition to the mission statement, because it really does elaborate and suits more of the goals than the current requirement. The current curriculum is out-dated, and I believe as we step into this fast-paced century, change has to be made in the way college educate students. Holding on to the traditional requirements will work, but just might not match up with the new ideas and values of the world, especially the new generations of students, at contemporary times.

jrf's picture

a more direct approach

Bryn Mawr's current language requirement, while it attempts to prepare students for the "increasingly interdependent world" mentioned in the mission statement, is useless if it makes students hate languages and/or prevents them from exploring other areas of interest, as Dean Tidmarsh suggested it does. I agree that language study is very valuable as a method of understanding "alternative models of perceiving and processing human experience," but the new proposed requirement of a class that focuses on "cross-cultural analysis" might serve the same purpose alongside a reduced language requirement. The "fundamental social importance" that the current requirements ascribe to proficiency in multiple languages might be better attached to an understanding of multiple cultures, or any of the other listed benefits of language study, which can (probably) be achieved through other areas of study.

The proposed new divisions of knowledge seem to draw out the relevant qualities of the current three divisions and bring them forward. If the point of language study is to "learn to see the world from the perspective of a culture other than one's own," for example, then the new requirements would point students more directly toward that goal, rather than requiring them to make a specific type of attempt at reaching it. These requirements assume that learning "a variety of approaches to inquiry" is the best way towards "preparation for life and work," rather than assuming that exposure to a variety of disciplines will teach a variety of approaches to inquiry. The difference between the approaches of the two sets of requirements does not seem that great-- the proposed requirements simply aim more directly at the ideas in the mission statement.

ellenv's picture

Mission statement/requirements

After looking at the mission statement for Bryn Mawr alongside the requirements that we must complete in order to graduate, I do think there is some overlap. We are certainly learning to think critically since we must take so many different types of courses in order to fulfill our requirements. This means that we will be able to look at problems in one area and still be able to bring in knowledge and problem solving skills from another area. I think that it is significant that part of the mission statement addresses our relationship with the area around us from Haverford to Philadelphia itself. I would say that this was the most unexpected aspect of the mission statement for me. Generally, I think of mission statements as focusing exclusively on the institution being described, so I found this interesting. I do think that this is the part of the mission statement in which our course requirements do not exactly line up. This is because it would really be possible to get all of your requirement out of the way without ever taking a class at another campus. If this was really a main part of the mission statement, you would think that the current requirements would address it to a greater extent. When I looked at the new proposed requirements, I felt as if they were almost the exact same requirements with different names. This does not seem like the purpose of coming up with new requirements. That is simply rearranging rather than innovating. 

avietgirl's picture

Fewer requirements


I think that our requirement respond well with our mission statement. I think that Bryn Mawr does “teaches and values critical, creative and independent habits of thought.” By taken classes in a range of fields, we are encouraging those kinds of thought. The division requirements allow us to develop the “critical, creative and independent” thought that we need in “preparation for life and work.” I agree with some of the people here with the fact that requirements are something that should remain. Even though I have a major in mind, I am still open to new possibility. I know that if Bryn Mawr does not have requirement, I would not take classes that I did not need. I also would not take classes in the subject that I’m weak in. The fact that Bryn Mawr forces me to step out of my comfort zone is something that I appreciate. The requirement would help me to be more rounded.

However, I feel that with our current curriculum, there are too many requirements. Sometimes it feels as though the students are just trying to fulfill the requirement and are dreading their way through. I feel that there should be requirements but we should cut down on those requirements.

Like Alicia said, at first I thought that the new proposal would change this.  However, it only cut down one more class and put the subject even more specific. I feel that this would restrict the students’ freedom even more. With the divisional requirement, the classes that one could take are in a board range. In the new proposal, it is more specific and narrowed.

Just like how Dean Tidmarsh talked about our language requirement, I think it would be the same for the divisional requirement. I feel that when you take a class in one field, you would have a sense of what that field is about and see if is right for you. With fewer requirements, you are still being forced to step out of your comfort zone, but not to the point where you would dread the process.






hlehman's picture

I like it!

 I think that the current requirements and mission statement make very much sense together.  I think that the requirements support the goals and ideas of the mission statement and are very realistic for a liberal arts education.  Personally, I liked that Bryn Mawr had a few requirements when I was searching for colleges.  I did not want to go to a school with too many required courses because I wanted to experience many different courses since I had no idea (and still don't) about what I want to major in.  Although Dean Tidmarsh commented that many freshman repeat their senior year in high school as freshman and take many similar classes, none of the classes I am in or planning on taking next semester are at all similar to anything I took in high school.  I like the Bryn Mawr curriculum because I think that the requirements help people like me who have no idea what they want to do, find what they are good at and interested in.  If I didn't have requirements, I think I would feel completely lost and confused about what to take.   I think that Bryn Mawr is great because students get to experience a little bit of everything and even if they don't like something like math, there are many options of different "math-like" courses that aren't calculus and designed with English majors in mind.  I think that the new proposal of curriculum changes is good because it still means that students must fulfill some requirements in core, life skill departments, yet there is more flexibility and students have more time to take what they want.  I like the descriptions of the new required divisions because they are very realistic and based on ideas that will truly help us in the long run and are well beyond the high school senior year schedule.  

kdlz's picture

 The Bryn Mawr mission

 The Bryn Mawr mission statement is to  "provide a rigorous education and to encourage the pursuit of knowledge as preparation for life and work, to teach and value critical, creative and independent habits of thought and expression...and to sustain a community diverse in nature and democratic in practice". I think that one way the current requirements contribute to this is simply by making everyone take a wide variety of classes - I think by making people take all sorts of classes, it really 'encourages the pursuit of knowledge' because it may expose people to different things they might not even have known they liked. Also, making people take classes in areas they may not like (maybe because it is a "weak" subject for them) forces them to work and improve their weaker areas.

However, I feel like in some fields, especially the language field!, that the requirement could be less. I think that a 4 semester language requirement is (what Dean Tidmarsh said) only 'beating a language' into someone that doesn't want to learn it. I think that if someone was really passionate about a language, they would take it regardless of the requirement. A 2 semester language requirement ensures that everyone has the basics of SOME language, but if they aren't a 'language person' they don't have to continue. I think shortening the requirements would be beneficial in cases like that - because 'less requirements' still gives the person enough of a 'taste' of the subject to decide if they like it or not. Plus, it would give people more freedom to experiment because they don't have to worry about taking one class they are so-so about over another they really want to take simply because the so-so class fulfills a requirement. 

On another note, in some ways I feel that as freshman, we haven't really been at Bryn Mawr long enough to say how well the current requirements will work for us. We haven't even been here a full semester and we don't know if something good will come out of having these requirements (like stumbling across a class that you find out that you love, or something like that). 

jtm715's picture

Bi-Co Relations Going Sour...

 During Dean Tidmarsh's discussion, I was surprised by her comment about the current relationship between Bryn Mawr and Haverford in regards to their requirements.  Dean Tidmarsh said that they don't collaborate on curriculum revisions when I asked, and as a student taking have of my classes at Haverford, that seems like an obvious connection to make.  I know that the bond between the two schools isn't as strong since Haverford became fully co-ed in 1980, but having similar requirements would strengthen that bond again.  I feel like many students at both schools don't take advantage of the opportunities we have to take classes at a institution with their own, mostly different course listing, which in turn weakens the social connection between the schools.  

The disconnect between the curriculum also affects students who decide to major at the other college.  If there's a Haverford students who wants to major in Cities, which isn't offered at Haverford, they might have trouble fulfilling Haverford's degree requirements and Bryn Mawr's major requirements, and vice versa.  

thatcaliforniagirl13's picture

Too many requirements!

 Bryn Mawr's mission statement is "to provide a rigorous education and to encourage the pursuit of knowledge as preparation for life and work."  I will agree that the load of requirements put on our plates provides that "rigorous education" that many students were attracted to in choosing to come to BMC. The requirements do, in a sense,  support Bryn Mawr's mission statement. I, however, feel that maybe there just are too many requirements to be able to fulfill the desires of exploration, which is what a liberal arts college promotes.  I feel that my first semester of college is a carbon copy of my senior year in high school.

When Dean Tidmarsh came to class on Tuesday and mentioned that students find that the requirements are what cause the similarities in what our schedules look like then and now; I found myself agreeing with her. Before hearing the changes, I was sure that the new proposal fixed the problem of too many requirements. I was so wrong. The requirements were only, as Anne stated, "fiddled with."  I read the new proposal over and over again in attempts of finding some major differences. The new proposal has a grand total of one less class to fulfill a requirement. Instead of 6 classes, there are only 5. I don't see much of a change really. The one change I did notice was that the "Approaches" were a lot more specific and restrictive than the divisional requirements we have now. 

The other day I was in the Carpenter Library and spotted this study abroad "4 year plan." In order to be able to study abroad by your junior year, the majority if not all of your requirements have to be out of the way by the end of the first semester of your sophomore year. How do all of these requirements allow one to explore their potential majors before studying abroad? I'm not suggesting to get rid of the requirements, but to at least cut them down. I know that BMC wants its students to be knowledgeable in all aspects. However, Bryn Mawr's mission statement doesn't explicitly mention the importance of being well-rounded individuals. Bryn Mawr "values" the liberal arts curriculum, but when does the exploration and "liberal arts" begin? The second semester of sophomore year, when majors are supposed to be declared? 

rshen's picture

What's all the hubub about curriculum?

In my opinion, a mission statement isn't crucial to the betterment of a school's/college's students. When I tried to relate Bryn Mawr's mission statement to one from my high school, there were differences. In my experience, mission statements can be directly taken from one educational institution and apply to another. For instance, how does, "Together we seek to...foster the courage to live and think as distinct individuals who embrace their responsibilities in the larger world," differ from, "encourage students to be responsible citizens who provide service to and leadership for an increasingly interdependent world," ? To me, mission statements are pretty superfluous, and a way for schools/colleges to try and find variation although variation may not be necessary.

Getting to the heart of the matter, what matters is the curriculum. I'm in agreement with most people's ideas so far. Do we need to change the curriculum if there aren't any major issues with it? As a student who actively searched for a college with a suitable curriculum for my purposes, do I feel like Bryn Mawr is trying to be something I didn't agree  to? When reading through the articles, I understood in the past how graduates were so concentrated in their skills that they weren't able to effectively meld into the world. But doesn't Bryn Mawr's current curriculum give me the interdisciplinary skills I need? For instance, I am not a language person. I've taken Spanish for six years, and I have no idea how I'd get by if I went to Spain and encountered only Spanish speakers. But Bryn Mawr has a language requirement. Instead of seeing this as an obstacle, I'm taking Hebrew.

I'm actually grateful Bryn Mawr's making me do something I'm uncomfortable with. In the future, after declaring my major, most of my classes will be in one field. Having this variety in my freshman year is liberating. I certainly don't want an open curriculum. Thank god Bryn Mawr isn't even considering that. And as far as the "Water Program" the NYTimes article mentioned, I'm just completely baffled. What does this even mean? I feel offended that we are assumed that we can't handle classes with their actual title. Why can't the Water Program be an interdisciplinary course instead of a mish-mosh curriculum that seems like it's doom to fail. If there's a curriculum around "knowledge" and "water" wouldn't students be even more trapped? Let's say I want to major in Math. Why would a water program suit me? Sure the first year it would be exciting taking classes that fall under no clear heading, but without classes that have their own identity, what would I be geared for in the real world? 

Anyways, Bryn Mawr's newly proposed curriculum doesn't seem startlingly different to me. Then again, I feel we should have to try some field that's uncomfortable. I mean, I'm doomed in languages, but that's why I chose Bryn Mawr: they're making me do it anyways, but I have the support that I need if I actually struggle.

Is it the curriculum that matters, or the hand-on help and guidance that matters to a college? I propose that the curriculum comes second and that professor-student interactions should be critiqued more than what classes are mandatory. Does it matter what classes we're taking or what we take away from them?

Rabbitbmc's picture

requirements are A-OK

I think that the women who chose to attend a liberal arts college like Bryn Mawr do so because either they have no idea what to do with their lives (like me), OR they are set on an idea but are open to other influences that could change their initial plans. And if this is the case, being certain about a major or path, I think that it is important to be a well rounded individual. These requirements, though I definitely think that they can be annoying at times, really make sure that this well rounded path actually happens. I think that by "considering many perspectives", one gets a beneficial balance that is invaluable. Also, by forcing us to experience different areas of study, I really think that we are getting our money's worth at Bryn Mawr. Or at least some of it.

And to be honest, at a college where you can mix and match with 35 majors and 39 minors (not to mention 7 concentrations), I am extremely grateful for these requirements! Maybe I'm leaning back towards our previous idea of limiting choices, but i know for a fact that having a curriculum that "leads the way" will definitely help me figure out what I really love to study.

The only real flaw that I can find is- yes here it comes- that darn language requirement! I definitely feel that what Dean Tidmarsh was saying about limiting this requirement for future classes is a great idea. I know that there is more than one girl in my Spanish class who is completely miserable- and its not just because we are conjugating verbs at 9 in the morning. I really think that having a classroom full of women who truly enjoy learning a certain language will create a better environment for everyone- students and professors alike. It's hard enough getting an unenthusiastic student to enjoy a class in English, let alone intensive Chinese or Russian.

Besides the language issue, I personally am fine with the requirements in place and don't think that they should be too watered down.

Lydia Jessup's picture

New requirements?

 The three divisional requirements (social sciences, humanities, and the natural sciences and mathematics) work toward the goal of “critical, creative and independent habits of thought and expression” in the mission statement.  The mission statement is so general that all the requirements fit “perfectly” into it.  I think that if the curriculum is going to be redesigned, the mission statement should be revisited.  However, it is hard to make it specific because the college educates students on so many topics and in so many ways.  I think that currently the curriculum fits with the mission statement very well, but the question is: could a different curriculum better accomplish these goals?


The new breadth requirements would have one less required class (five instead of six), but would cover more specific topics.  It seems that the reasons for the five topics have been thought out, in addition to the way they fit together.  I have been trying to figure out if this would give students less freedom.  It may narrow their choices to some extent, but I imagine that many classes would be cross-listed.  A large difference I see in the new curriculum would be that students would take more varied courses, but these varied courses could all relate to each other.  For example, with the current requirements a student could take two very similar classes from the social sciences division, but with the new requirements, these two classes would use different types of thinking skills.  This is what I understand to be the thinking behind the new requirements, and I like the idea. 


It will take a lot of work to implement the new requirements and make them work smoothly.  It like the idea of learning about topics, especially similar ones, using different mediums.  I think the course load in the new curriculum would mesh together better, but this may not be true when students actually try it out.  Right now it seems that students have to fulfill requirement they have no interest in, but perhaps this will still happen in the new curriculum.  I would also like to know if new classes would be created to go along with the breadth requirements.  Part of Bryn Mawr’s mission statement is to “sustain a community diverse in nature and democratic in practice.”  I think that this should not just apply to the students, but also to the classes offered and the curriculum.  I believe that the new breadth requirements would encourage diversity in thought and learning.

kgrassle's picture

The Committee Should Listen to the Students

 Bryn Mawr's website states that "The mission of Bryn Mawr College is to provide a rigorous education and to encourage the pursuit of knowledge as preparation for life and work".  The divisional requirements broaden a student's educational horizon rather than constraining it, and allows students to explore other areas that they may not know they are interested in.  These requirements are true to Bryn Mawr's mission, creating a well-balanced education that is demanding and prepares students for work after college.  Taking classes in different areas also gives a student a broader view of the world, which prepares them for working with people of different backgrounds.  The physical education requirement goes even further to prepare students how to balance both work and staying healthy. A healthy body is crucial to a healthy mind, and Bryn Mawr strives to educate students about both so that they can make wise decisions for the future. 

The new curriculum is very similar, and doesn't really represent a "changed path" towards the mission statement.  The requirements are stated in ambiguous terms, and are not as straight-forward as the current stated requirements for the college.  For example, the "Trans-Temporal Analysis" requirement.  Wouldn't these just be history courses?  Would this mean new classes would have to be created to fit these requirements? How exactly is the new curriculum going to be an improvement? At the moment, it looks very similar to the requirements we have now.  I think that the curriculum committee should listen to how the students would want to change the school and the curriculum.  If students are pleased with the current system, why change it?


lcatlin's picture

no mission and same (but better) divisional requirements

 The mission statement feels more like a recruiting tool, stating how wonderful BMC already is. Out of three paragraphs only two sentences apply to what BMC aspires to be in the future. "The mission of Bryn Mawr College is to provide a rigorous education and to encourage the pursuit of knowledge as preparation for life and work." and "Bryn Mawr seeks to sustain a community diverse in nature and democratic in practice, for we believe that only through considering many perspectives do we gain a deeper understanding of each other and the world." The mission statement is too long and isn't actually a mission statement, only these two sentences. Therefor I will only count these two sentences as the mission statement. [Also I want to point out that on the mission statement there is a picture of a faculty member, not a student.]

In this mission statement the phrase pertaining to curriculum and academics is "provide a rigorous education" and "encourage the pursuit of knowledge as preparation for life and work. " I think all classes strive to provide a rigorous education with or without divisional requirements, so this is irrelevant while talking about them. I think what is relevant is the "pursuit of knowledge". Karen Tidmarsh talked in class how she and her committees wanted students to explore different fields besides what they took senior year of high school, or in other words, pursue. For Karen and her colleagues, the best way to enable this pursuit is to guide what courses people take through requirements. For others though, requirements may hinder students ability to take what the actually want to pursue, instead of what they need to "get over with."

I think the new divisional requirements are pretty much the same as the old ones. They sound more interesting though and seem to have decided that they have a point, so I think the school should adapt them. The divisional requirements now just seem to be there because they "have" to. The new ones now have a reason to exist. 

Shayna S's picture

A Different Frame

The mission statement of the college seems to be a goal of directing students to obtain a broad perspective on a variety of topics while enriching ourselves in a diverse and democratic campus and perparing ourselves for "the real world". The divisions strive toward this goal in requiring each of us to take two courses in every division. Thus, we have, at the very least, to be subjected to a diversity of perspectives. The language requirement, as pertaining to the mission statement, does serve to broaden perspective and will be useful in a work environment sthat often expands over different languages. During parents weekend (Saturday, I believe), there were alumnae speakers who talked about their experiences in the workplace and how they related their Bryn Mawr education to their work. almost all the alumnae stated something like "I was a scientist who could write." or "I was a writer who could perform complicated math." Their experiences emphasized the usefulness of their diverse education in the workplace. In this sense (taking into account that the alumnae had a different curriculm, but our current one seemse to have a similar purpose. The "character of Bryn Mawr" that was mentioned in class the other day?), our requirements will theorectically give us the breadth of knowledge we need to succeed as "responsible citizens who provide service to and leadership for an increasingly interdependent world."


With the new approach, more individual freedom of classes is given. Experimentation with different subjects is more encouraged in this set of curriculum. Most importantly, the requirements do not take around 2 years to complete. This is a much more liberal approach while still maintaining the core goal of preparing us for our future work by introducing us to a broad range of thought.


Even though the new requirements are quite similar to the old ones, by calling the new requirements "approaches to inquiry", we frame our curriculum a different way (and we are all well aware of the various consequences that a different frame on the same situation can produce). Students are prompted to think about thier curriculum as learning different important thought processes rather than taking two science courses and 2 years of a language. Our curriculm is inclusive. The departments are even less seperated than before by labels such as "Social Sciences" and "Humanities". Different perspectives are what McIntosh argues are needed in Curriculums in order to achieve the kind of success that will shape us into "responsible citizens who provide service to and leadership for an increasingly interdependent world." With the "Approaches to Inquiry", we find ourselves working toward the same goal as previous Mawrtyrs, but with a different "frame", and thus a different mindset for a changing world. 

Calála's picture

No real change

I feel that the current requirements for Bryn Mawr complete most aspects of the mission statement. The first part of the mission statement claims that  "Bryn Mawr teaches and values critical, creative and independent habits of thought and expression." This is elaborated on when the second paragraph says that our community values "learning through conversation and collaboration, primary reading, original research and experimentation." The current requirements require that students complete courses in three different divisions, and also fulfill a quantitative requirement. The Q requirement achieves the need for students to learn through first hand experimentation and the divisional requirements allow students to experience both critical and creative thought. Another benefit to the idea of having divisional requirements is that it created a well-rounded education, during which students must learn from many professors, departments, and other students. This accomplishes the college goal to gain understanding through experiencing many perspectives. However,  the requirements fulfill the college mission is only in an out dated way. This out dated view of the mission statement should be replaced by a modern interpretation that is more fitting with the current world.

The revised requirements that have been proposed to the college really do not change anything or do a better job of creating a modern curriculum. The new distributional requirements have essentially the same rules as the old ones, with only one fewer required class. Like we talked about in class, these changes are all just "fiddling."

So maybe we need to do something more radical. Considering the article I read last week about the effects of service learning in college education, I began to think about how the inclusion of more service learning and community interaction could help our college curriculum adjust to the current world and redefine the part of the mission statement that says that Bryn Mawr wants to "encourage students to be responsible citizens who provide service to and leadership for an increasingly interdependent world."

Annagibs's picture

Requirements: A Defining Characteristic of Bryn Mawr College

 I feel that the mission statement and the academic requirements fit together perfectly as they are now. The academic requirements, while seemingly restrictive, actually exemplify a portion of Bryn Mawr’s mission statement (“we believe that only through considering many perspectives do we gain a deeper understanding of each other and the world”).  I also believe that having academic requirements in such structured areas as “Quantitative Studies”, “Social Sciences”, “Humanities”, etc. coalesces with Bryn Mawr’s rigorous academic schedule, but also demonstrates the school’s interest in creativity by allowing for the definitions of these requirements to be stretched to include classes not typically thought of belonging to those subjects (e.g. “The Stuff of Art” is an art history class viewed through the lens of chemistry—technically it belongs in the Natural Science division, but it also involves art history elements).  By allowing students to pick their own classes, I think that people become academically myopic, but having too much structure reduces their happiness and intellectual exploration. I think Bryn Mawr has the right idea of having requirements for general fields of study, but also allowing for creativity and a mercurial nature to the academic atmosphere of the classes offered.


As for the new requirements handed out on Tuesday, November 17, I don’t think they add anything different or innovative to the current curriculum.  In fact, I felt more confused than enlightened by them.  I felt that the terms used to describe the requirements were vague, and I also felt a little patronized by them.  Perhaps it was just the wording, but I couldn’t shake the sense that the college was beginning to cater more to making students happy with simplicity and a lessened workload. I think eliminating the two-class requirement for the Divisional Requirements dishonors Bryn Mawr’s mission statement concerning a “rigorous education”, and I also believe that it does a disservice to preparing students for life and work.  I believe having to take two courses in the flexible academic requirements creates students into well-rounded people with a thorough grasp on areas of study. While dispensing with the two-course requirement might foster independence, an element of Bryn Mawr’s mission statement, it could also do the complete opposite. By making students specialized in a certain area, the new requirements would make students unable to be independent due to their lack of knowledge on an area of study outside of their specialty.  The Divisional Requirements assure that all students have a firm base of knowledge in every general area to allow students to be independent and self-sufficient.


To wrap this up, I came to Bryn Mawr because of its current curriculum. Changing the curriculum would be a big disappointment to me, even though the requirements would still apply to me for the remaining three years. Still, I feel that the requirements are one of the top aspects of Bryn Mawr that makes it stand out as an individual among a dozen cookie-cutter liberal arts colleges. 

Maiya Zwerling's picture

I don't even know...

 As stated many times above, the mission statement is extremely general and therefore the requirements fit into it. Not so hard. The mission statement says that bmc wants to promote a rigorous education and search for knowledge. It talks about community that is involved and diverse. And it also mentions the importance of perspectives. I think that all of these are accomplished through the requirements that we have. Any form of requirements that ask the student to sample all of the different kinds of education will do the trick. As mentioned above, I think that certain requirement like the language are excessive because they have no give in what people are can take in that field besides a language. There are people who are just horrible at languages and there is no give and take for them. I personally tried to get out of my language requirements and failed miserably even though a psychologist at home recommended that this should be an accommodation for me. I think it would be interesting if they allowed people who were not good at languages to take a class dedicated to a culture instead. This way those who would be miserable in language classes could get a sample of the culture without making other people unhappy. 


Aside from that, I think it is good that they reexamine the curriculum but until the mission statement can be more clear and specific, I don't see any need to change the curriculum as of yet.