As chair of the department I’m in frequent contact with our alumni, men and women who have gone on to an array of careers that — quite frankly — amaze me in their variety and their ambition. I noticed during my first year as chair, however, a puzzling phenomenon: our current majors and former majors tend to have strong attachments to particular faculty members, but don’t always have a strong sense of the department as a whole. That’s a shame, because we are in fact a lively community and a fairly unified group.
During a retreat in which the faculty participated just before classes began, we decided that we would work to give our majors a better sense of the cohesiveness and the shared values within the department. We’re serious about this endeavor: we want our students to know that they are part of an intellectual community that extends far beyond the time they enjoy in our classrooms. To help achieve this important goal we have created a new administrative position within the department, the Director of Undergraduate Study. The preliminary job description runs as follows:
The Director of Undergraduate Study is responsible for fostering intellectual community among our undergraduate majors through the oversight of specific courses, the administration of the Honors Program, and the sponsoring of events such as lectures and workshops.
The DUS will administer sophomore seminars and the honors program. This office is charged with oversight of special undergraduate initiatives and courses of study such as the Folger Library Seminar for seniors. The DUS will be the faculty contact for the undergraduate majors club.
The DUS works in partnership with the Director of Undergraduate Advising.
This academic year we will experiment with the position and see if it is worthwhile. If so, we’ll emend our bylaws to make it permanent come spring. Professor Gil Harris has graciously volunteered to serve as our first DUS. Please let him or me know if you have any feedback or suggestions as we attempt to make this office one which will serve our students well.