Panel discusses potential addition to COLL 300 curriculum

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A new course requirement seeks to enhance student social and political awareness. COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

A panel discussion was held Wednesday, Nov. 20 in Tyler Hall to discuss the COLL curriculum and ongoing efforts by the College of William and Mary to improve diversity and intercommunal dialogue on campus. Professors Christine Nemacheck and John Parman, both affiliated with the CLA, led the discussion.

The panel was hosted by the Center for the Liberal Arts, faculty group comprised of 10 fellows and a director.

The discussion centered on the introduction of a new part of the COLL curriculum, which is being referred to in its development stages as the COLL 199/COLL 350 requirement. The new course label is designed to help students connect their area of study with contemporary political and social contexts in the United States. Parman explained that this new part of the curriculum has been being discussed among the faculty for some time.

“In the past three or four years, the faculty started discussing that there’s still a component here that we’re missing,” Parman said.  

“In the past three or four years, the faculty started discussing that there’s still a component here that we’re missing,” Parman said. “Some of this came from the protests in Charlottesville, some of this came from thinking about campus climate here at William and Mary, but one of the things that wasn’t adequately emphasized through this curricular development was thinking about the relationships between different groups in the contemporary United States, and also thinking about how we communicate with each other about that, inside and outside the classroom.” 

The new course requirement was also a recommendation of the College’s Race Relations Task Force, which was established in March 2015 by former College President Taylor ReveleyKey issues to be discussed by the new COLL 199/350 courses include justice, equity and the workings of power and inequality. For their course work, students will be encouraged to focus on race and at least one other systemically disadvantaged demographic group in the United States. 

The panel also described the Pedagogical Partner Program, which is planned to be introduced alongside the new COLL requirement. The partnership program is designed to provide student feedback to professors on how they are handling the sensitive issues being discussed in their classes. Student Pedagogical Partners will be paid employees of the College and will help faculty know more about their classroom environment and provide feedback on specific aspects of that environment. 

“We see the ideas and thoughts that you all might bring to this process as being really important and valuable, and we’re hoping some of you might be interested in working with us to make your classes as welcoming and as quality inclusive as they can be,” Nemacheck said 

“We see the ideas and thoughts that you all might bring to this process as being really important and valuable, and we’re hoping some of you might be interested in working with us to make your classes as welcoming and as quality inclusive as they can be,” Nemacheck said 

Emma Shainwald ’20 and Milka Mered ’20 participated in a trial of the Pedagogical Partner Program and described their experiences working with their assigned professors 

I think it’s really good getting to work with a professor,” Shainwald said. “I think working with professors directly is really helpful because then you kind of understand the different constraints that they’re under and how to most effectively appease both what the professors have to do but also what the students want and learn how to navigate between those two things.” 

Lorielle Bouldin ’23 attended the discussion and said that she was encouraged by the efforts of the CLA to improve and incorporate more diverse perspectives into the COLL curriculum. 

“I was most interested in the fact that there are faculty that really try to make a change, that they’re not just ignoring [the problem]. The fact that they’re getting students involved and trying to make sure that this campus is really something that’s comfortable for everyone,” Bouldin said. 

“I was most interested in the fact that there are faculty that really try to make a change, that they’re not just ignoring [the problem],” Bouldin said. “The fact that they’re getting students involved and trying to make sure that this campus is really something that’s comfortable for everyone.”

Dejah Robinson ’23 also attended the panel and said she appreciated that instead of avoiding difficult conversations, the CLA is attempting to confront them directly through the COLL curriculum. 

“I found it interesting that the faculty is trying to make a change and not have repeated situations such as what happened in Charlottesville,” Robinson said. “At William and Mary, even though there’s 6,000 students, it’s 6,000 students from different areas and different aspects of life. Someone who comes from a rural area might meet someone who lives in a city, and they probably would have never had a conversation otherwise, and if they did ever have a conversation about their communities, they wouldn’t be able to really relate. Having that type of conversation is not bad; it’s just educating people about their cultures and expanding their knowledge.