At Johns Hopkins, we have been working to craft new ways to bring undergraduate students into our intellectual community, excite their interest in diverse topics and problems, and strengthen the foundation of their academic experience.
The current landscape makes this a pivotal moment for reimagining undergraduate education.”—Christopher S. Celenza, James B. Knapp Dean
While enrollment has remained steady, our selectivity has increased even as our student body has become more diverse. Over the last five years, the number of underrepresented students in each incoming class has grown substantially, as has the number of first-generation, limited-income students. Such changes warrant a new model for undergraduate education.
Enter CUE2—short for the university’s Second Commission on Undergraduate Education, an effort shaped over the past four years to reimagine the learning experience for undergrads for years to come. Significant changes include giving students greater flexibility in pursuit of their major, as well as in their intellectual exploration of newly defined foundational abilities; providing greater undergraduate access to and engagement with faculty and the greater Hopkins community, including the professional schools; and creating more robust and multilayered academic advising and mentoring.
Emphasizing the first-year experience
While these efforts will affect all undergraduates, particular emphasis is being placed on the first-year experience. It’s important that—from the day they set foot on campus—our first-year students understand that they are entering one of the world’s greatest research universities. From that point on they are part of a vast community of curious thinkers and learners.
Last semester, we began to offer what we are calling First-Year Seminars—small, one-semester courses taught by some of our most dynamic faculty members from across the university. The seminars provide a unique common experience, giving students the opportunity to bond with one another, develop meaningful connections with faculty, and hone the core practices of scholarship: reading, writing, and speaking. Our faculty members have been involved from the ground up, providing valuable input and advice that will ensure the success of the seminars.
With provocative titles such as The Nature of Nature; The Science Behind the Fiction; Rough Magic: Shakespeare on Power; Monumental Memorials: Shaping Historical Memory; and The Science of Color, the seminars provide a small group setting where students can explore fascinating topics they’ve perhaps never considered before and share their curiosity with one another.
The First-Year Seminars are just one component of our vision for a reimagined undergraduate education at Johns Hopkins, but they are an important one. Today’s new students are tomorrow’s scholars, scientists, and Johns Hopkins alumni. We want them to know from Day One that they are a valued asset to our rich and diverse community of learners.
I sense a new energy around our efforts to reinvigorate undergraduate education. Stay tuned to these pages as additional efforts take shape.
Christopher S. Celenza
James B. Knapp Dean