A key transition in leadership for Boston College’s undergraduate Core Curriculum will take place this summer, when Associate Professor of Sociology and International Studies Brian Gareau succeeds Associate Professor of History Julian Bourg as associate dean for the core in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences.
Bourg is the inaugural holder of the position, created three years ago as part of the University’s Core Renewal initiative. That effort began in the fall of 2012 when the Core Renewal Committee met with groups of faculty, administrators, staff, students and other stakeholders in the University about the core, which had last been revised in 1991.
Among other changes, the initiative led to the establishment of a University Core Renewal Committee (UCRC), with Bourg as its chair, to provide governance for the core. That same year, 2015, saw the start of a pilot program to introduce new interdisciplinary core courses in two categories, Complex Problems and Enduring Questions.
The change in core leadership comes at a time of encouraging signs for the Core Renewal pilot program, according to Bourg and Gareau: Approximately 700 first-year students have taken the new core courses, with an additional 1,000 expected to do so by the end of the next academic year; by then, 126 faculty from all BC schools and 21 Morrissey College departments will have participated in Core Renewal.
As Bourg points out, the success is qualitative as well as quantitative. “Faculty colleagues have developed new collaborations and relationships. First-year students are impressed by the rigor and relevance of these courses and how they invite them to draw connections between what they are learning and what is happening in the rest of their lives.
“More generally, Core Renewal has energized the liberal arts at Boston College — all sorts of connections are being established between the Morrissey College and other academic and non-academic offices at BC.”
Reflecting on his tenure as associate dean for the core, Bourg said he has enjoyed getting to know his colleagues. “There are good people all over campus who care about our students. I especially have been gratified to witness inspiring faculty collaborations. Faculty are the heart of Boston College, and we are rightly beginning to do more and more to involve them in shaping the future of the University.”
“I’m tremendously grateful for Julian Bourg’s indispensable service as the inaugural associate dean for the core,” said Morrissey College Dean Gregory Kalscheur, S.J., who has played a lead role in the Core Renewal. “His deep understanding of the integrative and formative vision underlying the core and of our distinctive pedagogical hopes for Core Renewal and the pilot Complex Problems and Enduring Questions courses were essential to the great success of these new courses over the last three years.
“A tremendous amount of work has been involved in moving this project forward, and Julian has been outstanding as a tireless leader, an effective advocate for the program with faculty colleagues and departments across the University, and a visible spokesman for Core Renewal with alumni, parents, and friends of the University.”
Gareau’s involvement with the Core Renewal has included participating in town hall-type discussions on the core at the start of the initiative and serving on the UCRC. He also co-designed a course for the revised core’s pilot phase with his partner, Tara Pisani Gareau, an assistant professor of the practice in the Environmental Studies Program.
“The Core Renewal has been a very exciting one, sparking interest and participation from faculty and students across the University,” said Gareau, who praised the work of Bourg and Assistant Director of the Core Charles Keenan, and the leadership of Fr. Kalscheur and Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley.
“I’ve witnessed firsthand the effects that Core Renewal has had on our students and faculty, and it’s been very encouraging. It’s also been fascinating to see the positive effects that this endeavor has had on the Core Curriculum in general. I saw being associate dean as a great opportunity to continue the effort of bringing new life and energy to this important foundation of the undergraduate University experience.
“This appointment also provides me with a remarkable opportunity to engage deeply, and in a meaningful way, with my interests in teaching, research, improving student-faculty interactions and integrating BC’s Jesuit mission into the University’s intellectual life,” Gareau added. “I see Core Renewal as an opportunity to help enhance students’ engagement with intellectual and formative conversations both in and outside the classroom.”
“I’m delighted that Brian Gareau, a key contributor to the Core Renewal process, will be serving as associate dean for the core for the next three years,” said Fr. Kalscheur. “He and Tara offered one of the first Complex Problems courses, and their innovative Global Implications of Climate Change class is a great example of what can be accomplished through the Complex Problems model. Brian’s experience teaching in the renewed core and his strong commitment to the role of the Core Curriculum in the Jesuit, Catholic mission of the University will prepare him well to serve in this new role.
“I look forward to working with him as we continue to strengthen understanding of the core as the foundation of a Boston College education.”
Gareau pointed to the degree of faculty and student participation in the Core Renewal as a testament to its successful implementation.
“A large proportion of faculty are signing up to teach these courses for a second, and a third time,” he said. “The general impression is that these courses are very meaningful, rewarding and intellectually enjoyable for both faculty and students. Again, it’s the hard work that Julian and Charlie have done to provide support to our faculty and students that has allowed for these successes.”
Building on the momentum from the Core Renewal pilot phase will be critical, as will providing support for the continued involvement of faculty and students, he added.
The Core Renewal also will be a key element in the University’s Strategic Plan as it progresses, said Gareau, who served on the steering committee for the Strategic Plan Initiative.
“The Core Renewal will be part of the conversations about what makes Boston College distinctive, and how we approach the coming years of growth and innovation while remaining mindful of the rich tradition that has provided the foundation of the Boston College experience.”
—Sean Smith | University Communications