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Firm to Assist Core Renewal


By Jack Dunn | Director of News & Public Affairs

Published: Nov. 1, 2012

The University’s effort to review and revitalize the undergraduate core curriculum will be assisted by an international consultancy firm that specializes in using human-centered design principles to foster institutional innovation.
Institute for the Liberal Arts Director Mary Crane has announced that the Core Renewal Committee will partner with Continuum, a leader in innovative thinking and design, whose clients range from MIT to the National Institutes of Health.

In a letter to faculty, Crane and her fellow Core Renewal co-chairs David Quigley, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Andy Boynton, dean of the Carroll School of Management, stated that working with Continuum represents the best way to renew Boston College’s undergraduate core curriculum, which has been in place since the early 1990s. 

“Because Continuum’s approach is interdisciplinary, and uses empathetic listening, attention to narrative, analysis, design and prototyping, we believe that it is a good fit for the liberal arts, and one that will result in a set of innovative, distinctive and intellectually serious experiences for students and faculty,” said Crane.  “Continuum has been charged with helping us to look again at the overall rationale for and goals of the core, to pilot some innovative disciplinary courses, and to help develop structures for ongoing innovation.”  

Added Quigley, “I have become convinced that partnering with Continuum gives us our best chance of learning from the broadest range of voices on campus, and of designing a core that is truly meaningful for our students and faculty, and that aligns with our University’s distinctive mission.”  

Continuum has set up an office in Gasson Hall, where they will engage in a five-stage Core Renewal process through the spring of 2013. The first four weeks, called the alignment phase, will involve in-depth interviews with faculty, students, administrators, alumni, parents and prospective students, where they will gather information from these stakeholders to gain an understanding of both the challenge of Core Renewal and the University’s goals and priorities.  An interactive website will be launched to enable faculty to offer input and submit feedback during the course of the project.

The second phase, discovery, will include interviews with approximately 20 faculty and 10-15 students to gain an understanding of their needs and motivations, as well as research on best practices at leading peer institutions and key trends in higher education.  The Core Renewal team has scheduled two town hall meetings, Nov. 5 from 3-4 p.m. in Fulton 511, and Nov. 13 from 4:30-6 p.m. in Devlin 101, for faculty to learn more about the project and Continuum’s unique approach. 

During the third phase, analysis, Continuum will work with the key stakeholders to define a vision for the core and opportunities for the ideal core experience and innovation mechanism. This phase will include a series of work sessions with departmental faculty, as well as students and other stakeholders, to create a shared ownership of the new vision.

The fourth stage, envisioning, will enable Continuum to articulate and evaluate the new core curriculum and innovation mechanism from the perspectives of the stakeholders, with the goal of providing a detailed pilot plan for two to three core innovation mechanism ideas to be launched in 2013.   
During the final stage, deployment, Continuum will use a range of strategies to prepare the renewed core curriculum experience for deployment and implementation during the 2013-2014 academic year.

In addition to Quigley and Boynton, the Core Renewal team includes Professors Tom Chiles (Biology) and Juliet Schor (Sociology), Associate Professor Gail Kineke (Earth and Environmental Sciences), as well as Professor Emeritus of Philosophy Richard Cobb-Stevens and Akua Skarr, director of the Academic Advising Center. Crane, Boynton and Quigley worked with Provost and Dean of Faculties Cutberto Garza and then with University President William P. Leahy, SJ, who ultimately approved the project. An advisory team of 17 faculty and administrators will also meet monthly to assist in the effort. The team will also consult with the vice presidents for Student Affairs and University Mission and Ministry throughout the course of the project, Crane said.

“It is a credit to Boston College to partner with Continuum—a firm whose core competence is helping world-class organizations innovate successfully—and to invest in further strengthening our established core to more vividly reflect the University’s academic excellence and rich Jesuit, Catholic mission,” said Boynton.

Added Chiles, “The core should be the marquee program that distinguishes Boston College from peer institutions. Working with Continuum and BC faculty, students and administrators, I believe that we can meet this goal.”