Potential Changes to the CPE Structure

Image courtesy of Goucher Magazine

Within the current Goucher liberal arts curriculum, there are a series of courses designed to provide an interdisciplinary education and skills to solve complex problems called Center Pair Exploration Courses (CPEs). According the Goucher College website:

“[The CPE model] revolves around eleven academic centers …Between their second semester at Goucher and the end of their junior year, students will take 3 Center Pair Exploration (CPE) courses outside the Center Pair to which their major belongs.”

However, with all the different centers, overlap between majors, and the potential for students to change majors, it has become clear that the CPE structure has proven abstract and confusing to many students.

Noting the concerns of students, the Academic Policy Committee which oversees changes made to the class curriculum, has proposed new changes to the CPE structure which would be potentially be implemented for the Fall 2019 semester. Senior Nancy Rosen ’19, an International Relations and French double major and student representative on the Academic Policy Committee, explained the mooted changes in an email interview:

“The proposed changes for the CPEs are to first change what the acronyms stand for; they will be known as ‘Complex Problem Exploration.’ Secondly, students will only have to complete 2 CPEs instead of 3. Thirdly, the CPEs that students take will meet the MHEC requirements, they could count towards the Environmental Sustainability or Race, Power, and Perspective requirements, and they could meet major and minor requirements.”

Ann Duncan, Associate Professor of Religion, is the Curriculum Coordinator and the Chair of the Academic Policies Committee. As the Curriculum Coordinator, Duncan worked with other faculty members to develop the proposed CPE changes and put it before the Academic Policies Committee, who finalized the proposal and brought it before the faculty for a vote. When asked about the goals of current CPE structure and what issues had arisen, Duncan stated:

“The CPE courses were designed to build on what have always been strengths of the Goucher education…As with any new program, new challenges and possibilities emerged as implementation of the curriculum took place. For the CPEs, we recognized that students need more flexibility in balancing Goucher Commons requirements and their majors and many programs were having trouble offering enough CPE courses in the wake of program prioritization.”

Robin Cresiski, an Associate Professor of Biology who serves on the Academic Policy Committee echoed, the same information:

“The [current] CPEs envisioned two things: to supply the full breadth of a liberal arts education…and to engaged students in studying complex problems…they were also designed to provide the students the skills to work within a team or group framework and provide the skills necessary to be good collaborators…problems arose when students tried to change majors and ending up taking four CPE classes.”

Duncan and Cresiski have both worked to get feedback from faculty, faculty advisors, and students to reflect the needs of the students. Cresiski hopes that the proposed changes “reflect intensive listening” and helps to make advising students and changing one’s major easier. Both Cresiski and Duncan both stated that faculty are always aware of the challenges for students and challenges in staffing as they advise students and plan course offerings. Duncan is hopeful that the proposal will pass and ultimately be implemented: “I think it will make it much easier for students to balance their majors and…give students more flexibility in exploring various disciplines across the college.” Cresiski also expressed her optimism over the changes: “We hope to facilitate high levels of student engagement and encourage students to choose courses they feel are impactful. We want student enthusiasm to increase.”

Goucher Student Government (GSG) Co-President Sam Anderson ’21 described the changes as “exciting” and expressed his hope that the proposed CPE changes will give students more interdisciplinary choice. Anderson also stated that the changes could free students who would potentially be forced into a major by their CPE requirement. Fellow GSG Co-President Noah Block ’21 agreed, stating that in GSG discussions, the consensus towards the CPE changes was supportive but that he could not speak for all student government members. Block also felt that the CPE changes would remedy many of the concerns within the current CPE structure and was personally supportive of the proposal.

The mood among students when told about the changes was cautiously optimistic. First-year Simon Wickwire ’22, currently taking “Alien Planets,” an astronomy-focused CPE, said: “The name change seems unnecessary, but I like the overall concept. I think it will reduce a lot of the stress related to choosing classes and choosing a major.” Sophomore Christina Panousos ’21 was also supportive of the changes, describing the current CPE structure as a good idea as a necessary cross-curriculum component at Goucher but also as burdensome series of classes which are “unfair” for undeclared majors. Panousos said she was happy with the proposed reductions in the number of CPE classes and that the courses could be counted towards the Race, Power, Perspective and Environmental Sustainability requirements.  

The proposed CPE changes are still in the process of being revised by the faculty and the Academic Policy Committee. Nancy Rosen stated that while the goal for rolling out the changes would be for the 2019 Fall Semester, she cannot say with confidence that any CPE revisions will be implemented by then. According to Ann Duncan, the faculty will be voting on the proposal during the upcoming faculty meeting on April 3, during Common Hour in Merrick Lecture Hall.

Hello! My name is Jibril Howard and I am the CoEditor-in-Chief for the Q. I am a soccer lover, political junkie, caffeine addict, and a hopeless chess player.

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