Higher Education

brainstorming strategic planning

Strategic planning is just part of the academic world these days. It goes along with assessment and such. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. As I mentioned in my previous post about my "strengths," coming up with ideas and developing plans are things I enjoy doing.

So to me, it’s an interesting question to ask "What should the BA in English class of 2015 look like?" and then perhaps start to think about how we get there. Here at least are some notes toward an answer to that question, a list of qualities in no particular order:

  • knowledge of literary history in English, including world anglophone literatures
  • knowledge of linguistics
  • understanding of critical-interpretive methods
  • understanding of rhetorical theory and practice
  • understanding of emergent communication practices, media, and networks
  • experience writing in a variety of genres (academic, "creative," professional)
  • experience with editing and revising
  • experience composing in a variety of media
  • opportunities for "real world" professional experiences (e.g. internships, publishing, service learning, etc.)

Obviously, each of these could be greatly expanded, and one could create a major focusing on only one or two of these. However, I see English as a liberal arts degree and hence as more catholic (with a small "c") than specialized. I also think that you could overlap some of these qualities within courses. Indeed, overlap is necessary!

That said, I think you’d need specific introductory courses in linguistics, rhetoric, and new media (this last one including practical production). Then you’d have another three courses that provided an intro to critical methods and literary history. That would be half your curriculum, unless you were going to expand your degree beyond the conventional 36 credits. I’d try to make the remaining six courses electives.

Obviously, if one was working with a degree that is currently 36 credits of literary history where students basically write Formalist-inspired close readings, it’s possible that students will end up with less knowledge of literary history in this revised program. It’s certainly true that there’d be fewer lit history courses. Maybe the answer is to increase the number of credits. Even then though, we’d still be faced with rethinking our roles in relation to the broader goals of the program.

It is certainly a conundrum.

One reply on “brainstorming strategic planning”

I agree the formalist approach has a certain appeal, especially if it’s framed as a sort of baseline. I’ve been frustrated by students’ lack of fundamental (elemental) knowledge of reading techniques and terminologies the formalists popularized. I’m no new critic, but I do think we’ve overcorrected here (as with grammar and mechanics in writing studies).
My department considered an approach which had a core of four introductory courses: Forms, Traditions, Social Justice, and Traditions. But I don’t like the way we compromised, nor the way our curriculum was changed as it moved through the university approval process.


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