Task Force on the Curriculum in the Liberal Arts

Chair, Members, Advisory, Liaison

Susan Campbell, Chair
Bob Cluss
Chris Keathley
Brett Millier
Peter Hamlin
Katherine DeLorenzo
Nancy Fullman '07
Michael Geisler, advisory
Richard Saunders, advisory for arts, Committee on the Arts
Shel Sax, advisory for technology
Alison Byerly, liaison

Charge to Task Force

  • Re-assess the distribution requirements with a focus on the question, "What is a 21st Century liberally educated Middlebury College student?"
  • Identify how we can best capitalize on our traditional curricular strengths - our "peaks"
  • Recommend ways to continue strengthening our interdisciplinary programs
  • Re-assess senior-year academic experience, especially "senior work"
  • Assess the role and impact of increasing numbers of double majors on curricular gridlock, teaching resources, faculty time, and a narrowing of our students' liberal arts studies
  • Identify ways to clarify and strengthen student advising
  • Consult, as appropriate, with the reconstituted Committee on the Arts regarding the place of the arts in the curriculum
  • Consult, as appropriate, with the Task Force on Faculty Resources


Bob Cluss, Chair
Marcia Collaer
Noah Graham
Jim Larrabee
Sallie Sheldon
Dave West
Scott Buckley '07


With the completion of Bicentennial Hall and the upgrading of science support and equipment:

  • What is the appropriate role for science in the liberal arts curriculum of future Middlebury College students?
  • How can the College increase the numbers of admitted students with strengths in the sciences? How can we increase the numbers of student majors in the science division?

International and Languages

Jeff Cason, Co-chair
Michael Geisler, Co-chair
Ian Barrow
Armelle Crouzières
Jim Maddox
Ana Martinez-Lage
Carrie Reed
Allison Stanger
Kathy Foley-Giorgio


  • Consider levels of foreign language competence and cultural learnedness among our students
  • Recommend ways to continue and strengthen internationalization of the curriculum
  • Consider our opportunities for study abroad, both at Middlebury Schools and other locations, with a focus on our future needs in this area
  • Examine the relationship between our academic year programs and the Middlebury summer programs

Experiential Learning

Jaye Roseborough, Chair
Bob Prigo
Jessica Holmes
Diane Munroe
Tiffany Sargent
Remy Mansfield '06


  • Consider and strengthen bridges between academics and the professions, the world of work, and the needs of our community and society
  • Consider ways to integrate more fully the different aspects of experiential learning
  • Find ways to integrate our strong internship programs more fully and seamlessly into the academic setting
  • Consult as appropriate with the advisory committee of the Alliance for Civic Engagement

Executive Summary
May 2005

Note: Each Task Force Report is a collection of background information, analyses, and recommendations that are submitted to the Planning Steering Committee and the President. Over the summer, the Steering Committee and the President will review and discuss all 15 sets of recommendations together in the context of the College's available resources.

The Task Force on the Curriculum in the Liberal Arts was appointed by President Liebowitz in January of 2005 as part of Middlebury's strategic planning process. The Task Force was charged with examining the College's curriculum and considering how it serves the College's mission.

The Task Force met weekly between January and May, and conducted its research and interviews for the most part between meetings. We met and consulted with a wide variety of faculty, students, and staff who were interested in curricular issues and/or had a particular expertise in one of the areas of focus identified in the Task Force charge.

The Task Force examined the Middlebury College curriculum in relation to Middlebury curricula of years past and to the curricula of other institutions. This examination resulted in the development of several general principles and assumptions, from which the remainder of the group's goals and recommendations follow:

• The Middlebury College curriculum is essentially coherent and rigorous (in itself, and in comparison to the curricula of other liberal arts colleges) and accomplishes its goals of providing liberal education to its students.
• Perhaps as a result of our curricular coherence, there is very little vocal faculty interest in major curricular reform at this time.
• Projected growth in the size of the faculty should serve to reduce teaching loads and enrollments rather than to expand the number of majors and programs we offer.
• The College should continue to support the development of curricular offerings that reflect its commitment to diversity.

Given the College's curricular strengths and the potential for growth in the size of the faculty, the Task Force believes that we have the opportunity to refine and enhance aspects of our curriculum, including especially these six major areas, which are discussed in the report. These areas, and the most significant recommendations related to each, are described below:

I. Distribution Requirements

1. Reexamine the question of whether Middlebury should continue to allow students to opt out of 1 of the 8 academic categories, and in particular whether students should be required to take a foreign language, a lab science, and/or a course in quantitative reasoning.

2. Provide more faculty oversight and input regarding the definition, granting and reviewing of course tags. Clear tag definitions will help faculty as they design courses. Periodic review will help insure the continued strength of required elements of tagged courses.

3. Articulate the rationale behind the curriculum more fully in the College Catalog, and be sure the Catalog conveys the rigor of the curriculum.

II. First Year Seminars and College Writing Courses

1. Make it clear to departments and programs that the First Year Seminar program is the college's highest curricular priority, and must be staffed ahead of all other curricular obligations.

2. Establish a regular rotation of FYS teaching for full time faculty; at a minimum, each faculty member should teach one FYS every four years.

3. Develop a reliable formula for determining each department or program's obligations to the college writing program. Enforce those expectations.

4. Develop a separate, additional course evaluation form for FYS and CW courses, focused on the quality of writing instruction, and of advising, as appropriate.

III. Advising, including both first year and major advising

1. Faculty should be made more aware of the importance of academic advising in the lives of our students. Chairs should be encouraged to emphasize this issue within their departments and programs.

IV. Double (and Triple) majors and their impact on the curriculum

1. Further study of the enrollment patterns of double majoring students should be undertaken to determine whether students with two majors get an education that is less consistent with a liberal arts philosophy.

2. Students need to be aware of the philosophical and practical compromises that may occur as a result of double majoring.

3. Students should be restricted from pursuing more than two majors.

V. Senior Work, especially whether it is possible or advisable to require independent research of all seniors

1. Make individualized senior work a requirement for departments who want that as their culminating senior academic effort.

2. Provide sufficient faculty and financial resources for the above changes, where necessary, to take place.

3. Rework the language in the current course catalog to reflect both the importance of and the rigor of senior work.

VI. "Peaks" of the curriculum, considering how we designate, represent, and take advantage of particular curricular strengths

1. College publications should avoid the use of the term "peak" in reference to those previously identified areas of the curriculum.

2. Future resources, such as faculty and staff positions, should be allocated on the basis of demonstrated need or compelling rationale, rather than on the basis of "peak" status per se.