The College of Liberal Arts wants to help STEM majors develop their communication skills, while offering new and existing courses to build onto their current studies.
Its new certificate program, Cornerstone, hopes to do just that by providing an alternative option to ENG106 and COM114, which all freshmen are required to take by the University.
Rather than being taught by graduate students like ENG106 and COM114, these classes are run by faculty members from various Liberal Arts disciplines, including History, Communication and Philosophy.
“What we’re doing could really change Purdue and be a model for other universities,” said Melinda Zook, Cornerstone’s director and professor of history. “(They could) say you’re right, let’s put full time faculty back in the classroom with freshmen who really deserve someone with 20 years experience.”
New students completing the certificate will take SCLA101 and 102, “Transformative Texts.” These courses cover “Antiquity to Modernity”, focusing on Plato- to Shakespeare-era writings, and “Modern World,” which is broader.
“We weren’t thinking of just the classics,” Zook said. “Rather, any book that is transformative; so it could be ‘Life of Pi,’ but it could also be ‘Catcher in the Rye.’”
From there, students choose one 200-level course and two 300-level courses from a list of themes, varying from management and organization to healthcare and medicine.
The creation of this program was somewhat influenced by the critiques of graduating students by employers.
“One of the things we’re constantly hearing from employers about Purdue graduates is they want graduates with better communication skills,” Zook said.
“(A representative from G.E.), ... he was really into it. (Employers) are our biggest supporters.”
Zook also cited a recent interview between Mark Cuban and Bloomberg where he made a remark that Liberal Arts graduates will be most desired in coming years.
Students who have already taken ENG106 and COM114 can opt into the program without taking SCLA, but all incoming students will have to take the Transformative Texts classes. The themes are flexible, as students will receive a Cornerstone certificate on their degree rather than the themes.
The classes are built around fulfilling multiple University Core Curriculum requirements, such as Human Cultures, Science, Technology and Society, and Written and Oral Communication.
This is just one of the recent Liberal Arts programs that David Reingold, Justin S. Morrill Dean of Liberal Arts, has introduced in recent years. He hopes that students will take advantage of this opportunity to help develop their appeal to employers.
“I am very excited about the opportunity Cornerstone offers to enhance the educational experience of all Purdue students,” Reingold said. “The liberal arts can be a defining feature of what sets apart Purdue STEM graduates and reinforces the centrality of the liberal arts to a comprehensive university education. In this way, Cornerstone will be an important component of the Purdue experience.”