Assessment of the Discipline and the Major (2004-2005; 2005-2006)
The discipline has gone through significant changes in personnel. During the academic year 2004-2005, two of the tenure lines were filled by Temporary Appointments and a double search for one tenure line the History of Philosophy and one in Ethics was undertaken. At the end of the search two new Assistants Professors in Philosophy have joined the program beginning Fall Semester 2005. During this same academic year 2004-2005, six students completed their senior defenses and provided feedback on the Senior Defense and Philosophy Program by completing one questionnaire for each. In the following academic year, 2005-2006, two students completed their senior defenses but neither one completed and returned their questionnaires.
Since last year was the first year in the program for two new faculty members, the staff did not discuss the questionnaires or any revision of the Curriculum. The discussion of the Questionnaires took place this fall Semester 2006 alongside with the revision of the curriculum and the Program Review requested by the Dean and Chancellor.
The numerical values in the questionnaires concerning the discipline are all positive and ranging from 4 (satisfactory) to 7 (exceptional). Among the greatest strengths of the discipline students mention the rigorous method of writing, critical skills gained in the classes, the breadth of the material covered, the commitment and quality of the faculty, their enthusiasm for their field. Again logical and critical skills are mentioned among the most important things earned going through the philosophy program. Among suggestions for improvements for the discipline, students mention more full time faculty, broader range of courses, more focus on the history of philosophy.
With regard to the Senior Philosophical Defense, again the numerical values are very good and range from 5 to 7. Students thought that the individualized meetings with the instructor and the process of multiple revisions of the same paper provided them with a very useful experience. One student says “My writing improved ten-fold. I learned more about expressing my ideas clearly than I learned throughout the rest of my college career.” Students also suggest that it might help to provide more detailed instructions on what to expect in the actual defense and that it might be useful to have some kind of practice before the actual defense.
In light of the comments on these questionnaires and on the basis of the experiences of the new faculty members who joined our program in the Fall Semester 2005, the major revisions to our curriculum that will become effective with the 2007-2009 Catalogue are the following:
1. require Philosophy Majors to take three introductory courses, Introduction to Philosophy, Introductory Ethics and Introduction to Symbolic Logic to ensure that students entering the upper level courses have a solid grounding and practice in critical and analytical writing and conversation;
2. render more flexible the set of courses required for the major, allowing students to take three elective courses from a broader range of offerings;
3. raise the number of courses and credits required for the major to render it more in line with the requirements for a Philosophy Majors at comparable institutions;
4. connect the writing of the senior thesis and the senior defense with registration in a 4000 level course to ensure students are familiar with the relevant literature on the topic of their thesis and to help them to keep up with the schedule of meetings and revisions necessary for the production of their theses. The presentation to the seminar of a draft of their senior thesis will also give students an opportunity to defend their ideas in a public setting before the actual and final defense. This opportunity was often mentioned in the Senior Defense Questionnaires.