A group of faculty members at the University of California at Berkeley hoped to generate conversation among students, and expected a bit of criticism from colleagues, for asking incoming undergraduates to submit DNA samples that would be analyzed and discussed as part of an orientation program.
What they didn’t anticipate -- but got -- was national news media attention and letters from genetics watchdog groups calling on Berkeley to cancel its plans.
As hot higher education ideas go, the three-year bachelor's degree continues to get a lot of attention and praise. Most recently, an op-ed in The New York Times made the case for three years of undergraduate study.
College orientation programs don't yet have the power of Oprah's Book Club, but they increasingly feature books that students are asked to read over the summer or during their first week on campus -- and to discuss with their new classmates. The idea is that having every freshman read the same book builds a sense of common experience and adds intellectual content to a week that can easily be consumed by learning a college bureaucracy and socializing.
In his first year as an assistant professor in the University of Iowa’s archaeology department, Matthew E. Hill made a move that many other junior faculty would’ve considered risky: he said he wanted to teach an undergraduate seminar on animals and culture.
“When I first proposed the course, I thought I would get a more negative response – ‘Oh, it’s fluffy’ -- and I still worry about some of my colleagues having that attitude,” he says. “But my chair and other people have been supportive, interested.”