College of Letters and Science reinvents itself
Improved collaboration among five L&S units at heart of redesign

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs


Shun and Hextor

Lights, cameras, reinvention. Kwong-loi Shun, left, studies matriculation trends with Ralph Hextor, dean of Arts and Humanities. Peg Skorpinski photo.
20 SEPTEMBER 00 | The College of Letters and Science has established a new Undergraduate Division to strengthen interdisciplinary teaching programs, better serve students in degree planning and academic advising, and provide data and analysis to inform decisions affecting undergraduate education.

Established July 1, the new division will be led by Kwong-loi Shun, a professor of philosophy and former dean of the Undergraduate Services Division, which, along with Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies, has been folded into the new Undergraduate Division.

Central to the reorganization is improved coordination among the five Letters and Science divisions to address the many academic issues and options facing more than 17,000 liberal arts students - or 76 percent of Berkeley's undergraduate student body - in their undergraduate years. Shun will work in partnership with the other deans in the College of Letters and Science, as well as the Letters and Science Executive Committee, to enhance the undergraduate degree programs and research opportunities in the arts and humanities, social sciences, biological and physical sciences and interdisciplinary studies.

"Our goal is to provide first-rate curricular and enrichment opportunities for our students," Shun said, "and increase awareness among faculty, deans and administrators of the overall situation undergraduates face in declaring majors, transferring from other colleges and universities and fulfilling the requirements of their majors.

"This organizational change will allow us to address issues in a collaborative effort among all five Letters and Science divisions to improve the undergraduate curriculum," he said. "We want to enrich students' undergraduate training, provide them with more research opportunities and offer more assistance in their academic planning."

The new division consists of three offices: Undergraduate Advising, Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies, and Undergraduate Policy and Analysis. Together, the three offices perform an array of analytical, academic and guidance services designed to help students get the most out of their undergraduate years at Berkeley.

Undergraduate Advising has long been committed to providing the undergraduate students in the college with the support and guidance necessary to successfully pursue their liberal arts education. Shun's priorities in this office for the coming year include enhancing student access to advisors and exploring the use of technology to support the advising function.

Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies, a center for innovations in undergraduate education beyond traditional departmental boundaries, is designed to nurture intellectual relationships between faculty and students working toward degrees in promising new interdisciplinary disciplines. An incubator for new ideas, the office encourages and sponsors innovative programs, such as the Freshman Seminar and Undergraduate Research Programs. Shun will be working to strengthen the interdisciplinary major programs by enhancing faculty participation and strategizing about the role these major programs will play in the context of expanded enrollment.

A new unit, the Office of Undergraduate Policy and Analysis, will work with existing institutional research offices on campus to ensure that decisions and policies affecting undergraduates are based on a careful analysis of such factors as the high demand for certain majors, the availability of lower division courses and the average number of years it takes students to complete degree requirements.

The Office of Undergraduate Policy and Analysis will also be charged with a thorough review of college policies, Shun noted.

"This office has put in place a mechanism to review existing academic policies and recommend modifications, with the goal of formulating a consistent, coherent set of policies governing undergraduate education in Letters and Science," he said.

In addition to those objectives, staff will work closely with Undergraduate Advising to coordinate an enhanced departmental role in advising.

Shun will have a Student Advisory Group to ensure that students' views are represented in administrative decisions that impact their majors. Similar advisory groups made up of faculty and student-services staff will help make sure that decisions are informed by a range of perspectives and built by consensus.

Administrators, faculty, divisional deans and members of the executive committee will spend the next several months reviewing current Letters and Science undergraduate matriculation figures and other relevant data to identify and implement changes in existing policies. The staff members in Letters and Science departments who work directly with undergraduates will play a key role in these discussions and plans.

One of the highest priorities is to review the issue of impacted major programs and create effective ways to help students who have difficulty getting admitted to the major of their choice, Shun said. Another important priority will be creating incentives to increase faculty participation in student advisory programs and interdisciplinary studies.


College of Letters and Science



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