A&S offers broad academic program

South Florida is known for its diverse culture, a healthy influx of ideas and passion for life.
The University of Miami is nestled in the middle of a wide array of cultural opportunities that can enrich a student’s learning and educational experience. The College of Arts and Sciences is the core of these multicultural experiences.
The college has been going through a series of academic transitions that have promised further to encourage students to be involved with exciting innovations that can significantly impact their lives.
President Donna Shalala came to the university in mid 2001 with an agenda to build on the myriad advantages offered by a diverse liberal arts education.
Perhaps the most significant change in the College of Arts and Sciences was President Shalala’s decision to name Dr. James H. Wyche to serve as a Vice Provost of the University and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences beginning in 2002.
Wyche spent 14 years at Brown University as Associate Provost and professor of medical science. He received his B.S. from Cornell University, M.A. from Brown University and a Ph.D. in biology from Johns Hopkins University. He was also interim president of Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi from September 2001 to May 2002.
One of Wyche’s goals is to challenge the diversity of the UM campus with the ethnic, racial and cultural mixture of Miami-Dade County. Wyche strongly believes in offering students a variety of opportunities to make their education exciting while providing opportunities for the students to become global citizens.
The College of Arts and Sciences has recently modified some program requirements to improve several of its interdisciplinary offerings. These unique academic programs have been given new structures that allow students to become acquainted with an array of educational approaches.
In April, the African-American studies, Judaic studies and women’s studies programs became stand-alone majors, meaning that the programs will no longer require a double major. Dr. Jeffrey Shoulson, director of the Judaic Studies program, said the interdisciplinary studies programs were as rigorous and as scholarly as any other program offered at UM.
“The flexibility and the multi-dimensional approaches of these programs give students interested in a variety of academic experiences the opportunity to explore different disciplines and methodologies,” he said.
The type of courses offered from the Judaic studies program vary from Jewish literature to the Israeli language in its cultural context. There are team-taught courses, multiple guest speakers and research projects in which the students can engage further to enhance their skills and increase their knowledge.
The women’s studies program allows students further to explore the differences in the roles of men and women in society. The program offers students the opportunity to learn more about human thought and behavior.
“Gender is the central aspect of our definition of ourselves,” Dr. Ann Brittain, program director, said.
There are a variety of courses offered in the program, including women in politics, women in health, women writers and the psychology of women. Graduates of the program have gone on to careers at major corporations, advertising firms and in criminal justice.
Moreover, Latin American studies provides an opportunity for students to learn about Latin American culture and society. The program gives students an opportunity to learn aspects of Latin American government, law, business, research, journalism and education. Two new courses offered this fall will discuss present-day Latin American affairs. Students are also encouraged to spend one semester abroad in some part of Latin America.
Latin American studies also has a five-year program, Fellows in Latin American Studies. Students enter as freshmen and graduate with a master’s degree in Latin American studies. It shares many aspects of the regular major, but it requires more specific courses and additional elements. FILAS Director Rebecca Biron, Ph.D., said she believes the interdisciplinary nature of the program can be beneficial for students.
“Students will be able to learn about politics, anthropology, social service, languages, popular culture, art and literature,” she said.
Biron also said that the continuing growth of Miami, with its varied Latin American community, has been beneficial in building a foundation for the students.
“It will help us build visibility as well as develop more internship and scholarship opportunities for students in the field,” she said.
The African-American studies program allows the students to learn about the experiences of people of African descent in North and South America, the Caribbean and continental Africa.
The program also works with other programs and student organizations in co-sponsoring lectures, exhibits and other activities that help to promote racial and ethnic diversity. Some of the courses that are offered include Black Leadership in the United States and Introduction to African-American Studies.
The neuroscience undergraduate degree program is a rigorous major offered by the biology and psychology departments, in conjunction with the neuroscience program at the School of Medicine. The program, intended for students preparing for medical school or for graduate study, has two tracks: psychobiology, which emphasizes cognitive functions and behavior; and neurobiology, which stresses cellular and molecular approaches to understanding nervous system functions.
For more information on these and other programs, contact the College of Arts and Sciences at 305-284-4117