Defined by inquiry and discovery, the University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences engages students both inside and outside the classroom to provide them with a breadth of knowledge to succeed in the professional world.
With 20 departments, the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) allows students to go down their own academic path and study what they are most passionate about.
UM is a mid-size research university with an unusually high number of departments and majors.
Michael R. Halleran, the former dean of the CAS who became the provost at William & Mary, said that although the college is relatively small in comparison to other colleges and universities, it is the curricular diversity and multiplicity of opportunity that distinguishes it from others.
The College of Arts and Sciences prides itself on the real-world experiences provided to students.
Initiated in the summer of 2007 with the help of a faculty mentor, the “Beyond the Book” program gives students the opportunity to pursue something they are intellectually passionate about.
For example, the program has sent a student to Madagascar to study lemurs and another to the Caribbean to track Hepatitis B outbreaks in the Bahamas.
The college also began the Direct Independent Language Study (DILS) program, which provides students with an opportunity to study unique languages otherwise not offered at the university. The program combines instructional materials, an outside examiner and a structuralized relationship between the student and the language partner.
“Getting the chance to learn a new language and discover at the same time a new culture will always be worth it,” said Marine Piriou, a second-year doctoral student studying Creole through DILS. “Receiving or not receiving a course credit for it seems, to me, so secondary.”
Many departments in the College of Arts and Sciences go on field trips. The biology department takes advantage of the Everglades to do research, while the geological sciences department has traveled to the Grand Canyon, Hawaii and other destinations.
“We strongly believe in having our students experience and struggle with the complexity of the earth, and you can’t do that on a chalkboard,” Dr. Harold R. Wanless, professor and department chair, said. “From our introductory courses on, we involve students in fieldwork. It’s sort of the hallmark of our program for the last decade or so, and it’s turning out to be incredibly valuable to our students.”
Recently the CAS introduced two new programs to the college: freshman seminars and the Program for the Integration of Science and Mathematics (PRISM).
According to Halleran, the seminars for freshman are small classes limited to 18 students and led by a faculty member on topics such as “Extreme Weather Events” and “Sounds of the Sea.” Because of the response from students about the seminars, the CAS plans to expand the program next year and offer more topics.
PRISM is a two-year program that integrates both science and mathematics. Students will take block-scheduled and interconnected biology, chemistry and calculus during their freshman year, and physics, chemistry and computer science their sophomore year. The faculty teaching those courses will be in close contact with each other and the courses will work off of one another to keep students enthusiastically engaged in research for their major.
In addition to these new programs, the CAS will welcome 11 new faculty members next year, including a Chinese history professor.
Jacqueline Dixon, a senior associate dean who has served on the UM faculty since 1992, was named interim dean of the school over the summer until a replacement is found.
“The College of Arts and Sciences is, as linguists would describe it, the ‘unmarked’ college, the most open and least defined by outside professional agencies,” Halleran said.