Freshman invited to participate in Da Vinci program

Freshman Ravi Jain did not expect to see the name Da Vinci in his admission letter.

“I was pretty surprised because I had not heard of the program,” he said. “I guess that what I had written in my essays fit the criteria they were looking for.”

Jain is one of 23 students who will be a part of the Da Vinci Studies Program, a new curriculum path that allows students to explore the connections between the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

Da Vinci was developed as a cohort experience that requires students to take certain classes together.

Long-standing cohort programs available for first-year students also include the Foote Fellows and PRISM for students majoring in the sciences.

Da Vinci scholars take an exclusive, core four-semester sequence of classes that address topics such as Leonardo Da Vinci and science writing. After these courses, students continue the program by participating in a symposium at the Center for the Humanities and selecting a third-year seminar, according to the program proposal that was sent to the Faculty Senate last February.

Maria Stampino, the director for Da Vinci, said that the idea began with Leonidas Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) as a measure to extend the cohort experiences at the university. She will advise Da Vinci scholars until their graduation date.

“We need to capitalize on the richness here and make it easy for students to flourish,” she said. “The students in this cohort know that they’re in this together.”

In order not to confuse students who may receive invitations from other cohort programs, Da Vinci scholars must have indicated a major in the humanities or are undecided. Da Vinci is only available to students in the CAS, and their general requirements are waived.

Foote Fellows also have their general requirements waived, but must still complete the specific general requirements from each respective college.

“In the College of Arts and Sciences, this means not having a language requirement,” Stampino said. “Many of our students are Foote Fellows and come with many credits from AP, IB and dual-enrollment.”

Given the reduced credit requirements, students in Da Vinci are able to easily double major with a science and humanities degree, complete the pre-medical track with a humanities degree, or pursue various minors in the humanities and social sciences.

Jain has not declared a major and does not know how Da Vinci will affect his undergraduate career.

“I do not know what I am looking for, but I hope to use the program as a way to find out what’s most interesting for me,” he said. “Da Vinci was a deciding factor to enroll at UM, but it was not the sole basis for my decision.”

Jain is more excited about entering the program in its first year, or as he said, “guinea pigs.”

Though only freshmen were invited to the program, Stampino hopes to extend Da Vinci to current students who would like to join the cohort.

“We understand that not everyone has the intellectual maturity to know that they’re interested in this diverse field of study,” she said. “It will be possible to come in and do the cohort experience as sophomores and juniors. The program is not meant to be a straight-jacket.”