Dal's new minor programs offer major opportunities for students
From History of Science and Technology to Pop Culture Studies
Katherine Wooler - January 10, 2013
What do you get when you mix Biology and International Development Studies? Or perhaps Statistics and Journalism? You could prepare someone to be a doctor who works for a humanitarian organization, or a statistician who contributes to local newspapers.
The possibilities for Dal students to combine their interests are being blown wide open thanks to new minor program offerings for the 2013-14 academic year.
The College of Arts and Science (which consists of the Faculties of Science and Arts and Social Sciences), together with the University of King’s College, has expanded minor offerings to include over 60 choices, increasing interdisciplinary opportunities for undergraduate students.
While a good number of these new minors have an accompanying major — such as Biology, Political Science and others — many are entirely new combinations of classes: Medieval Philosophy, Social Justice & Inequality and more.
“Students want to be able to build bridges and draw connections,” says Donna Rogers, associate dean (academic) for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS).
Learn more: Full list of Dal minors
One example she mentions is Popular Culture Studies, which incorporates classes from a wide variety of departments. The minor can be completed by taking English classes in science fiction, Music classes in rock’ n’ roll or many other FASS courses that range from witchcraft to cinema.
“[Popular Culture Studies] is emblematic of what we’re looking for with interdisciplinary studies,” says Dr. Rogers.
In Science, the number of minor options has increased from one to 15, with each department or program now offering a minor.
“We are hoping that the new science minors will appeal to a broad range of students,” says Sandra Walde, associate dean (students and programs) for the Faculty of Science. “A social sciences student who is interested in advocacy for northern aboriginal communities might benefit from the understanding she or he gains from completing a minor in Geography, Earth Sciences or Environmental Science.”
A more flexible degree
It’s not just the number of available minors that’s changing: they’re much more accessible to students as well.
FASS students, for example, who were previously somewhat limited in their minor choices, can now choose any Arts or Science minor. And by creating minors for programs that didn’t previously have them — like Sociology or Oceanography — these options now open up to students in other disciplines.
The minors are available for all students in FASS, Science, King’s and students in other programs where minors are approved. Students are also not limited in the amount of minors they can add to their degree.
“It’s going to give a lot of students flexibility that they didn't have until now,” says Dr. Rogers. “It gives them the chance to explore without committing themselves to a full major."
Four of the minors will be hosted at the University of King’s College, with Contemporary Studies, Early Modern Studies, and History of Science and Technology joining the previously available Journalism Studies. All of these are available to Dal students.
“[A minor] can provide greater academic focus and a broader intellectual experience than simply taking a broad range of electives,” says King’s Registrar Elizabeth Yeo, explaining that the History of Science and Technology minor, for example, brings together science, technology, biopolitics, philosophy, religion and many more perspectives.
Expanding the academic experience
Organizers behind the new minors hope that they'll be attractive options for Dal and King’s students.
“Rather than explaining to a potential employer that she or he took ‘lots of classes’ in Chemistry or Economics, for example, the student will be able to point to the minor degree,” says Dr. Walde.
Dr. Walde believes that taking a minor can be a valuable experience for students.
“Exposure to different subject areas can help one to think in different ways. And thinking — especially critical thinking — is what a university education ought to be about.”