Print Edition: June 20, 2012
In a move that follows in the footsteps of many other universities, UFV will be offering a combined credit Arts course for the first time this fall. Similar to programs such as Arts One at UBC and the First-Year Learning Communities (FLCs) at SFU, the course (entitled ARTS 100) is designed to meet the writing and reasoning requirements for the Bachelor of Arts.
Led by instructors Melissa Walter and Nicola Mooney, the pilot session is entitled “Home and Homelands.” Students can expect to experience material that Walter and Mooney specialize in, as Walter (who participated in a similar program as a student at Stanford) explains: “Nicola’s specialty is in South Asian and Punjabi diaspora studies, and mine is Shakespeare and Renaissance (a.k.a. early modern) studies. We will be reading King Lear and at least some of The Taming of the Shrew.” Mooney states that there will also be “a piece on home and homeland in the South Asian context … As we are both in effect scholars of the modern, this will be an underlying element of the course.”
When asked to explain how the materials are going to be incorporated into one course, Walter explained that the topics themselves are already closely related. “Both fields are very interested in studying human experience and in studying how culture works,” she said. As an example, she cites Lila Abu-Lughod’s Veiled Sentiments—an influence for both instructors—which relates to songs and poetry by Bedouin women. “Although written by an anthropologist,” she explains, “the work closely analyzes poetry and songs, and makes use of literary analysis techniques.” An example she provides is a “creative non-fiction essay about … experiences of home,” and whether that counts as literature or auto-ethnography. “Sometimes,” she explained, “the line is not so clear.” Mooney cites the ease of combining these disciplines with an academic shift: “contemporary anthropology has shifted from earlier methods and theories that placed it more firmly among the social sciences and is now quite akin to the humanities.”
While assignments have not yet been finalized, Walter shared some possible tasks students might be given. These include a “Home Journal” in which students would write entries summarizing and/or reflecting on the course readings, along with a short series of autobiographical/autoethnographic reflective descriptions of a home in which a student has lived (describing physical/spatial aspects, people and relationships within it, etc.).
Susan Fisher, associate dean of Arts, states that the course has been talked about since spring of 2011. “September of 2011, we decided to organize a pilot offering for fall 2012. A lot of work has gone into it: the two instructors … have spent many hours discussing how best to integrate their two disciplines into a meaningful program for students.”
The pilot course was not at its 60 student capacity at the time of publication. Prospective student James Pennefather states that “it certainly sounds like a good idea. Having one teacher would probably make things easier, and if it’s only three days a week, you’d have lots of time to get things done. All in all, yeah, I’d probably do it.” Fourth-year arts student Kaelynn Feire, however, had mixed feelings. “I’m not sure I’d do it, but I don’t know. It doesn’t sound like a great idea to commit to having all those credits under only two professors, what if you didn’t like them and had to do those classes all over again?”
UBC Alumni Lara Walters, who took the Arts One program at UBC, said that the course had its benefits for her. “It was a good way to meet people, to share and critique writing with others in a small group. It was a good way to transition into university. The interdisciplinary approach did show how all the disciplines are interconnected; that often gets overlooked when you are taking the courses separately. I also found that the workload wasn’t as heavy.” However, the benefits come at a price: a big issue for Walters was that she found she “went into shock” second year, and that a period of adjustment was necessary. “Instead of having one professor who marked your paper every other week, I suddenly had three courses with three professors who had completely different expectations, and I had only learned to write for one.”
UFV ARTS 100 will be a nine-credit course with class sessions three times a week. Only one session will be offered this fall.