In spring 2016, the Bok Center created a new forum - called Bok Exploratory Seminars - for faculty to meet together to discuss new ideas and strategies in higher education. Our inaugural Exploratory Seminar, held April 6-7, 2016, examined connector courses, a curricular model newly developed at UC Berkeley. In Berkeley’s model, students enroll in a foundational course on data science, and at the same time enroll in one of many possible connector courses that link fundamental concepts in data science to other disciplines, ranging from history to ethics to mathematics. While data literacy is one topic that is well suited for this model, we could imagine developing connector courses around a variety of subjects that have applications across many disciplines.
We invited two faculty members from UC Berkeley - Ani Adhikari, Teaching Professor, Department of Statistics, and Andrej Milivojevic, Visiting Lecturer, Department of History - to join us for the inaugural Bok Exploratory Seminar and to share their experiences with creating and teaching a foundational course and a connector course, respectively. Approximately 20 Harvard faculty members - from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Chan School of Public Health - participated in the seminar, which included an opening dinner and a day of conversation. Overall, the Exploratory Seminar generated many ideas for how to develop connector courses to support a foundational course, and also generated much enthusiasm for this model.