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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

SFS Survey Calls for More Space, Curriculum Reform

Results of a survey conducted by the Bachelors of Foreign Service Review Committee suggest student desire for more student space and core curriculum reform.

Results of the survey, which was conducted last semester, were released Wednesday.

According to SFS Academic Council President Lucas Stratmann (SFS ’12), the survey was drafted by the academic council in order to better include student input in the work of the Review Committee, which was established last spring to re-evaluate the overall BSFS experience.

“It’s worth noting how many students actually participated. It’s 453 students, which is a lot taking into account that the survey was really long,” Senior Representative Leticia Ferreras (SFS ’12) said. “It only shows that the SFS students are interested in improving the SFS education.”

The survey was sent to all 1,590 undergraduates enrolled in the SFS.

The report summarized student responses to questions pertaining to the core requirements, language proficiency tests, majors and certificates offered, teaching methods, research opportunities, accessibility of professors and student space.

An overwhelming majority of the students called for a prepaid printing system like the one offered to McDonough School of Business students. In addition, 83 percent of respondents believe that the SFS needs a common space for undergraduate students.

In the evaluation of the freshmen experience, 63.8 percent of the students reported viewing upperclassmen as an accessible resource for advice, but only 20 percent believed that the peer mentor program effectively provided support.

“There is a discrepancy between the institutionalized attempt to form this upperclassmen and underclassmen mentorship and the actual demand for the mentorship,” Stratmann said.

The report suggested that the peer mentor program move away from assigning mentors based on pro-seminars toward a more interest-based system. The report also advocated decreasing the ratio of mentees to each mentor.

“A good number of the students did not choose to be in the particular proseminars they were placed in,” Stratmann said. “The allocation of mentors and students is sort of random.”

The SFS is currently considering plans for a science requirement in the curriculum, but 51.8 percent of the respondents do not support such an addition. However, only underclassmen responded to the question about a science requirement because a technical error did not include the question in the version of the survey sent to upperclassmen.

“I don’t think [the data] would have been much different if upperclassmen also responded,” Stratmann said.

However, Azi Hussain (SFS ’15), a freshman representative on the Academic Council, said that the exclusion of upperclassmen from the question skewed the data towards opposition to a science requirement.

“I think upperclassmen would have understood more [of the role] science plays in international affairs and what such a requirement would consist of,” Hussain said.

According to the survey results, students were generally satisfied with the core curriculum. Among respondents, 70.1 percent of the underclassmen found the variety of core classes satisfactory, and 90.6 percent of the upperclassmen believed the core built a solid background for an international affairs education.

Underclassmen and upperclassmen, however, diverged on the relevancy of the core classes. While 38 percent of the underclassmen believed that some core classes are irrelevant, 59 percent of the upperclassman described them as unnecessary.

“This trend can be explained by the fact that as you become an upperclassman, you realize there is little room to pursue classes you are interested in because of the heavy requirements,” Senior Representative Joaquin Ormeno (SFS ’12) said.

The report also reflected a general call for reforms in the SFS core curriculum. Complaints included the discrepancy in the materials used by professors teaching different sections of the same class, redundant information in the four economic requirements and sometimes-unhelpful teaching assistants for large lecture-style classes.

Stratmann said that though the suggestions require long-term collaboration and conversation between the faculty and students, concrete change is possible.

The Academic Council will host town halls to discuss specific issues from the report.

“We do realize it’s not something that we publish today and happens tomorrow, but we’re committed to following up and keeping the conversation going,” Stratmann said. “The survey will allow us to have the expression of opinion which we can leverage and influence the SFS agenda.”

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