The McMaster Silhouette
Thursday, January 9,1997
page 3

New Theme School Approved

by Josh Bongard, thesil@msu.mcmaster.ca

McMaster's third Theme School just received the green light.

In yesterday's meeting, Senate approved a proposal for the Theme School of Science, Technology, and Public Policy. This theme school is an attempt to introduce students to the large-scale ramifications scientific and technological advancements have on society.

Like the Theme School on International Justice and Human Rights and the Theme School on New Materials, the new program is designed to be interdisciplinary, drawing on issues from various departments in engineering, science, social science, and humanities.

The school's doors will be opened to students in level II of any program next fall.

Bob Hudspith was elected as the director for the new theme school, and expressed his optimism about its success.

"[The theme school] will provide more opportunity to get a minor in something interdisciplinary, and will enrich existing research in the fields involved", Hudspith explained. "This in turn will bring in new students, and widen scholarship in those areas."

"Primarily, undergraduate students will benefit", he added.

Eighty positions will be initially offerred, and an estimated 100 students will apply. It is predicted enrollment in the new theme school will reach its highest at 300 during its third year of operation.

According to Hudspith, McMaster's theme schools are designed to operate for a limited number of years, so that new schools can be introduced to address changing social conditions. The school for Science, Technology, and Public Policy is designed to operate until 2002, and will cost over $467,000.

Organizers of the theme school pointed out all of the money required for the program has been drawn from internal budgets, and thus external fundraising was not required, unlike the other two existing theme schools.

"People often find it difficult to donate to something that has a limited lifespan", Hudspith admitted.

The program is composed of one required six-unit level II course and several elective courses that can be taken in a student's third and fourth years.

Computer science professor David Jones will be teaching one of the elective courses, "Computers, Ethics, and Public Policy".

"There is a need in Canada for people who understand science and technology, but also understand how they relate to society", Jones said.

"Decisions are being made by our government about how to use, for example, the Internet. It would be best if these decisions were informed decisions. That's the aim of the theme school", he went on to explain.

Other courses to be offered include "Public Policy and Drug Use" and "Policy and Regulation of Discovery and Innovation".

Aside from the multidisciplinary aspects of the theme schools, they are also designed to promote McMaster's renowned emphasis on self directed learning. The proposal for the new school indicates, "Courses and their instructors will function largely as resources to assist students in developing their own intellectual skills and critical abilities."

Hudspith expanded on this philosophy.

"We are trying to find ways how to improve learning. It [the theme school's mandate] says up front that self-directed learning will be practiced, so we [professors teaching the science, technology, and public policy courses] will be accountable to that", Hudspith pointed out.

"For the science students [who participate in the new program] self directed learning might be new - it might take them a while to realize there is not necessarily a right answer that is to be memorized", Jones said.


Copyright © 1997 by the Josh Bongard. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.