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“New College” to Replace UNI

Proposal for undergraduate honors program online for BU review


University Provost David K. Campbell

A new four-year undergraduate honors program, which includes cross-disciplinary classes, intensive seminars, independent studies for seniors, and a possible residential component, has been proposed by the committee charged with creating a replacement for the University Professors Program.

The proposal for New College, the tentative name of the program, was submitted to the Faculty Council last week and is available for faculty and student review at the Provost’s Office Web site. Unlike UNI, which stopped accepting applications this year, New College will not be a separate degree-granting college within Boston University; rather, the emphasis will be on bringing together students in all of the existing liberal arts and professional programs and allowing them to work with faculty and with one another on interdisciplinary, collaborative research.

“This is not a traditional honors program, cordoned off from the rest of the University,” says Charles Dellheim, chair of the College of Arts and Sciences history department and the head of the Committee to Design the University Honors Program. “New College is going to try to open up possibilities across the University. It’s a very consciously cooperative enterprise.”

The proposed curriculum encompasses all four years of an undergraduate program and features two semester-long freshman seminars called Approaching the World, a sophomore lecture series called Architecture of Discovery, a one-semester junior-year course called Proposal and Performance, and a keystone research project during senior year, for a total of 28 credits earned in New College. Students will also complete a research internship during the summer of their sophomore year.

The program is designed to introduce students to both research topics and methodology. The freshman courses are intended to focus on timely and provocative issues in ethical, social, political, economic, scientific, technological, and aesthetic discourse; examples given in the proposal include Life, Death, and Law, Genetics and Biological Ethics, Mind and Machines, Global Warming, Art and Memory, and Diversity and Justice. The sophomore courses focus on different modes and approaches to academic research. As juniors, students begin preparing for their senior keystone projects, which will be the equivalent of the senior thesis for most students.

“The goal here is to enable the rich and broad set of intellectual opportunities represented by all our schools and colleges to be offered to our undergraduates through New College,” says Provost David K. Campbell. “We expect that the many novel aspects of the New College program, and in particular its creation of a community of scholars engaged in thinking broadly across important topics, will be very attractive to highly motivated students who wish to be intellectually challenged in their undergraduate education.”

The proposal also includes a recommendation for New College housing; Dellheim says the details have not been worked out and could mean a floor in a residence hall or a specialty-housing brownstone, for example. “We are not trying to segregate people,” he says, “but it is important that there will be a place where people can come and talk to each other.”

Current UNI students were involved in developing the proposal for New College. Andrew Smolenski (SMG’09, UNI’09), the president of UNI’s student government, has been meeting with Dellheim throughout the semester to discuss plans and bring student suggestions to the committee. “Our biggest concern with discontinuing UNI was the fate of UNI’s interdisciplinary concentrations,” Smolenski says. “We think they’re very important. We were asked to come up with ideas for set majors that might replace the interdisciplinary concentrations and asked what classes we thought they should draw from and what professors should be involved.”

Approximately 200 students will be accepted into the program the first year, with a total of 800 students expected in the college. Applicants will be asked to indicate whether they want to be considered for New College on their application; students not accepted may have the opportunity to transfer into the college after their freshman year.

BU President Robert A. Brown announced last July that UNI would be phased out as a freestanding unit in favor of a new University-wide honors program. The decision was based on the recommendation of the ad hoc committee on the University Professors Program, which called for creating a broad-based honors program that would give undergraduates a four-year curriculum with the flexibility to major in disciplines throughout the University.

Current UNI students will graduate from the University Professors Program, which will be reflected in their diplomas.

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.


12 Comments on “New College” to Replace UNI

  • Abdur-Rahman Syed on 04.04.2008 at 5:48 am


    The demise of the University Professors Program was unexpected and unfortunate–we’re still waiting to hear the full story of how it came about. While I am not a UNI student, I believe this is undoubtedly one of the university’s great losses.

    Undergraduate students with interdisciplinary aspirations now have New College–but what is to come of UNI graduate students?

    – Abdur-Rahman Syed (PhD Program, Philosophy)

  • Anonymous on 04.04.2008 at 10:54 am

    New College program

    As a parent, the description of the New College program strikes me as ‘watered down’ and not worth the money. The appeal of a UNI education was it’s uniqueness, prestige and respect within the private sector. The New College program won’t be nearly as powerful nor garner the higher starting salaries and better job positions that come with a UNI degree.

    And why would a student choose to take on the additional burden of the New College program (thesis, etc) when similar programs are available all over the country? Why would world-class professors want to come to BU as part of this program?

    A BU education is valuable in itself, but the point of graduating with a powerful degree like UNI was to be more marketable and present added value in the working world. That concept seems to have been lost with this “New” program. Now it’s just education for education’s sake.

  • Anonymous on 04.04.2008 at 11:42 am

    A minor detail in an over-all informed article,
    the adhoc committee evaluating UNI did not call for its disolution.
    Nevertheless, the honors program will encompass at least some of the principles UNI stood for, albeit in a watered-down form.

  • Anonymous on 04.04.2008 at 12:43 pm

    not so much

    Actually I heard from a few UNI students that it was pretty worthless. They said the students and professors constantly evoked an elitist attitude and that employers didn’t understand the degree. Most of my friends who were in UNI switched out because of this.

    This new college may alleviate some of those issues though.

  • Andrey Ostrovsky on 04.04.2008 at 3:02 pm

    perhaps a different name

    In my opinion, New College sounds too green; the name suggests a program that is inexperienced. I graduated BU in 2006 and know several people that had a positive experience through UNI. Sadly, I did not know much about the program while I was applying to BU, but once I heard the name “University Professors Program,” it sounded catchy and sophisticated. When I read about “New College,” I thought it would be a more appropriate replacement for BU Academy than for UNI. The name is a downgrade and the program may be as well.

    If BU is going to introduce any new programs for honor students, it needs to be comprehensive. Make sure that employers know the significance of the degree. When you apply for a job and have “Harvard” or “Yale” written on your CV, you look impressive. When you have “New College” written on your CV, you look like you didn’t study for the SATs.

    Andrey Ostrovsky- CAS ’06 MED ’10

  • J. Martin on 04.05.2008 at 12:04 am

    New College

    The original New College at Oxford is notable for a huge mound it sports, where the dead from the plague are buried. While this obviously does not have a substantial impact on the quality of the education offered at the new New College, it does make one curious about the motivations behind deciding to co-opt that name.

  • Anonymous on 04.05.2008 at 6:58 am

    a graduate part of the UNI abolished?

    As a UNI graduate student, I cannot comment on the the new undergrad college. However, what strikes me is that there is absolutely no mention in the new plan about the graduate education which, I believe, has always been an indespensable part of UNI and one of the core features that attracted both excellent students and faculty to UNI. Due to their multidisciplinary basis, UNI’s Ph.D. alumni have been very successful in their job search – you can just go to the UNI website to find out. If the graduate component is taken away from the New College’s agenda, the new school will immediately loose a part of its uniqueness, attractiveness, and appeal. Besides, a multidisciplinarity in the graduate education is very difficult to achieve if you are pursuing your Ph.D. in an “ordinary” departement. Abolition of the UNI’s graduate program is, therefore, a great loss for both the BU students and broader BU community.

  • Anonymous on 04.09.2008 at 11:23 am


    I do not understand why BU dissolved a successful college, but continues to operate the College of General Studies. CGS significantly decreases BU’s prestige and contributes to an embarrassing 59% acceptance rate.

  • Anonymous on 05.02.2008 at 8:57 am

    A deep shame

    I’m sad to hear of UNI being dissolved. I got my PhD from UNI as a European student and was told that it was for exceptional students; the program had a number of problems, not least in the fact that there was not enough program-centred co-ordination of intellectual activity, and there was no guidance given on career development or on translating what one had achieved for people less broadly educated; while the research was long and incredibly arduous and I lived like a penurious church-mouse, I was supported throughout by the marvellous staff. However, over the past 18 years as I have lived in 5 countries, I have realised that I received at UNI one of the most superb educations (sic) that I could have received anywhere in the world. I studied under leading individuals in about 8 departments in three universities, and learned a breadth of interdisciplinary knowledge and skills that no-one else has whom I have met in my work since. UNI was a beacon of intelligence in education. It is deeply saddening that it is losing its graduate program and being reduced to high-volume undergraduate studies; that it will be interdisciplinary is really not the point. There is room for both a UNI and a ‘New College’.

  • Anonymous on 06.03.2008 at 2:23 pm

    Very Disappointed

    I received a Ph.D. from the University Professors Program and I am proud to be associated with this Program and the University. Having this kind of Program, which is separate from other University departments and schools, allowed me to be creative and interdisciplinary in my scholarship and allowed me to interact with other departments and schools within the University. The UNI faculty are outstanding scholars with international recognition. Another strength of UNI is the ability to grant degrees from the Program. A BU degree is greatly respected, but a degree from the University Professors Program gives a scholarly distinction, which has enhanced the overall reputation of BU. My experience has been that my degree is recognized and greatly respected by employers and other academic institutions.

    I am very disappointed with the termination of this Program and hope there would be a reconsideration of retaining it in addition to an expanded honor program.

  • Anonymous on 09.11.2008 at 3:02 pm


    why is that always the departments that are supposed to change the conventional ways of thinking are the ones to be shut down? the only one department that was open to all kinds of students and learning is now closed and no one was asked. why?

  • Steve Ray, UNI BA/MA, '92 on 01.21.2009 at 12:32 pm

    UNI to New College - nothing UNIque about it.

    The New College sounds as if it loses the intellectual rigor and integrity prevalent when I was a student, driven by a group of world class professors and motivated students. If that sounds elitist, it is. UNI was not your 500-student-in-a-lecture-hall-taught-by -a-T.A.-program – it was for those interested in a serious pursuit of the intellect, founded in the Classics while cast in the modern, with the freedom to grow to the future, as opposed to just getting a degree from a great university. Throughout my career at BU, I did far more in-depth work than your average student – by design – and had PhD level relationships as an undergrad with my program professors, who drove me to excel, rather than punching my class sign-up sheet and pushing me into the standard ‘majors’ route. Your moder undergrad degree, even from top schools, is just the minimum entry price for the professional career world and there is very little differentiation in actual real world performance dependent on which school you attended.

    I think it is tremendous that the Honors program concept is being expanded – UNI did suffer from being small and exclusive – but we earned that right through our prior academic performance. Face it, many people just don’t perform academically, so why should they get the same academic benefits? It is very much that way in the post-University world. It would be ideal if the New College – which is a ridiculous name – retained the same intellectual discpline and required when I was a student but it sounds like a watered down version designed to make make more people feel ‘special’ by letting more parents say their kids are in the ‘Honors’ program and thus effectively, lower the standards. If we are all ‘unique’ then none of us are, because standards are not just lower, there is nothing to compare them to. And to make it worse, let’s wrap it all up in a series of highly emotive, non-offensive nor disciplined linguistics to describe courses and programs that are fluff to the ear and milksop to the intellect. What a travesty.

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