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Dr. Vance G. Morgan

​Philosophy Professor to Oversee Transition of DWC Program

Providence, R.I.--As the new director of Providence College's Development of Western Civilization (DWC) Program, Dr. Vance G. Morgan's first responsibility is to guide the program's three-year transition to a new, discussion-based, seminar format that was adopted as part of the College's Core Curriculum reform.

The four-semester DWC course is the foundation of a Providence College education. It spans students' freshman and sophomore years and covers the art, history, literature, philosophy, and theology of the ancient, medieval, and modern periods of Western Civilization.

Morgan will oversee the program's transition from its longtime, primarily lecture-based format to a discussion-based, seminar format for the first three semesters, and a new capstone colloquium examining contemporary issues in light of the Western tradition for the fourth semester. Class sizes for the new format will be smaller than current classes.

"My greatest commitment is doing whatever I can to facilitate the creative and innovative aspects of the new DWC," Morgan said.

Believing that a more interactive, seminar-style pedagogy will better help students develop lifetime learning skills, Morgan called DWC a "gateway class" to the rest of students' PC years--and beyond.

"I've always thought of DWC as the 'core of the core' in its role of preparing students to be learners and think critically," he said.

A professor of philosophy and faculty member since 1994, Morgan has taught on DWC teams for 15 years. He received PC's Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award in 2005.

The revised DWC course will officially begin in fall 2012, when the full implementation of the revitalized Core Curriculum takes effect. Early revisions began under previous DWC Program director Dr. William P. Hogan, associate professor of English.

The 2011-2012 academic year will be the last year freshmen and sophomores take DWC in its current format. In 2012-13, sophomores will finish out the current format, while freshmen will take DWC in its new format. Both classes will take DWC in its new format beginning in 2013-14.

The new DWC course will have "a good deal of flexibility, but rigor is not sacrificed," Morgan said. "The learning experience will include common elements for every team. For instance, professors will almost certainly be teaching Shakespeare but not necessarily the same plays."

"Flexibility serves depth; seminar also serves depth," he continued. "Students learn better and are more engaged when they are active. Students who are engaged more actively, in terms of discussion, will read more deeply, reflect, and process information."

He said the Honors DWC Program will stay the same, "although much of the structure of what we're doing here is recognizable as what we're doing in Honors."

Additional faculty development eyed

Morgan would like to show all faculty how the DWC course can serve as the cornerstone of the Core Curriculum and facilitate better learning in all classes--and to ask them to consider teaching DWC if they do not already.

"Faculty development is going to be a really important part of this," he said, adding that the program will sponsor workshops on seminar teaching techniques.

During the 2010-11 academic year, the program invited all faculty members--including those who do not teach DWC--to submit ideas for pilots of the new, fourth semester colloquium. The first three pilots will be taught during the Spring 2012 semester.

As a norm, the new capstone colloquia will be team-taught by two professors from different--yet relatable--disciplines and may include topics in natural science, social science, education, and business.

Morgan described one upcoming pilot colloquium, "In Sickness: The Experience of Illness."

"It will be a colloquium on disease and how disease has been framed, thought about, and treated in the Western tradition," he said, noting students and faculty will consider the best ways to think about sick people and disabled people today.

He added that a DWC workshop was held in which faculty offering the Spring 2012 pilot colloquia presented their working syllabi and ideas and received input from colleagues. An additional round of pilot DWC colloquia will be offered in Spring 2013.

Once the new DWC is in full operation, a committee of faculty and students will provide guidance and feedback on what works well and what needs to be adjusted in the new format.

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