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Sophomores Declare Exploratory Subjects, Explore Different Majors

By Jenny Zhang


287 sophomores, or 29.2 percent of the class, have designated a subject as exploratory by the Oct. 3 deadline, said Assistant Registrar Peter R. Hayes.

The number is up from the 47 sophomores who had declared an exploratory subject by three weeks ago.

A subject designated as exploratory can be changed to listener status after the final grade has been issued so that the grade does not appear on the external transcript. Sophomores are permitted one exploratory subject per semester.

The option was developed as “part of the overall redesign of the first and second year, to help make a smoother transition,” said Professor Duane S. Boning ’84, a member of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, which created the option.

In an Aug. 26 letter to advisors, Professor J. Mark Schuster PhD ’79, the committee chairman, wrote that the exploratory subject is part of a five-year experiment intended to encourage students to explore new intellectual areas.

Few choose exploratory subject

Although most sophomores are aware of the exploratory option, many chose not to use it.

Tristan J. Hayeck ’06 said that he heard about it at a Mechanical Engineering orientation but did not use it because he did not plan to take many classes.

Lynne R. Salameh ’06 also did not designate a subject as exploratory. “All the hard courses I’m taking are required for my major, so I would have to take them again anyways if I didn’t do well,” she said.

Salameh said she heard about the option from her adviser as well as peers.

Other sophomores said they felt that the exploratory subject was a good idea because it acted as a backup.

“5.60 [Thermodynamics and Kinetics] is my exploratory subject because I foresaw at the beginning of the semester that it might be new and challenging,” said Njamkou N. Noucti ’06, who is majoring in chemistry.

Without the exploratory option, “I would have taken five classes anyways, but might have dropped one,” she said. Noucti said her adviser encouraged her to use the exploratory option.

Some departments encouraged sophomores to designate as exploratory only classes outside their major.

Professor Rohan Abeyaratne, the Mechanical Engineering department head, said that the department advised sophomores “to be careful” about designating a Course II requirement as exploratory, but did not prevent them from doing so.

Option still being evaluated

The exploratory subject option was made as “part of the review of Pass/No Record and advanced placement system two to three years ago,” Boning said.

“My understanding is that the C.U.P. will have a midpoint review, as they do with all experiments,” Boning said. “I think the intent, in my mind, was for it to be a flexible option that provided a safety net,” he said. The midpoint review will probably be in about two years.

Boning noted that there was the concern that sophomores might take more classes because they had this opportunity. Overloading would “be counterproductive, that’s my biggest fear,” he said.

He said that he made his sophomore advisees aware of the option, but did not push them to make a particular choice.

As an adviser, “I would evaluate case-by-case, because some students are capable of heavier loads, and others have eyes bigger than their stomachs,” said Professor James L. Kirtley Jr. ’67, a member of the Committee on Academic Performance.