By Jackson Somes
On a recent trip to Turkey, Noelle Norton, the new dean of the college of arts and sciences, found herself thinking of classes she took 30 years ago. Classes she never took particular interest in finally came alive.
“I go to Turkey and all those courses, art history, ancient civilization, theology, made sense” said Norton.
This lesson, 30 years in the making, is at the heart of the platform Norton is bringing to the CAS. A lifelong education is the base of what Norton considers the foundation of a good liberal arts and science education. An education that enhances personal and national economy, democracy and teaches how to enjoy life.
Norton, PhD, has a long history with USD. A career spanning nearly 20 years, she first joined the faculty in 1994 as a member of the Department of Political Science and International Relations. From there she has served as Associate Dean for faculty and co-director of the Living Learning Communities program. Norton has additionally served as department chair and director of the USD Honors Program from 2001 to 2008. Her extensive time here at USD will play an important role in the direction she takes her new position.
“I think what I bring to the office is a deep understanding of the University of San Diego,” said Norton.
One of Norton’s primary commitments to the office is to see revisions made to the the division’s core curriculum.
“We are beginning our third year of the revision process” says Norton, “and there have been students and faculty from all the different departments involved along the way.”
Thus far all progress on the core revisions has been solely discussion based. Norton is ready for the discussion to turn to action.
“The goal is to develop a model of a new core and to present it to the faculty in December” Norton said. The proposed revisions will then be discussed among students and faculty throughout the spring with a vote to come hopefully at the end of the year.
Skeptics remain unconvinced that the revised core will come quickly. Junior Diana Tenenbaum, a sociology and Spanish major, expresses her doubts about a timely implementation of the revised core curriculum.
“It’s been discussed for years,” Tenenbaum says, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“Right now we’re in a position where we need to come together and figure out who we are” said Norton. “The hope of the new core is that the core becomes a signature for what USD is.”
According to Norton, the current CAS core curriculum doesn’t highlight the Catholic intellectual tradition, the commitment to interdisciplinary learning, or the commitment to immersion and service. The goal of the new core is to clearly emphasize these areas.
Revisioning the core curriculum is not the only commitment Norton has set for herself and the division. Norton also wants the college to prepare itself for potential disruptions it may face in the next 10 to 20 years.
“The disruptions range from online education, the cost of higher education, the increase in the change in demographics, and the change in affluence” said Norton.
Beginning a conversation about online education was a primary point of interest for Norton, but she emphasized caution with the subject. “The college of arts and sciences provides a hands on education so I do not see a shifting to any kind of online program,” said Norton. “My goal is to have the conversation about what our relationship is” she continued.
Norton also stated that she was focused on diversifying the student population, being more inclusive with the adjunct professors on campus and continuing to build the reputation of USD as an excellent school.
“I know the kind of students that we have” said Norton. The confidence Norton has in this statement derives from her 20 years spent with USD, especially her time as a professor. With her knowledge of the students and what a valuable liberal arts and science education should include, Norton offers a piece of personal advice to students.
“Spend this year thinking about how your classes are going to help you enjoy life,” Norton said, “because they will make your life richer.”