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President Donald R. Eastman III

Strategic Planning Recommendations

New Programs

The "Centers" Concept
We strongly recommend that Eckerd College become "famous for" a unique thematic approach to the liberal arts built around close student-faculty engagement through personalized mentoring, small class size, and experiential learning. Our distinctive educational philosophy is based on a deep appreciation of the value of inter-disciplinary study, practical "hands on" applications of knowledge, service learning, and cross-cultural experiences and engagement. Perhaps now more than ever before, young adults need to understand the connections between disciplines within the context of a strong liberal arts education. Through the creation of interdisciplinary Centers, Eckerd College will prepare our students to gain the expertise, breadth, values and practical experience necessary to become truly educated and productive citizens.

Each Center will be organized around an interdisciplinary, cross-boundary, and collaborative approach to knowledge and education. This approach builds upon the many current strengths of Eckerd College including: size and location, dedication to the liberal arts, strengths in interdisciplinary programs, vibrant service and experiential learning opportunities, and commitment to strong faculty-student relationships. The Centers concept thus takes advantage of the College's key internal strengths.

Each Center will bring together the interrelated bodies of knowledge central to understanding a given issues area (e.g., ecological balance or biotechnology). The Centers will break down the boundaries between the Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences and thus create opportunities for cross-fertilization, fluidity, and new approaches to knowledge and problem-solving. We believe that this approach to the liberal arts will better educate our students to take on the challenges of the 21st century. It is important to emphasize that the new Centers will neither replace nor compromise the academic integrity of our many strong individual majors.

We envision each Center having the following common components:

  • A central thematic focus;
  • A building and an administrative staff;
  • An interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning;
  • Active and all-embracing student mentoring;
  • Small student-faculty class ratios (especially in the introductory courses);
  • Extensive internship and "hands-on" apprenticeship opportunities;
  • Service learning opportunities;
  • Outreach activities, including campus-wide lecture series, "intellectual festivals"; and
  • Co-Curricular activities (e.g., waterfront programs, Model UN, Green Rampage, etc.) to encourage active student engagement.

Through the Centers, Eckerd College would be "famous for" both what we do and how we do it. In other words, we would be famous not only for individual disciplines (Marine Science, Creative Writing, and so on), but for how we teach and learn as well. As an institution, we would be famous for our interdisciplinary, problem solving approach to the liberal arts. We would develop both "depth" and "breadth" in each of our Centers.
Depth: Each Center would become famous for a top notch major or majors.
Breadth: All Eckerd College students would gain skills and exposure to the interrelated bodies of knowledge taught in each Center.

We recognize that this new "Centers" approach to the liberal arts challenges our venerable Collegium structure. Our current five upper division Collegia are organized around related disciplines with common epistemologies. This structure encourages limited interdisciplinary approaches among fields of study that already share established problem-solving methodologies. Our Centers Concept goes much further. It breaks down the often constraining barriers between fields of knowledge and thus opens up exciting possibilities for asking and answering novel questions about real world problems within the context of emerging themes.

The four centers we recommend can be seen as a "pilot program" for a potential reconceptualization of a liberal arts education at our school. Our commitment to this new model could be demonstrated each year at graduation with the awarding of honorary degrees in one or more of these four areas.

We believe that Eckerd College should consider reorganizing our entire approach to undergraduate education away from Collegia and towards the interdisciplinary approach embodied in the Centers Concept.

Strategic Recommendation: Create Four Interdisciplinary Centers

We recommend that the strategic plan focus on the creation of four interdisciplinary Centers, which will capitalize on the existing strengths of our college and maintain a balance between the Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences. We seek to have all of our students develop:

  • an understanding of the world as a global community;
  • a commitment to peace and justice and sustainable development;
  • an appreciation of environmental issues and a community commitment to improving the environmental quality of our campus and our marine and coastal setting;
  • an understanding of the revolutionary changes in biomedical science and a community commitment to developing informed opinions about scientific issues in a technologically advanced society;
  • an appreciation that leadership in all areas requires effective self-expression, representation, and communication, and a commitment to excellence with the spoken and written word.

We strongly endorse Marine Science as the one area that we are already "famous for." Locating Marine Science within an interdisciplinary Center linked to Environmental Studies can strengthen this critical program in order to enhance our competitive advantage. The three new Centers listed below are in our preferred priority order based on a careful review of internal strengths and external opportunities.

Center for Marine Science and the Environment (See Addendum 1)

Marine Biology, Environmental Studies, Chemistry, Geology, Geophysics.


  1. New Marine Science programs in Mariculture, Coral Reef Science, Marine Archeology, and Animal Behavior.
  2. New Environmental Studies programs in Endangered Species, International Environmental Issues, and Coastal Issues.


  1. Every EC student has an encounter with environmental issues (expand the "E" perspective).
  2. Every EC student has the opportunity to participate in waterfront environmental programming and activities.

Center for International and Global Studies (See Addendum 2)

International Relations and Global Affairs, International Business, International Studies, Political Science, Economics, Anthropology, History, East Asian Studies, and Environmental Studies.


  1. Interdisciplinary Study of Diplomacy and Human Rights
  2. Interdisciplinary Study of International Business and Ecological Sustainability


  1. Every EC student has an encounter with global issues (expand the "G" Perspective).
  2. Every EC student has the opportunity for a study abroad experience.
  3. Every EC student has the opportunity to participate in extensive global programming through films, speakers, intellectual festivals, model UN, and so on.

Center for Integrative Biology and Biomedicine (See Addendum 3)

Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Math, Physics, Psychology, Sociology.


  1. A new interdisciplinary program in Biomedical Science
  2. A new interdisciplinary program in Integrative Biology


  1. Every EC student is exposed to the impact of biological science on society (expand the "Natural Science" general education requirement).

Center for Communication and the Arts (See Addendum 4)

Creative Arts, Writing Excellence, Communications.


  1. Expand programming in Creative Writing
  2. Expand programming in the Visual Arts


  1. Every EC student is taught excellence in writing skills
  2. Every EC student is taught excellence in oral communications
  3. Every EC student is exposed to the impact of the Arts on society (expand the "Arts" general education requirement).

Although we are not recommending it as a fifth center, we recognize that the success of all four centers depends upon a vibrant Center for the Applied Liberal Arts (CALA). It would be wasteful and inefficient for each Center to replicate the administrative work of service learning, internship/apprentice training, and experiential learning opportunities. These activities should be centralized within CALA, which would then be of great support to each individual Center. An expanded CALA would also provide programming for "undecided" students, our second largest applicant pool, through a new Academic Advising Center. Such an expanded CALA would greatly ease and facilitate the work of the interdisciplinary Centers (see Addendum 5).

At the conclusion of this report is a list of the many thoughtful proposals from faculty for the creation of new programs (see Addendum 6). We have forwarded copies of these reports to the Office of the President.

Addendum 1: Center for Marine Science and the Environment
Addendum 2: Center for International and Global Studies
Addendum 3: Center for Integrative Biology and Biomedicine
Addendum 4: Center for Communication and the Arts
Addendum 5: An Expanded Center for the Applied Liberal Arts (CALA)
Addendum 6: Proposals Submitted to the New Program Committee