biology curriculum--the early years

Mon Jan 20 00:06:54 EST 1997

This is a long post concerning introductory level courses offerred by a biology
department at a comprehensive university--St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, MN.
	The university has 15,000+ full time students and generates 95% of its
credits via undergraduate enrollment. Biology is the second largest generator
of credits--primarily due to high enrollment in "general education" classes. 
We graduate ca. 160 undergraduates/year and 3 to 8 graduate (MA) student/year. 
Our current programs were designed in the late 60's/early 70's except in 1989
a BS in Biotechnology was added. I have been here for 12 years and we have
discussed re-evaluating our programs that long or longer.  Several years ago
the Minnesota legislature decided that the State University System (which now
includes all community and technical colleges-37 institutions) would change to
the semester system in the fall of 1997.  For the past year we have been
working and the general outline and now the detail of offering programs under
the semester system.  The University of Minnesota is not part the the State
University system but they have been ordered by the Regents to offer semesters
in the fall of 1999.
Our current situation:
	We have come to reorganizing our curricula into the following
superprograms: Biomedical/Biotechnology/Cell Biology (BBC=60% of students)
               Ecology & Natural Resources/Field Biology/Aquatics(EFA=30%)
		10% of our students we provide service course and they graduate
The six programs plus a (General) Biology are what the faculty (24) have
determined will best need the needs of our students.  Our current programs (11)
required of all students the following quarter courses: general biology,
zoology, genetics, cell biology, and microbiology. About half of our students
must also take botany and general ecology (the ones exempted are biomeds).
My philosophy for semester programs
	Self-selecting working groups put together programs and present them to
the department.  Programs must have a specific clientele, a firm "mission" to
provide content/skills/theory that will allow students to leave "well-prepared"
for work of futher school.  Not very revolutionary.  The basic assumption was
that a one-year integrated biology course would be required of all but our
service students.  After that the working groups would determine what was
appropriate--including supporting courses in chemistry, etc.  
The problem:
	The one-year course. 
	The first semester--Introduction to Cell Biology and Genetics
	A) Nature of Science and the Discipline of Biology (15%)
	B) The Chemical Nature of life (15%)
	C) The Energy of Life (20%)
	D) The Cellular Organization of life (15%)
	E) Cell Division, Growth and Development (20%)
	F) Reproduction and Inheritance (15%) 
	The second semester--Introduction to Organismal Biology and Ecology
	G) The origin of life (5%)
	H) Phylogenetic Classification and Taxonomy (10%)
	I) Evolution (25%)
	J) Diversity of Organismal Growth and Morphologic Development (20%)
	K) Ecology (40%) 
Both semesters are 4 credit lecture/lab courses that are not sequenced--can be
taken in any order.  These are not very revolutionary courses--I do not intend
to portray something that is very different than what is found in most texts.
The Questions:
	The Ecology et al faculty are now saying that semester two is not
needed because it does not represent a consolidation of Botany and Zoology and
therefore their student will take the first semester and then take Botany and
Zoo.  My point was not to produce a botany/zoo hybrid but to early on introduce
organismal biodiversity and then ecology, botany and zoology would have a solid
foundation to iterate the general principle in a more discipline specific
context for students needing greater depth in these areas.  Of course after
these classes the student move on to more specific classes based on the
program design.  So the question is: Am I very off base thinking that Ecology et
al students would gain from this second semester general course as a lead in to
their program--or are these faculty right that it is a waste of 4 credits in an
already large program of study.
	Some of the Biomedical et al faculty are saying that we should drop the
second semester and go back to requiring botany and zoology of all students
because they do not see students gaining an understanding of organismal
systems--the organism as a whole.  My point has been that the second semester
offers amply opportunity to explore whole organism model in the context of the
more general topics.  The question: would the student in Biotech/Cell (the
biomeds being excluded) gain from Botany and Zoo over a more integrated
approach to organismal biology--what I call functional biodiversity. 

I am posting this to plant-ed because as a botantist/plant physiologist this
group provides me with the greatest amount of information for the classes i

I am not looking to defend my position but rather gain insight into what other
of you have in your departments/programs.
Any comments would be greatly appreciated--thanks in advance.
David DeGroote
Biological Sciences 
State Cloud State University 
St. Cloud, MN
degroote at 

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