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The Daily Tar Heel

McNeil to Spearhead Curriculum Review

Laurie E. McNeil, professor of physics and astronomy and applied materials sciences, has assumed the role, bringing to the position her past experience on the Chancellor's Task Force on Intellectual Climate.

The review is one of several initiatives designed by the task force to enhance the undergraduate experience at UNC. The University's curriculum last received major changes in 1980.

The task force completed in 1997 will also address advising system improvements, first-year seminars, the summer reading program, the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence, and living-learning communities.

"We want to prepare (students) for the challenges they will encounter in the modern world, and we can do that by evaluating the curriculum we offer to them," McNeil said. She said she hopes the committee's process of review and revisions will enable the University to offer students the best curricula possible.

McNeil will work with Tom Tweed, associate dean for undergraduate curriculum, and a 14-member steering committee of general college and professional school students as well as faculty from all academic disciplines.

Tweed said he is optimistic about the work the review committee will do over the next three years. "We plan to do a lot of listening - to students, faculty and the public - through surveys, meetings and open discussions," he said. "We hope for a careful and fair review of the curriculum."

The group will seek input from students as well as gauge public opinion during its third discussion forum, scheduled for noon Oct. 23 in 39 Graham Memorial. Two forums already have been conducted to consider student and faculty answers to the question, "What is an educated person?"

Tweed said he feels McNeil is the right person for the leadership position. "Dean (of Undergraduate Education) Risa Palm made a spectacular choice in appointing Dr. McNeil," he said.

McNeil's background in the sciences was an important factor in the selection process. "The dean felt it was important to have a well-represented science perspective," McNeil said. A member of the University's Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, McNeil is the first woman to hold a tenure track position in the department of physics and astronomy.

She currently serves as assistant chairwoman of departmental development for physics and astronomy, but McNeil will give up that title when she assumes her role as chairwoman of the review efforts.

Tweed said he has confidence in McNeil's leadership abilities. "She will do a great job sorting through the complicated issues involved in evaluating the curriculum."

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