Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (HCLAS) is no longer the home to three divisions of disciplines, but is now the home to three new schools including the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the School of Humanities, Fine Arts and Performing Arts.
The third and last new school, after a multi-million dollar donation from Hofstra Trustee Peter S. Kalikow, will be officially christened The Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs at its convocation on Oct. 26.
A major in public policy is also being established as part of this new school. The major will be an interdisciplinary program, requiring students who take it to enroll in courses in all eight departments within the Kalikow School.
The departments of anthropology, economics, global studies and geography, history, philosophy, political science, religion and sociology will be assimilated into the Kalikow School.
On Friday, Oct. 23, the faculty will be presented with the new curriculum for the public policy major program, which they will then have to approve before it goes to the state for approval. After this, students will be able to declare a public policy major.
“Last year [Kalikow] indicated an interest in funding a school … that would among other things train people in preparation for public service.” said Dr. Bernard Firestone, dean of the Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Firestone also noted that much of the funds Kalikow donated would go toward scholarships.
The new school is still part of HCLAS. “What we used to have was three divisions in the college of arts and sciences. We had a division of the social sciences, we had a division of natural sciences and math, and we had a division of humanities,” Firestone said.
The establishment of a new school is truly a change in the overall structure, Firestone said.
“What we essentially did was to take the division of social science which is eight departments and make it a school: The Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs,” he said. “We then took the division of natural science and mathematics, called it the School of Natural Science and Mathematics. We took the humanities division and called it the School of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts, because fine arts has always been there, performing arts had always been there, but it had never been featured in a title.”
With these changes, the psychology department is being moved from the social science division (now the Kalikow School) to the natural sciences division – a move that pleased Dr. Elisabeth Ploran, an assistant professor of psychology. “I think that it’s a really important move that a lot of other universities have already gone through,” she said.
“Psychology is about experimentation. It’s about identifying the specific variables involved and looking at outcomes. There are a lot of areas of psychology like neuroscience, social psychology, cognition, developmental psychology; they all are based on decades and centuries worth of experimentation just like any other bench science.”
Ploran argued that psychology uses the same rigor of evaluation and quantitative statistics as the other natural sciences, so it is appropriate for it to be grouped with them. “Psychology is an important aspect of our scientific pursuits in medicine in how we think about how people interact with each other and so it’s validating that it’s a true science which is big for the field,” she said.
According to Ploran, this validation, which is occurring not just at Hofstra, but in the scientific community as a whole, gives psychologists access to more funding, legitimizes the research they do and gives them more force in the community.
The move to the natural science classification will exclude psychology from the initial interdisciplinary nature of the public policy major, but Ploran felt that moving the department was still the right decision.
“I think given the makeup of our psychology department, our focus of our faculty is much more on the science end of things. We have a grouping of neuroscientists, we have a grouping of developmental psychologists and we have some health psychologists, so our research areas skew more towards the medical professions and the health professions than they do towards public policy,” she said.
Firestone pointed out that the program would eventually include courses from outside the social sciences as well, so the possibility of other courses being applied to a public policy degree later on is not out of the question.
Dr. Kathleen Wallace, chair of the department of philosophy, feels that certain parts of her discipline do play an important role in public policy. “Public policy involves a lot of different areas of interest and many different disciplines have things to contribute,” she said. “Insofar as philosophy does, social and political philosophy, philosophy of law and ethics, there’s definitely things that we can contribute to the program.”
Dr. John P. Teehan, chair of the religion department feels that his department will greatly benefit from this new school and the new public policy program. “We belong in the new school because we do have a focus on taking religion out of the classroom and trying to apply it to international affairs [and] public affairs, so this is giving us an avenue to out that into effect,” he said.
Dr. Teehan feels that the public policy major is a program that fulfills certain needs that some students have been missing. “I’m actually excited by it. I think there’s a real segment of the Hofstra student population that’s looking to get into this type of work, who are very interested in civic engagement and public service. There really hasn’t been a place for them. They’ve had to carve out majors from different departments that do some of this so this will allow those students to find a home and have a preparation for the kind of careers they want to pursue,” he said.
Economics and global studies double major La Rainne Pasion agrees. “I think that’s a great addition because I know that a lot of people at Hofstra right now are really into that field and would love to do something that’s specifically in that major,” Pasion said.
According to Dean Firestone, most of the faculty of the new school is already at Hofstra. Whoever becomes the director will be housed on the third floor of the New Academic Building (NAB), where the history department is located. The building housing the dean’s office will also be a central hub for the school.
In regards to the creation of the school as a whole, Pasion is optimistic. “I think that’s cool, to kind of have your own domain of your field,” she said. “I’m not exactly sure what difference that would entail but to have that kind of distinction, if that means that there’s more emphasis on faculty and this particular field as its own thing, I think that’s a great idea.”