The HASS Exploration (HEX) Program
Diana Henderson and Christine Walley
Call for HASS Exploration Program Expansion
The HASS Exploration (HEX) Program (formerly known as the First Year Focus Program) is looking to expand its roster of subjects. The Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education (DUE) is collaborating with the Committee on the Undergraduate Program’s Subcommittee on the HASS Requirement (SHR) in soliciting interested faculty to design and teach new subjects that meet the HEX Program criteria. To support that effort, the DUE has included such subject initiatives as part of the Alex and Brit d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education’s call for proposals.
Brief history of the HEX Program
In 2006, the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons proposed the creation of HASS subjects geared toward first-year students, to generate a common discussion among undergraduates and familiarize them with fundamental concepts and different disciplinary perspectives within the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. Funding from the SHASS Dean’s Office and the d’Arbeloff Funds for Excellence in Education enabled the design and continuation of these pedagogically innovative, often team-taught experimental subjects. Following upon the Task Force’s work, the Educational Commons Subcommittee recommended the creation of SHR as part of the revision to the HASS Requirement approved by the faculty in 2009 (the same revision that replaced the HASS-D system with a simpler Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Distribution requirement). SHR has been charged with the task of recommending to the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) whether the First Year Focus Program should be made a permanent part of the HASS Requirement by academic year 2014. Consequently, it began evaluating the program in 2009. Since that time, SHR has determined that these subjects should be available to undergraduates of all years in order to better serve its core constituency; has revised the parameters for HEX subjects accordingly; and has recommended HEX subjects to students as an appropriate introduction to scholarship in the humanities, arts, and social sciences at the collegiate level.
The HEX Program Defined
To join the Program, a subject must meet most of the Program’s subject criteria. HEX subjects should be appropriate for all undergraduates (no prerequisites), approach topics from multiple disciplinary and/or interdisciplinary viewpoints (often, but not necessarily, in team-taught formats), and emphasize close interaction with faculty (an absolute maximum of 25 students per faculty member/senior lecturer). Students in a HEX subject will:
- Explore a topic using contextual and/or qualitative modes of inquiry.
- Think critically and analytically about a complex issue, theme, or concept from multiple viewpoints – either within or across disciplines in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
- Practice foundational skills for understanding and addressing the complexity of the world in which we live.
- Gain focused substantive knowledge and wide-ranging familiarity with alternative scholarly methods, insights, and analytic resources.
Join the HEX Program Community
Advantages for faculty in being part of the HEX Program include the opportunity to explore topics through multiple lenses, team teaching (if applicable), becoming familiar with the pedagogical strategies of colleagues, and sharing or developing new research and curricular ideas. Instructors in the SHR-recommended Program have occasion to build relationships with fellow faculty in other departments and teach previously unreached students about their area of expertise. Events such as the annual HEX Instructors Luncheon over IAP provide opportunities to share experiences, perspectives, challenges, and pedagogical innovations.
How to participate
To find out whether your subject might fit into the HASS Exploration Program and how you might receive help in designing and teaching a thematically innovative subject to be considered for the Program, contact your Department Head, Christine Walley (SHR Chair), or Diana Henderson. To view this year’s roster of HEX subjects, visit: web.mit.edu/hassreq/exploration.html.