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History of Heritage

A report by Steve Smith, May 2015

The 2014-2015 school year was the last year of what may come to be known as “classic Heritage,” the 16-credit-hour course option for first-year students meeting all humanities and fine arts core requirements at Millsaps. As of Fall 2015, all first-years will take an 8-credit-hour course, Our Human Heritage, in fall and spring together with a Connections humanities seminar in the spring; the fine arts requirement will be met by a fine arts course taken anytime.

Visitors from the Heritage past would see many familiar features in the 2014-2015 version of the course: faculty taking turns making presentations to the large group in AC 215, with colleagues, guests, and late students sitting on the back row, four times a week (five times before 1992); discussion meetings in smaller classrooms across campus three times a week (two times before 1992); weekly staff meetings; blue-book exams with art and music IDs and synthesizing essays three times a semester; assigned essays on primary sources and semester research papers; mass excursions to art events off campus; and, keeping pace with all advancements in technology, problems with the sound systems in AC 215 and the Recital Hall.

Some features might seem new: many non-Western figures and cultural expressions with the adoption of a “world perspective” (since 1992); a scheduled program of student-led discussions in spring semester (since 1996); required “cultural reviews” of extracurricular events (since 1996); response forms filled out by students at the end of each presentation, replacing the pass-around attendance roll (since 1996); exams taken in the Recital Hall (off and on since 2004); the digital multimedia richness of the presentations, overcoming the loss of the chalkboard and replacing the cranky slide projectors and overhead projector.

At a year-ending celebration on April 27 in AC 215, founding Heritage professor T. W. Lewis recounted the anxious early days – back when the lectures were held in a larger version of CC-21 – that saw serious student complaints and a steep drop in enrollment until the first cohort of seniors realized how valuable their Heritage experience had been and started actively recruiting for the program.

The result of Core Review: 2015 and beyond 

A two-year Core Review planning process led to faculty approval of a new set of common graduation requirements and course designs in 2014. Starting with the class of 2019, all Millsaps graduates will have at least a year of non-native language study, an introduction to business concepts, and a “major experience” outside the classroom in addition to arts and sciences requirements similar to those previously in place. The humanities core is scaled back by one course and a combination of the former Heritage and Topics course options is instituted for all students: an 8-hour “big picture” course called Our Human Heritage preserving the team-taught, year-long structure of classic Heritage with its alternation of large and small group meetings, complemented by a spring Connections seminar examining a single historical humanities topic in depth.

To accommodate the entire first-year class, Our Human Heritage will be taught by two teams of faculty. Each team chooses its own theme and makes up its own syllabus, which offers enrolling first-years a significant choice.

The upshot of the Core Review and a previous assessment by Core Director Bill Storey in 2010 was that classic Heritage is a highly successful and “signature” approach to general education in the humanities—more satisfactory educationally than the Topics alternative because of its interdisciplinary and historical coherence, and impressively efficient from a staffing point of view though at the price of extraordinary work demands on its faculty. (The workload issue was addressed by a new staffing pattern wherein the 8-hour course will be credited as half of a full-time teaching load in a year.)

An influential idea in Core reform was that a way should be found to extend the benefits of a Heritage-like experience to all Millsaps students. This idea proved stronger than the concern that the success of the Heritage experience may depend on its status as a voluntary option.

In 2014-2015, as David Davis, Patrick Hopkins (directing), Anne MacMaster, and Steve Smith delivered the last edition of classic Heritage, two other teams of professors planned the first editions of Our Human Heritage for 2015-2016:  (1) the “Turning Points” team consisting of Judith Caballero, Michael Gleason, Kristen Golden, Lynn Raley, and Bill Storey (directing); (2) the “Power” team of Ted Ammon, Laura Franey, Elise Smith, and Dave Yates (directing).

Heritage secretary Louise Hetrick, a mainstay of the program since 1975, retired from Millsaps employment in 2015. At her retirement reception in the Christian Center foyer on April 27, faculty, staff, and students of several generations gathered to pay tribute to her nurturing of the CC and Heritage communities throughout the Hetrick Era. 


History of the Heritage Program
by W. Charles Sallis (1998)

Note: this is an edited version; the full report is available on request.

Proudly publicized by Millsaps College and widely recognized beyond the campus, the Heritage Program celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in September 1998. In 1968 the Millsaps faculty had departed from years of tradition to create a humanities program that integrated history, literature, religion, philosophy, and the fine arts into a single elective course of study. Over the history of the program, 36.5 percent of all Millsaps Freshmen have chosen to satisfy their core humanities requirements by this means. Other students, including those who are unable to take Heritage because its enrollment reaches capacity early in the preregistration process, satisfy their humanities requirements through interdisciplinary topics courses.

[. . .]

Millsaps faculty and administrators who have been involved with Heritage are virtually unanimous in crediting the careful attention to detail at its beginning in 1968, continuous evaluation and renewal by its core faculty, and periodic review by outside consultants for the program's vitality. It is now "the jewel in Millsaps' academic crown." The college's report for admission into Phi Beta Kappa described Heritage as a "model program" and one of the significant strengths of the college. When the Millsaps faculty approved a new interdisciplinary core curriculum in 1991, with changes affecting virtually every academic department, it insisted that the basic structure of Heritage remain a central part of the core curriculum. A successful 1991 grant proposal by the college to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help underwrite the new curriculum touted the "highly successful" Heritage Program as "one of the distinctive features of the curriculum." A faculty review of the core curriculum in April 1998 (Millsaps College, 1998, p. 11) reaffirmed that assertion by stating that Heritage "has long been the College's most widely and favorably recognized distinctive program."

[. . .]

Program Origins

In fall 1963, at the annual Millsaps College faculty retreat, Dean Frank M. Laney, Jr., asked the faculty to undertake an extensive curriculum review. Throughout the 1963-64 academic year, Laney held regular meetings with faculty groups. In 1964-65 he appointed a Curriculum Study Committee to compile data and recommendations for a curriculum revision proposal to be presented to the faculty. In summer 1965 its findings were refined by the Summer Curriculum Study Committee.

The Summer Committee (1965) noted that one of the deficiencies in the Millsaps curriculum was that "no provision is made for allowing the student to come to an understanding of the interdependence and interrelationship of the several academic disciplines" (p. 8). It also noted the absence from the curriculum of non-Western studies and twentieth-century issues courses.

To rectify these omissions the Summer Committee recommended the creation of four interdisciplinary courses: "Man in Western Civilization and Culture" (later called "The Cultural Heritage of the West," or Heritage Program). . .

Heritage was to be staffed by faculty members from history, English, and philosophy and religion, with art and music faculty conducting weekly fine arts laboratory sessions. . . Collaborative interdisciplinary teaching would expose students to a variety of teaching styles and was perceived as a "significant way" to "provide the foundation stone" for students' academic careers at Millsaps. As they examined "seminal ideas, the pivotal events, the discoveries and movements which form the basis of Western Culture," students would "develop. . . [the] capacity to think, to assimilate the related ideas, to articulate. . . thoughts, and to write with lucidity."

The humanities would be studied as a coherent whole so that students would perceive "the interrelationship and the interdependence of the several academic disciplines and realize that no discipline 'is an island'" (Summer Curriculum Study Committee, 1965, p. 10). Because the program would involve Millsaps faculty members from other academic departments as guest lecturers and bring to campus speakers and performers, the entire college would benefit from a truly integrated humanities educational experience. "This course is recommended [as an option for freshmen]," the committee concluded, "with the belief that it would not only provide a more stimulating and challenging program of study to the student, but that it would also enrich the dialogue between the disciplines and enhance the academic climate in general" (p. 12).

. . . Robert Padgett of the English department, the chief architect and first director of the Heritage Program, pointed out two "unusual if not unique" features of Heritage:

First, it attempts to blend the insights and perspectives of a greater variety of disciplines into one master course than do most such Humanities courses. Second, our course recognizes and emphasizes the fact that many aspects of our cultural heritage do not yield themselves up fully to discursive analysis alone; they must be experienced, not just talked about. Therefore we make an unusual effort to expose the student directly to generous selections of literary works and to primary documents of history, philosophy and religion. The laboratories are especially important in this regard in allowing the student to experience directly masterworks of art, music, and drama through the media of films, slides, recordings, and live performances. (Padgett, 1993, p. 1)

Thus was the Heritage Program at Millsaps conceived. Nearly thirty years later, Padgett recalled:

Probably everyone associated with the founding of the Heritage Program has his or her own sense of where it all started. My own conviction is that it grew out of a feeling shared by many of us in the College--especially in the Humanities area--that to do our jobs best--that is, to provide a truly rich liberal arts education--we needed to know more than our specialized training in our fields provided us with. I remember in particular how often in the early sixties, when I was first struggling to teach a course in World Literature, I would go to Tom Jolly in Ancient Languages for help with Greek and Latin literature or to Madeleine McMullan or Frank Laney in History for help with the "backgrounds," and Madeleine, who was bravely asking her Western civilization students to read Oedipus the King and other literary works along with political and social history, would come to me for advice on how to handle certain literary issues. We often said in those days how nice it would be if we could team-teach a course someday. Little did we know what lay just ahead. (Padgett, 1993, p. 1)

[. . .]

The faculty approved these proposals over opposition from some traditionalists who harbored reservations about the validity of interdisciplinary courses, and the task of implementation and finding resources began. Dean Laney secured a grant for three faculty members to accompany him in 1966 to a conference on interdisciplinary studies. Padgett (1993) remembered this as an invaluable experience:

We as a team created the basis for the first syllabus of the Heritage 101-102 course; we had the opportunity to have our work critiqued by people who had had extensive experience formulating and working in interdisciplinary and team-taught courses and to question them about problems and pitfalls. (I remember particularly one invaluable piece of advice we received from a scientist-participant: "Don't start a team-taught interdisciplinary course in any area without a staff of fully committed teachers who believe in what they're doing.") (p. 3)

In 1966 Millsaps was awarded a Strengthening Developing Institutions grant under Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Padgett was appointed director of Heritage in 1967, and the first classes began a year later. The year was spent, Padgett wrote in 1993, on "the immensity of details that had to be worked out--the determination of the proper format, the day-to-day syllabus, the acquisition of appropriate textbooks (interdisciplinary materials were rare then), formulating grading procedures, planning staffing and scheduling that crossed departmental lines, establishing support materials for the library, recordings, slides, maps, films, etc." (p. 4).

In September 1968 the first Heritage class met with 77 students--26.7 percent of the 288 freshmen who enrolled in the college that fall. It was the beginning of what Padgett called "a unique and demanding adventure." A multidisciplinary team of "fully committed teachers who believed in what they were doing" assisted the director (Padgett, 1993, pp. 3-4) .

The students were given a detailed syllabus for the entire semester, which specified daily readings from several textbooks, major literary works, and selected readings distributed for particular lectures. A week's schedule consisted of four lectures, one music or art laboratory session for the entire group, and two meetings of discussion groups of fifteen students each--seven hours in all. The discussions were designed, Padgett (1969) explained, to "explore in more detail those questions and issues they have found most relevant in their reading and in the lectures." Also there were a number of required co-curricular events, "which are intended to extend the learning experience beyond the threshold of the classroom and the library to the theater, the concert hall, the art gallery, and the world at large" (p. 3).

The core faculty was highly enthusiastic about Heritage, but many, perhaps most, students felt differently. Vern Pack (1969), a Heritage student during the course's first semester, summarized the Heritage experience in the campus newspaper, The Purple and White:

A student of Heritage feels overworked and overwritten. Many feel that the course "stinks" or is a trap. This may be true now, but in June the sentiment will probably change. If one can live through Heritage, one may be a better person for it. An overload of reading matter, a first semester problem, has been solved second semester by indicating what must absolutely be read, what may be read, and what may be discarded by those who have need for social life. Tests cannot be crammed for. An overall synthesis is necessary. In other words, it behooves a Heritage student to study early and sleep well. Unfortunately this is difficult because there are assignments up to the night before a test. When asked to comment on the Heritage program at the end of a long, painful week, . . . [Professor] McMullan said, "The students are the saving grace," but Dr. Reiff only sighed, "Thank God, it's Friday."

[. . .]

We all agreed at the beginning that at least for the first two years we would all attend all the lectures and laboratories and we soon discovered how important and valuable that experience was: in addition to letting each of us experience the same shifting of perspectives that the students were experiencing, it gave us all new insights into different teaching styles and exposure to approaches to interpreting texts and symbols we might not otherwise have encountered. (Padgett, 1993, p. 3)

Padgett (1969) ended his first semester in Heritage on an optimistic note. "It is too early yet to gauge the success of this experiment. We know the operation of the program is not perfect, and we are already involved in revisions and improvements. In general, however, the signs have been encouraging, and not the least important, I believe, is the fact that the Heritage Program has earned the accolade of Horatian satire in the Purple and White; and Horatian satire, I've been taught, expresses not only worthwhile criticism of the subject, but commitment to its real values and some affection for it" (p. 4).

Growing Pains

Tense times lay ahead for the program. Heritage developed a reputation for being extraordinarily difficult, and the staff was both worried and shocked when only 60 of 286 freshmen (20.9 percent) registered for the course the next fall. A year later, in the fall of 1970, the enrollment dipped to an alarming low of 43 of 252 entering freshmen (17 percent). In an effort to discern the problem questionnaires were distributed among former Heritage students, non-Heritage faculty members, and freshmen who declined to take Heritage. The Purple and White of October 13 reported criticism "concerning the degree of successful integration of areas covered. Some areas such as English and history are covered more thoroughly than areas of religion and philosophy." It correctly pointed out that "it is also evident that present history and history of the past 100 years have been neglected." Another problem cited was "the extreme demand placed on students in the course to complete requirements of the program." Surprisingly, 18 percent of the incoming freshmen who did not choose Heritage said they were unaware of "the availability of the program" and had therefore given little consideration to it when choosing classes. When asked who advised against taking Heritage, the paper reported that the most frequent response was "Millsaps upperclassmen or former students."

But Padgett (1993) remembered that "the students who enrolled continued to be some of the best and they evaluated the course as worthwhile, so we felt our experiments were working; by the fall of 1971 our first class--now seniors--had begun to appreciate the integration of their studies and the skills in reasoning they had developed and they encouraged their entering friends to risk the course, and our enrollments surged to eighty-eight that fall. . . and by the next fall the enrollment rose to ninety-seven" (p. 7).

From the beginning, the faculty noticed the camaraderie that developed among the Heritage students despite their grumbling. This was important in two ways, Padgett (1993) later reflected: "First, that esprit carried them through a demanding course of study (especially the first year when we had to admit that we had asked too much reading of freshmen and set about trimming the syllabus to more reasonable proportions as we went along) and, second, it left most of them with a sense of accomplishment that made them eventually some of our best recruiters in later years." By that time, Padgett recalled, 'We. . . were providing study and discussion guides to focus the assignments more effectively" (p. 7).

Padgett (1993) believes it was probably during the third year that the Heritage Program came of age: "It was during that year's fall semester final exam that I entered AC-215 [the Heritage lecture hall] and descended its [nine] tiers (its circles?) to find inscribed in Gothic script on the blackboard: 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here' (the motto over Hell's gate in Dante's Inferno). I knew then that the Heritage Program had arrived. We had passed through despair and self-pity to wit and irony."

[. . .]

A search undertaken to secure a full-time director tapped Richard Freis, who came to Millsaps from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was finishing his Ph.D. and teaching in the Division of Interdisciplinary and General Studies. In his midyear report on the Heritage Program, Freis wrote, "I was a member of the policy committee of that Division, and was engaged in a study of interdisciplinary programs throughout the United States. I was therefore in a position to recognize the superb judgment that had gone into the conception of the Heritage program, in its general structure and the details of its syllabus; I was not and am not acquainted with a more skillfully conceived freshman interdisciplinary program anywhere in the country."

The Hardin grant allowed Freis and Heritage staff members to spend the summer of 1975 reviewing policies and procedures of the program. Freis (1975) wrote, "It was because I had the opportunity for such an 'internship' period during the summer months of 1975, and thus was given the time to study the needs of the program, that the transition from Professor Padgett's directorship to my own occurred so smoothly" (p. 2). Attention was given to the syllabus, the coordination of staff meetings of the core faculty, and the improvement of student morale.

Padgett (1993) recalled that

Freis's most important contribution, as I see it now, was providing a philosophic and thematic core for the program, a vision and coherence gradually developed over the years; this vision doubtless grew out of his own classical heritage and his early experience of interdisciplinary work in his undergraduate years at St. John's of Annapolis, but it was a product of his own poetic and spiritual imagination (which were both broad and deep) brooding on the works and events and issues. He is a poet and a charismatic teacher and he deployed those powers upon the students and the vigorous young faculty who joined him in those early years. (pp. 9-10)

Padgett's evaluation was correct. More than anyone else connected with Heritage, other than Padgett himself, Freis gave direction that guaranteed the future success of the program. In annual reports, foundation proposals, and interviews in the college and local Jackson newspapers, Freis successfully articulated the philosophical and pedagogical underpinnings of the Heritage Program. In The Heritage Program (1980), Freis observed that "interdisciplinary programs are notoriously unstable." He felt that successful interdisciplinary programs had common principles: clarity of precise goals and rationale; detailed planning of each semester's syllabus; coordination of and consultation with the core faculty on a regular basis; constant monitoring, periodic review, and revision when needed; support of students; careful faculty selection; and faculty development.

Freis addressed the question of student morale:

An interdisciplinary course such as Heritage requires a great deal from freshmen students and potentially places considerable pressures on them . . .We have tried to make sure that the students know from the start and at every point what is expected of them; we have tried to present a predictable framework within which the students can take responsibility for arranging their efforts and managing their time; we have tried to make the examinations central and consistent and the grading standards consistent between the various staff members; we have tried to make the presentations of material as clear as possible, both intellectually and in terms of the technical aspects of presentation; we have tried. to display the interrelationships between the various subjects which the program treats . . . (pp. 3-4)

Freis further articulated Heritage's task of imparting intellectual skills to its students:

Heritage seeks to train the students in the skill of synthesis, the bringing together of diverse aspects of a subject into a coherent whole, a large, integrated picture, in which both the similarities and differences of the related elements are given their due; the skill of analysis, the breaking down of a subject or work into its constituent parts and governing principles; and the skill of intellectual imagination or empathy, the ability to go out of oneself into a culture, work, or situation which is initially foreign, to see and experience it in its own terms, from the inside. There are also many subordinate skills, such as self-responsibility, efficient assimilation of diverse types of material and practice of diverse modes of learning, which the Program addresses and tries to inculcate. (p. 4)

[. . .]

Reform and Change

After sixteen years and three directors, the time seemed appropriate for a review of the program by the Heritage staff, assisted by an outside consultant. Paul Lacey, a professor of English with extensive experience in interdisciplinary teaching at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, came to Millsaps in January 1985.

Lacey interviewed all Heritage directors and acting directors, all ten current and past faculty participants, and students (those currently enrolled in Heritage and upperclass students who had taken Heritage), and he had extended conversations with Dean Robert H. King. He found that the goals and outcomes of the program were "well understood and agreed upon by students and staff." The students with whom he had conversations "looking back on their experience stress that it was demanding, rigorous, a great deal of work. . . They learned how to write, how to make connections between works and concepts, how to synthesize large amounts of material" (Lacey, 1985, p. 1-2).

Lacey observed this about the faculty:

The faculty speak of the intense pressure they feel to achieve both broad coverage and depth of reading in the course. They are concerned that the parent departments of the Program should receive appropriate emphasis. Meeting these goals requires that faculty be skillful lecturers--able to condense great amounts of background, to "popularize" ideas without trivializing them, to present ideas cogently and lucidly. The lectures, preeminently, need to demonstrate the arts of analysis and synthesis. Teaching the course, by general agreement, is intellectually exciting--'the most exciting intellectual enterprise" of his life, according to one faculty member; the source of "fantastic intellectual development" for another. The course has allowed its staff to "continue with the unfinished business of being educated." (Lacey, 1985, p. 2)

To be a successful lecturer in Heritage, all agreed, one needed to be both a specialist and a generalist and to have the collegial support of the other faculty members. Lacey continued:

The work of the course is both draining and anxiety-producing for faculty. In describing this experience, faculty tend to emphasize the stress of lecturing: one is required to communicate ideas to students of widely varying abilities and to do so before colleagues with the highest teaching and intellectual standards. One has only a single lecture to deal with a topic; each lecture must be a model of lucidity and an exciting performance. Both faculty and students said that the high energy and enthusiasm of the lecturers were essential for overcoming the passivity of listeners which occurs in any large lecture course. Students cite as an important value of the course that faculty are lecturing on their favorite subjects. Faculty report a stimulation for them in being allowed to develop new interests by preparing lectures in those areas. Given all that rides on each lecture, it is no wonder that, even after a particular lecture has been well-honed over several years, it is common for the lecturer to have trouble sleeping the night before it is to be delivered. Nor is it surprising that staff, while remaining enthusiastic about the Program and their own development through it, report needing to be rotated out after three years, to overcome the exhaustion which it produces. (Lacey, 1985, p. 2)

Lacey's assessment, which confirmed the experiences of Heritage participants, included general recommendations for improving syllabi, lectures, discussions, examinations, and the use of guest lecturers.

When Mallette resumed the directorship in 1988, he fostered the development of the fine arts presentations so that they were more fully integrated into the weekly schedule. Women writers and gender issues were added to the syllabus. Mallette introduced the first Heritage reading anthology when, as Padgett (1993) said, the "Age of Xerox" arrived" (p. 11).

Padgett (1993) further commented on this decade:

Throughout the eighties Freis and Mallette were also concerned with expanding the scope of the course to focus more on recent history and even to consider the future; after all, the original Heritage course had been designed to be followed later by a Twentieth Century Issues course, so we had given relatively little attention to Modernism and contemporary history. By the eighties that neglect was growing more and more obvious. By the nineties the calls for multicultural studies and greater diversity in curricula were being heard as well (pp. 10-11).

During the 1980s several events converged to create an atmosphere of reform and change. . . The Millsaps Writing Program, which encouraged "writing across the curriculum," was established with the hiring of a director in 1985 and an assistant to the director in 1988. Intensive week-long writing workshops for faculty were held the week following graduation in 1987, 1988, and 1989. In 1989 the faculty adopted a "writing across the curriculum" graduation requirement that stipulated that students must take a writing-intensive course (in any department) in their junior or senior year. Beginning in the fall of 1989, freshmen and sophomore students were required to assemble a writing portfolio for assessment by faculty members for writing proficiency. . .

Comprehensive Curriculum Review

As a result of the intellectual climate created during this period and in keeping with recommendations of Millsaps's Long Range Planning Commission in 1985, a faculty task force began a comprehensive review of the curriculum in 1988 and reported to the faculty in the fall of 1989. In the spring of 1990 the faculty elected six of its members to a curriculum review committee to consider several possible curriculum models. The status of Heritage was never an issue in these discussions. In February 1991, the faculty voted by a two-to-one majority to institute a new core curriculum to be implemented in the fall of 1992. There was general agreement that the major impetus for changing the curriculum was the intellectual climate created at Millsaps during the 1980s that emphasized active and collaborative learning.

A central feat of the new curriculum was its interdisciplinary approach to learning, something that Heritage had accomplished for more than twenty years. A memorandum from the newly created Core Council in August 1995 reminded the faculty that the Heritage Program "has been a premier program of the Millsaps curriculum. Its long and successful history of interdisciplinary teaching was the model for the new curriculum's revision of the Arts and Letters Core." When the Curriculum Revision Committee proposed ten core topics courses to replace the traditional general education curriculum, Heritage and the humanities courses (Core 2-5) "were seen as two ways to the same goal, with both programs providing different emphases--Heritage offering students a comprehensive and global overview of the human narrative and Core 2-5 offering students in-depth treatments of selected moments of this story."

Each Core 2-5 interdisciplinary topics course has a focus in at least one area: history, literature, religion, philosophy, or fine arts. Students must choose four courses from at least three of these areas and from all the historical periods (ancient, premodern, modern, contemporary). Team teaching is encouraged. Each course has a particular theme; the primary goal is not to transmit broad areas of knowledge (as in a traditional course) but rather to enable students to develop intellectual skills and abilities for critical thinking and proficient writing.

What are the skills and abilities that the Millsaps faculty believes are essential to be liberally educated? The following core abilities are listed in the college catalogue and have appeared in each Heritage syllabus since fall 1992:

  • Reasoning--the ability to think logically and reflectively, to analyze critically and constructively
  • Communication--the ability to express one's thoughts and feelings coherently and persuasively through written and oral communication and to work effectively in collaboration with others
  • Historical Consciousness--the ability to understand the achievements, problems and challenges of the present with perspectives gained from a study of the past
  • Aesthetic Judgment--the ability to understand and appreciate creative responses to the world and to develop one's own modes of creative expression
  • Global and Multi-Cultural Awareness--the ability to understand and appreciate a variety of social and cultural perspectives
  • Valuing and Decision-Making--the ability to understand and appreciate differing moral viewpoints; to make carefully considered, well-reasoned decisions; and to make a mature assessment of one's own abilities, beliefs and values

Implementing the new curriculum made great demands on faculty members who were teaching core courses. They now had to design new courses, work with colleagues, and learn about fields other than the ones in which they were trained. But as was reported in the college's proposal to the Knight Foundation in 1991 (pp. 8-9), "Some of the faculty have already had extensive experience with collaborative teaching through their participation in Heritage. They have worked with colleagues from other disciplines in the selection of readings, the preparation of discussion guides, and the setting of examinations."

When the faculty adopted the new curriculum, it included the charge that the Heritage Program become global in its scope. David Davis, a historian who taught world civilization and African and Near Eastern history, was named director of Heritage in 1992 with the task of making that transformation. Davis worked with a faculty committee to implement changes.

Important changes were made in the early 1990s. A structural change added a discussion session and eliminated one lecture per week, so there were now three discussion sessions and four lectures. This change added to the faculty workload: ten hours in six discussion sessions and four lectures plus one hour for the weekly staff meeting. An ideological change occurred with the addition of a global and multicultural perspective along with a name change to "Heritage of the West in World Perspective." Short writing assignments of one to three pages per week, a longer paper of eight to twelve pages, and four unit examinations per semester were required. Heritage students and professors would engage in e-mail conferences outside class, and the Heritage web page [http://www.millsaps.edu/heritage] provided online readings for each semester plus links to other sites.

To encourage active learning and responsibility for one's own learning, several new exercises were added: an autobiographical paper, 'What is my heritage?"; questions for discussion sessions; short response papers after presentations; historical simulation games; weekly writings; major semester papers; peer reviews of drafts; and projects in which student teams create Heritage presentations and plan discussion sessions.

In spring 1995 the Core Council conducted an assessment of the Core Curriculum and then invited Barbara Lawrence, the director of Institutional Research at Idaho State University, to visit the campus as a consultant. The Heritage Program, an integral component of the Core Curriculum, was included in this assessment. After an intensive and productive assessment, the conclusion was that the core curriculum "was on track," true to the vision the faculty adopted in 1991. There were, however, a number of ways in which the curriculum could be strengthened. Noting that Core 2-5 offered "a very challenging course of study," the council observed that "when students in focus meetings were asked to comment on the Millsaps core curriculum as a whole, they often were quite positive, particularly when they compared their educational experience in the core with the education of their friends in other institutions. There were elements they wanted us to do better--but they generally did not feel oppressed or burdened by the demands of the core curriculum" (Millsaps Core Council, 1995, p. 7).

All agreed that the Core 2-5 option allowed students more time to work on writing and thinking skills begun in Core 1, "Introduction to Liberal Studies," required of all freshmen. Core 2-5 students have two years to engage in the intensive writing assignments of their classes. Heritage "cannot in a single year, allow students the time to mature as writers." The council noted that the Heritage staff was aware of this difference and that "current [Heritage] students have commented how much more carefully they are writing and thinking" (Millsaps Core Council, 1995, p. 4).

Referring to faculty discussions and workshops at Millsaps in the 1980s on critical thinking and learning stages and styles, the council sounded a somber note: "A large number of the faculty who were part of this movement are now in their fifties or nearing retirement, and several leaders have left the College for other reasons. But the College has not fully initiated the younger faculty into this culture of pedagogy or made pedagogical innovation important to them" (Millsaps Core Council, 1995, p. 6). It then recommended that faculty be sent to off-campus workshops on critical thinking, learning stages and styles, writing, and pedagogy. Pedagogical development should be supported through faculty development grants, and efforts by younger faculty to bring creative methods into their teaching should be rewarded in faculty evaluation. This, of course, would include Heritage faculty.

In April 1998 the second stage of the review of the Core Curriculum was completed at the request of Dean Richard Smith and the Core Council. Heritage director Steven Smith and the Heritage staff submitted an exhaustive review of the Heritage Program to the faculty. They discussed the advantages and disadvantages of Heritage and the questions that had been raised in the course of the curriculum review process.

Advantages included some obvious benefits. Heritage provides a "big picture" of the humanities that allows freshmen to "make major discoveries about non-Western cultures." The constant rotation of new and returning faculty into Heritage offers invaluable interaction with colleagues in other disciplines. "Since the presenters usually cannot even pretend to 'cover' their subjects, they instead make focused arguments that the audience is invited to assess critically as regards both the conclusions drawn and the procedures followed." There is time during two semesters to give personal attention to students and to include "desirable extras" such as the co-curricular cultural events (Millsaps Core Council, 1998, p. 13). These advantages account in large measure for the continuing popularity of Heritage.

Disadvantages of Heritage were equally apparent. Because Heritage cannot deal with any field as well as Core 2-5 topics courses do, it "pushes students to excel in generalizing more than in looking closely or thinking strictly." Since few faculty are trained to teach non-Western cultures, this part of Heritage suffers. Because of the intensity of preparing Heritage lectures, especially those involving non-Western issues, and of the burden of keeping up with the heavy reading assignments, it has been challenging to recruit new faculty to take on these responsibilities. Heritage is also extremely demanding for students, and many are overwhelmed by the course expectations. As a result, some students lose the momentum necessary to sustain the work. Many resort to doing the "minimum necessary for a respectable grade," and "as for the number of activities involved, there are so many that Heritage often comes to be experienced more as a grind than as an adventure." Smith added, "Over the years, Heritage faculty have wrestled with the issues addressed above. Some of the disadvantages may yet be further ameliorated; certain disadvantages may have to be accepted as trade-offs, if Millsaps is to retain a program of this sort" (Millsaps Core Council, 1998, pp. 13-14).

The findings by the Heritage faculty were echoed in various ways in the anonymous student evaluations gathered at the end of semesters. Since the beginning, students have been given opportunities to evaluate the Heritage Program. In addition, they can offer criticisms, comments, and suggestions anonymously throughout the semester. These assessments are kept only for the previous two years. In the 1997 and 1998 evaluations, the comments ranged from extreme satisfaction to extreme disappointment. In general, the discussion sections had the highest praise from students, who applauded the closeness, the focus on the interchange of ideas and active learning, the purpose of Heritage, and their own intellectual growth. The following comments are from students who rated Heritage "excellent" or "good":

This course has challenged my traditional views in a manner that made me see different perspectives and challenged my ability to present my perspectives clearly with logical arguments to back them up.

It has taught me to think in new ways. This course has truly been a benefit to me. I see how all the disciplines are connected and can't really be separated.

I have never learned so much in a course. I have learned more about subjects I didn't like and have come to enjoy. I feel as if I have truly gotten the complete liberal arts education through Heritage. It has really made me think.

It has challenged me to think at a different level.

My greatest reward was all the new knowledge acquired and how I was able to apply it to my life.

Nevertheless, many students complained about such matters as the overwhelming workload, the inconsistency of grading they perceived among Heritage section leaders (a persistent issue that appeared early in Heritage's history), and the early-morning Thursday class, among others. The following are comments from students who rated Heritage "average" or "poor":

This course tries to cover way too much material way too fast so that we only touch on various events in history. [The most rewarding aspect of the course for this student was "the fact that I don't have to take any more history when this class is over."]

Heritage dictates your schedule. Some days we had discussions, lecture, and a required extracurricular event at night--while having to read more for the next day. Too much required of us!

I have not been pleased with Heritage. I feel like I am being questioned for my religious beliefs and often times I feel the faculty mocks us for our faith. Being at a Methodist school, I don't think my Christian beliefs should be constantly criticized. My faith was questioned/ridiculed and I found it to be a boring class. I would not tell anyone to take Heritage in the future.

[. . .]

A persistent concern is that students who choose the core topics alternative rather than Heritage may not "develop comparable knowledge and skills." Associate Dean Judy Page addressed this issue in the core review of April 1998: "Heritage teachers remind us all that even though Heritage is structured as an historical narrative, there are necessarily many gaps and omissions in coverage. Heritage also includes the kinds of in-depth exercises and textual analyses that core topics courses require." Actually, offering two ways to meet core requirements is an advantage: "Some students benefit from the fast-paced year-long course and others from the slower assimilation of core topics. Heritage cannot accomplish everything in one year that is structured into core topics in two years."

[. . .]


The fall 1998 Heritage syllabus introduces the purpose of the Heritage Program to the members of the Millsaps Class of 2002 who will graduate in the twenty-first century: "As you better comprehend the interwoven dynamics shaping the world we have inherited, you should begin to view yourself as an active and essential participant in shaping our future world. Heritage will provide a variety of learning situations in which you can develop the skills that will empower you as a discerning consumer of information, sensitive leader, and responsible citizen in the global community. As an essential part of your liberal arts education, and as an integral part of your core experience, Heritage will help you develop skills essential for life-long learning."

No doubt the same sort of challenge was issued to the 1968 Millsaps freshmen who were members of the first Heritage class. In the words of the Millsaps Statement of Purpose that was current when the Heritage Program began, Millsaps College sought to give students "breadth and depth of understanding of civilization and culture," to broaden their perspectives, to enrich their personalities, and to enable them "to think and act intelligently amid the complexities of the modern world" (Millsaps College Catalog, 1968-69, p. 4). A generation later these words still ring true, and the Heritage Program has played a major role in keeping this pledge.


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