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Spring 2003
The Challenge
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FRESHMAN OPPORTUNITY

IN THE FIVE YEARS since it was established, UCLA’s General Education Cluster Program has become an important factor for many students and their parents when it comes time to make the choice between UCLA and other universities.

“Parents have told me that the program essentially turned their decision in our favor as they and their children considered UCLA and other schools like Berkeley and Stanford,” says Judith L. Smith, vice provost for undergraduate education and, as of July 1, interim executive dean of the College of Letters and Science. “They think the clusters are a wonderful opportunity.”

The clusters are yearlong, collaboratively taught, interdisciplinary courses that focus on topics of timely importance. Among the courses offered this year, taught by some of UCLA’s most distinguished faculty, have been “Towards a World Economy: The Perils and Promise of Globalization,” “Interracial Dynamics in American Culture, Society and Literature” and “Evolution of the Cosmos and Life.”

They have been a hit with most students. Wrote one freshman on a survey questionnaire after taking a cluster course: “I was exposed to so many new ideas and forced to argue my thoughts on controversial topics such as race, gender and sexuality. This course definitely promoted education and understanding between a melting pot of people.”

The main goals of the program — providing students with an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving; offering small seminar classes to freshmen; developing a sense of academic community; and enticing some of the university’s best faculty to teach freshmen — presented some tough challenges, Smith says.

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