Given the prompt: “Investigate some aspect of Carleton’s history using techniques we have used in class this term,” Jocelyn and I had many ideas, ranging from mapping the hometowns of students, to analyzing the subject matter discussed by convocation speakers. However one area that interested both of us was the course offerings at Carleton, more specifically: what has been taught at Carleton and why? As it would be an extremely broad project to study the changes in all of Carleton’s course offerings since 1867, we decided to focus on a specific genre of courses: science.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, okay so they want to get to the root of the decision-making behind what is being taught at Carleton, but why the science departments? Why not be more specific and analyze a single science department, like biology, or why not choose a different department all together like english, history, or math? Let’s start with the first question. We chose science, rather than another discipline because science is a field that is constantly changing as new discoveries are made, and new technologies are introduced; we knew that there would be large shifts in how science has been taught at Carleton since 1867. Additionally, we decided to look at the “sciences” holistically, rather than choosing a specific discipline within the field, because we wanted to study what areas of science have gained and fallen out of the academic discourse over time.

You may also be wondering: how did the researchers determine what constitutes as a “science” class? For the purposes of our study, Jocelyn and I decided to exclude all “soft” science courses, such as psychology and sociology. Additionally, while early in Carleton’s history, before the creation of the acronym “STEM,” both math and geography were grouped with the sciences, we decided to exclude these departments from our data set, as they are both areas of study that most students today would consider not consider “science” classes.

After developing our initial research question: “How and why have the course offerings within the science departments at Carleton changed since 1867?”, Jocelyn and I decided to set two specific goals in order to answer this question:

  • Determine the major shifts and important dates in the transformation of Carleton’s science departments from 1867 to 2019.
    • Present this information via an interactive timeline.
  • Analyze how the science course offerings have changed over time; at what point did specific departments emerge? Are there departments that are growing? Shrinking? Why?
    • Present this information via interactive graphs

To learn more about this project, or to contact the researchers, check out our About page.