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Press Release

Bard College Introduces Innovative Science Program for First-Year Students

Mark Primoff

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Bard College will launch its Citizen Science Program, an intensive introduction to the sciences for all first-year undergraduate students, beginning in January 2011. Stemming from Bard’s recent efforts to revitalize science education within the context of the liberal arts, the innovative program is designed to take science learning beyond the laboratory and give students the tools, attitudes, and motivation to use science and mathematics concepts in their daily lives. The Citizen Science Program, required of all students in their first year at Bard, will be held over a three-week intersession period each January.

“In this nation, even first-class undergraduate institutions fail to adequately educate the nonscientist in matters concerning science,” says Leon Botstein, Bard College president. “This failure has become particularly acute as an increasing number of significant issues facing the country and world—including health and the environment—relate to matters of scientific analysis and policy. An entering first-year student should find a new and different way of training to be a scientist or engineer, and the undecided first-year student should be required to confront science in a way that could lead to a radical shift in interest and career.”

Modeled after Bard’s well-established Language and Thinking Program—a rigorous three-week introduction to the liberal arts conducted each August and required of all incoming students that fosters interdisciplinary study, innovative pedagogy, and writing across genres to cultivate habits of thoughtful reading and discussion, clear articulation, accurate self-critique, and productive collaboration—the Citizen Science Program will further enhance Bard’s first-year curriculum and provide students with critical scientific facility as well as technical skills that can be applied across disciplines.

The Citizen Science Program will examine topics that are not typically explored in the course work of a traditional science major. The theme of the program in its inaugural year will be: How do we reduce the global burden of infectious disease? Students will examine this question in a sequence of three four-day rotations, each characterized by different concepts (such as treatment, intervention, and exposure) and methodological approaches (such as experimentation, modeling, and correlation). In one rotation, students will explore how infections can be treated. Another will explore what intervention—such as vaccination, treatment, reduced exposure—is the most effective at reducing transmission of an infection. The remaining rotation will explore what factor best explains a person’s probability of exposure to tuberculosis. Each rotation will follow the same sequence: exploration on the first day, investigation on the second, analysis on the third, and communication on the fourth. After completing the course, students should be able to characterize the major scientific issues underlying the solution to a global problem; articulate the relative strengths and weaknesses of models, experiments, and comparative approaches for answering scientific questions; and describe the roles of exploration, investigation, analysis, and communication in conducting science. As in the Language and Thinking Program, no credits or grades will be assigned.

As part of the Citizen Science Program, Bard will host policy makers, scientists, and media and industry representatives, among others from Bard and beyond, to speak on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and participate in Saturday field trips and Sunday breakfasts. The program will culminate in a poster session and conference, with plenary sessions and guest speakers, during which students will make presentations.

The Citizen Science Program is part of Bard’s ongoing efforts to improve science education and integrate the sciences with other academic endeavors in liberal arts colleges. Since 1999, Bard has substantially expanded its Division of Science, Mathematics, and Computing by bringing in gifted science faculty; adding new programs in computer science and cognitive science, as well as improving its biology and mathematics offerings; revamping its distribution requirements to include at least one laboratory course in physical or life sciences and one in mathematics, computing, statistics, or logic; forging a relationship with The Rockefeller University, a graduate institute in New York City dedicated primarily to research in biomedical sciences; and opening the state-of-the-art, 70,000-square-foot Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Center for Science and Computation.


Since 1860, Bard College, located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, has maintained a commitment to liberal arts and sciences education. The College offers the bachelor of arts degree with majors in more than 50 academic programs in four divisions: Arts; Languages and Literature; Science, Mathematics, and Computing; and Social Studies; as well as graduate degrees in fine arts; curatorial studies; the history of the decorative arts, design, and culture; environmental policy; teaching; vocal arts; and conducting. In addition, it offers a dual-degree program in which students receive a B.S. in economics and finance and a B.A. in another academic field. The Bard College Conservatory of Music offers a dual-degree program earning students a bachelor’s degree in music and a B.A. in a field other than music. Bard has developed a new vision of the liberal arts college as a central body surrounded by significant institutes and programs that strengthen its curriculum. For more information, visit or e-mail



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This event was last updated on 04-30-2010