Sophomore research seminar leaves the curriculum for class of 2026

Bianca Ring, Opinions Editor

Last week, I sat down for the first class of my spring term Sophomore Research Seminar, Colonialism In Africa, taught by Professor Brian Peterson. Professor Peterson informed us that next year would be the last year that an SRS would be part of Union College’s curriculum. I had heard that most SRS classes required students to devote a lot of work and time in order to do well, but I had also been told that it was a very helpful introduction to conducting research at a college level. To hear a more informed opinion on the subject, I asked Professor Peterson his thoughts on the removal of SRS classes. He responded with the following email, with my questions in italics and his answers in regular print.

What do you think of Union’s decision to remove the SRS requirement from our curriculum?

Personally, I thought that the SRS program played an important role in the overall curriculum and was disappointed to see it ended.

Do you know what led to the decision to remove the SRS requirement?

My sense is that the committees involved in making this change think that courses focused on research skills should be taught within specific disciplines or majors.

What, according to you, is the most important aspect of the SRS you’re teaching this term?

I think it’s the fact that students research and write their own research papers, and also have the opportunity to engage in discussions in a small group environment with others pursuing different majors. It lends itself to a wide range of perspectives, and therefore possibilities for research topics.

Do you think removing this from the curriculum will make learning how to properly research a topic more difficult in other classes?

It’s difficult to say. The idea of the WAC-R requirement is that students will fulfill this research requirement within their respective field or major. As always, things will be gained, but perhaps something will also be lost.

From a professor’s point of view, it seems that we might be losing a valuable part of our college’s curriculum. To get another side of the story, I asked Will Grimwood ‘24, who completed his SRS requirement this year, for his opinion on the impending change. His responses, again, are in print, while my questions are in italics.

What did you think of your SRS?

My SRS was an extremely formative time for me academically as well as socially… It was very much an opportunity to learn a new skill, as well as creating a meaningful relationship with people I probably wouldn’t have outside of my major or my minor endorsements. I still have a really good connection with my SRS professor, and I have made some really good social connections with other students in that class.

I think the plan is for after this to end up getting the research aspect from your specific major. Do you think that kids in the class of 2026 will be missing out by having this curriculum change?

So one of the main reasons I looked at Union as a college was for the ability to diversify, I’m not necessarily here to just be a STEM major, I’m also here to dabble in my humanities and arts, and having something outside your specific major gives you not only new opportunities and new ideas, but just that extra breadth of knowledge that i think draws people to liberal arts colleges. 

Grimwood’s praises of the SRS program seem to be exactly what Professor Peterson had hoped students would get out of the class. It appears the Sophomore Research Seminar will be missed by students and professors alike.