UGS dean candidate Selmer Bringsjord speaks with students


Becca Gamache

UGS Dean candidate Selmer Bringsjord meets with a group of students Tuesday afternoon in the Main Building. The student panel was able to give Bringsjord insight to the innerworkings of the UGS program. 

Amanda Voeller

The search for a new dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies continued Tuesday with a visit from Selmer Bringsjord, one of the five candidates under consideration for the position. Bringsjord met with students to share ideas for improvements to the school in a round-table discussion hosted by the school’s Search Committee.

Bringsjord, the chair of the Department of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said he would like the School of Undergraduate Studies to provide more funding for general research in science and other disciplines like creative writing.

Bringsjord said he thinks the signature courses are high quality, but professors should inform students of the principles behind the courses.

“The ability to communicate extemporaneously in person directly with other human beings without notes, without technology, is something that every single student here is going to need to have starting right away with that first interview,” Bringsjord said.

Bringsjord said Magellan’s Circles, discussions between undergraduate studies students and professionals about major and career options, are inexpensive, and he sees room for growth in the program.

“That’s the kind of thing that still has a lot of impact in my life as a lifelong learner,” Bringsjord said. “The opportunity to meet with someone who’s spectacularly successful in their domain and their field in an informal setting … to meet with people in that environment is just a great way to augment one’s education … I still love doing that.” 

Undergraduate studies students feel pressure to choose a major when they’re surrounded by people whose majors are decided, according to undeclared sophomore Stephanie Reyna.

“A lot of parents assume that you’re wasting time being undeclared and not choosing something right away,” English junior Natalie Arevalo said. “I don’t think that they realize that if you did choose something, you’re most likely going to change.”

Electrical engineering junior Kartik Subramanian said being in undergraduate studies has given him the time to figure out what really interests him, and he is now a mentor for First-year Interest Groups in order to help students become aware and take advantage of the resources the school offers.

“I like the general way the undeclared student is being handled, and that’s part of UGS’s misson, but what I don’t see is the part of the mission that pertains to programs that by definition cut across schools and departments,” Bringsjord said.