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Colloquium history

Students were motivated to create their own course, “for students, by students,” at a time when activism was at the forefront of societal, educational, and political change in our country.

In the early 1970’s, freshmen interested in biology-related majors were admitted to the University of Minnesota through the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), and would subsequently transfer into the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) at the start of their junior year. Biology majors were feeling a bit lost in CLA and wanted more say in biology curriculum. Undergraduates were also looking for ways to connect with others that shared their interests, and to learn more about biology careers at an early stage of their academic experience. (CBS did not admit freshman students until 1997, and the freshman Nature of Life program was initiated in the mid-2000's.)

In 1971, the CBS Educational Policy and Administrative Committee's supported the Colloquium proposal and allocated approximately $11,000 to fund the first year of the program. The first Colloquium class was offered fall quarter 1972 when about 50 students and Student Leaders participated in the inaugural course. It has been offered every quarter and (since 1999) semester since then.

Goals for the program then and now include:

  • To expose students to the ever expanding range of biology disciplines and careers.
  • To recognize the relationship of biology to humanities, physical sciences, mathematics and other facets of our culture.
  • To encourage and provide opportunities for students to explore their own interests and to formulate plans of study based upon those interests.
  • To encourage beginning students to participate in the research enterprise through the Project option.
  • To develop the leadership skills of the Student Leaders and Coordinators and provide continuity of leadership growth.
  • To promote out-of-the-classroom activities that foster academic- social integration and make the University a “smaller place.”
  • To provide a supportive environment that allows community building.

Founding faculty advisors include:

  • Martin Dworkin
  • Frederick Forro, Jr.
  • Eville Gorham
  • Alan Hooper
  • Palmer Rogers
  • Val Woodward

Previous and current faculty advisors include:

  • David F. Parmelee
  • James Underhill
  • John Tester
  • Albert Frankel
  • Velta Sparnins
  • Ken Corbin
  • James Waddell
  • Clifford Steer
  • Kathryn Hanna
  • Carolyn Silflow