Board of Trustees Approves New Major in Neuroscience and Minor in Dance


When the Board of Trustees met earlier this month, they approved a new Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience that will be added to the College of Arts and Sciences curriculum. Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system and how it regulates behavior. It is an exciting and challenging interdisciplinary field in which scientists share an interest in studying the anatomy, physiology, genetics, and function of the nervous system. Psychology and Biology have been the traditional disciplines that share this interest, but fields such as Communication Sciences, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, and a variety of other fields are also intensely interested in the field. The new major will also engage students in a broad range of methods of inquiry, ranging from laboratory methods associated with basic “bench” sciences such as biology to clinical methods associated with the study of medical disorders or disease states. The neuroscience major at UVM was designed as a collaborative effort of faculty in Biology, Psychology, and Communication Sciences and will be joining ranks with a strong neuroscience graduate program and an active, energetic neuroscience research community within the university.

The neuroscience major will give students opportunities to prepare for a wide variety of post-graduation career options, including graduate study, medical school and other health-care options, laboratory technician positions, and science writing. The critical features of the new major are driven by the nature of the field of neuroscience and by the unique opportunities provided by existing course offerings and faculty expertise at UVM. Required courses are divided into five major categories. During the first and second years, students will take courses in biology, psychology, math, and chemistry similar to those of other life science majors, and a new introductory course in neuroscience. This course, NSCI 110: Exploring Neuroscience, with an accompanying lab, is being offered for the first time this semester. It is designed to give students an overview of the field of neuroscience along with background knowledge in topics such as neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, neuropharmacology, brain injury, arousal mechanisms, higher cortical functions such as language and memory, and diseases of the nervous system that can compromise brain function. Students will also take courses in experimental design and statistics to show students methods of inquiry that are key to basic and applied areas of neuroscience. The fourth group of advanced courses is the core of the neuroscience major. Students will take three of four 200-level courses currently offered by four different departments (Biology, Psychology, Communication Sciences, and Anatomy and Neurobiology) and a new advanced neuroscience course (NSCI 270: Diseases of the Nervous System). NSCI 270 is intended to be a senior level, seminar-style capstone course in which students bring together information learned in other courses for an in-depth study of disease states of the human nervous system. The fifth group of courses gives student options for additional advanced study in behavioral/cognitive and cell/molecular areas of neuroscience and opportunities to conduct research.

This curriculum evolved from several sources. The first was a comprehensive review of the curricula of 27 neuroscience majors offered by colleges and universities across the nation and a review of graduate school requirements for 15 graduate programs in Neuroscience. The proposed curriculum was then presented to the faculty of several science departments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Neuroscience Graduate Program for review and comment. In the end, the curriculum for the new major is generally stronger and broader than most neuroscience majors at other institutions. Along with strengths in the basic sciences, students have the opportunity to take several courses in Communication Sciences that are not available at other institutions. This will give our students more knowledge about and a greater appreciation for the more clinically oriented areas of Neuroscience.

Those interested in the new major should contact Dr. Gene Delay (Department of Biology,, Dr. John Green (Department of Psychology,, Dr. Michael Cannizzaro (Department of Communication Sciences,, CAS student services personnel, or faculty in Psychology or Biology.


The Dance Program, still relatively new in the College of Arts and Sciences, continues to grow, providing valuable creative, scholarly, and performance opportunities to students at UVM. Officially approved by the Board of Trustees at the October 2009 meeting, a new dance minor will be available to all students beginning fall 2010. The minor consists of required courses in dance technique, history, and composition, as well as elective choices. This is sure to fill a gap in the fine arts options for students, especially for those wanting to major in something other than dance, but still pursue a course of study in dance. The Dance Program is also very happy to announce that Clare Byrne, previously a part-time lecturer in dance, will move into a full-time position in fall 2010. An experienced dance artist and educator, the program is fortunate to have someone of Byrne's caliber. Course offerings will be expanded and students will have even more access to her expertise and guidance.

UVM is an institutional member of the American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA), an organization that supports university dance by holding regional conferences each year where students participate in master classes and performances. This year, 13 UVM dance students attended the ACDFA New England Region Conference at Boston University, February 11-14. Four UVM dances were performed for dance professionals, faculty, and students from New England (and beyond). Two student choreographed dances were presented. Meghan Burgess, a UVM senior with an individually designed minor in dance, performed an original solo. The dance, titled Quickie, was selected as one of the best dances of the conference and was performed a second time in a special "Gala Concert" on the final day. This prestigious honor put UVM in the company of dances from other campuses with long-standing undergraduate and graduate programs in dance. It is the second time a student work from UVM has made the Gala Concert at ACDFA. It is a testament to the level of creativity and dedication to dance that exists at UVM.

Those interested in the new dance minor should contact Assistant Professor Paul Besaw, Department of Music,