Revelle College Keeps It Old School

There is an old joke about Revelle College. Ask a Revelle professor, “”How many Revelle faculty does it take to change a light bulb?”” and the professor will answer “”Change? What’s that?””

Emmanuel Carballo/Guardian

Revelle College, the first college at UCSD, has changed little since its founding back in 1964. Back then, Roger Revelle and the original UCSD faculty believed in a well-rounded education where students obtain a deep knowledge of science, math, literature, language and social studies, and those values still drive the stringent requirements of the college today.

According to Revelle College Provost Daniel Wulbert, some students in the past have been discouraged by such an overall approach, preferring to focus exclusively on their majors and avoid hard work in extra subjects. But now, Wulbert said, Revelle College is seeing a return to the old educational values the college represents. More parents and students are attracted to the college’s philosophy, even though the students are a little more hesitant because they will actually be the ones completing the rigorous coursework.

“”There is something there for almost everyone to dislike,”” Wulbert said.

Revelle College stresses useful knowledge of a subject, so the requirements go past just a cursory overview. Students must take the three-quarter calculus series as opposed to just any grab-bag assortment of mathematics. They also must take five quarters of experimental science courses, rather than merely descriptive courses that require little calculation. But the hard work pays off. An education with such depth, Wulbert said, is essential to life after college. Also, fulfilling Revelle’s requirements automatically qualifies a student for the undergraduate honors organization Phi Beta Kappa.

Revelle faculty try to educate students to be well-informed and responsible, and they see the breadth of general education requirements as a way to achieve that goal. However, students may see the extra work as a helpful tool for later job hunting.

“”Most of our faculty don’t feel that that is the primary goal,”” Wulbert said. “”We don’t ignore the fact that one will get a job at the end, but we don’t think of us as training people for jobs. Most of the UCSD students are good students, and I think that they will accept if the faculty say they should know a certain amount of science. But a lot of them are assuming that somewhere down the line there is a payoff.””

Although Revelle College is known for being slow to change and having the oldest campus traditions, slight alterations may occur in the educational focus over the next few years. A different world has prompted the college administration to consider courses that go in-depth on current issues, like global warming and international trade. This would give graduates the skills necessary to evaluate the news they receive and make rational decisions. Such change, however, would be a small shift in the flavor but not the depth of a Revelle student’s education.

Despite being the oldest, Revelle College does not try to set the standard for the other colleges.

“”One of the nice things about having six colleges is that you can have a niche,”” Wulbert said, emphasizing the education offered by Revelle College is not for everyone. But the administrators do see the college as the most stable of the six.

“”We have been sort of the backbone for a long time,”” Wulbert said. “”We have been the set of requirements that have stayed stable.””

But Wulbert and others at Revelle College still feel pride in their status as the first and hardest college at UCSD.

“”When I see people graduate from Revelle, I really feel that they have done something, that it is a genuine accomplishment,”” Wulbert said.