Visiting Professor Andrew Westphal Experiences “CC Treasures” Teaching on Block Plan

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Andrew Westphal ’P20 is a physicist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley. During Block 2, Westphal took a break from the Bay Area to teach the Scientific Revolutions First-Year Experience course, which focused specifically on relativity.

The experience of coming from a large university on the semester system to a small liberal arts college on the Block Plan gave Westphal an interesting perspective on CC. In regard to the Block Plan, Westphal quite simply says “I am sold!”

He explains that he was able to cover more material more in depth than while teaching multiple classes at a time, and that the pace of the class felt “luxuriously unhurried.” With all the time provided by the Block Plan, students were able to test Einstein’s special relativity at the top of Pikes Peak, and some even brought mountain bikes to ride down at the end. Students remarked to Westphal it was an experience that could happen, “only at CC!”

Despite all the benefits Westphal noticed about the Block Plan, he also says it’s exhausting. “Teaching on the Block Plan requires a lot of frontloading, because there is no time to prepare between classes. By the end of the block I felt as if I had run a marathon. I don’t know how CC faculty do it,” he explains.

Westphal noticed other impressive qualities of CC. He describes the Honor Code as “a treasure unheard of at many colleges,” and remarks on the interesting interdepartmental conversations that happen over lunch at Rastall.  “It seems to happen quite naturally, and is another CC treasure,” he describes. Westphal says he hopes to return to CC in a few years to teach a course on cosmochemistry and hopefully collaborate with a terrestrial geology course.

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