FACULTY SENATE


 Senate Document Number    6707S


 Date of Senate Approval      05/03/07

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Statement of Faculty Senate Action:



APC Document  57:                              Adding a Minor in Astronomy



Effective Date: Fall 2007


1.  Add:      On pg. 41, under Optional Minor Fields of Concentration, add Astronomy after Art History




Students minoring in Astronomy will directly benefit from active involvement at the research facilities of the nearby Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI).  Such direct hands-on participation by undergraduates in radio astronomy instrumentation is almost unique among colleges and universities in the U.S.  The Astronomy minor will attract promising students to UNC Asheville. 



       UNC Asheville now has a concerted effort underway in Astronomy due in part to our administrative oversight of Pisgah Astronomical Research and Science Education Center (PARSEC), substantial Federal funding, the commitment of an endowed chair (the Glaxo-Wellcome Endowed Chair, Brian Dennison), and UNC Asheville’s new position as a North Carolina Space Grant University.

   The Federal funding referred to above comes in part from a large 3-year National Science Foundation grant awarded to Brian Dennison in September 2005 to develop a radio interferometer by joining electronically the two large radio dishes at PARI. This is the largest single grant that UNC Asheville has received in its history.




   The North Carolina Space Grant (NCSG) describes itself as “a consortium of academic institutions that have gathered together to promote, develop, and support aeronautics and space-related science, engineering, and technology education and training in North Carolina” ( The mission statement goes on to say, “Partnering with NASA, industry, non-profit organizations, and state government agencies, the NC Space Grant conducts programs that are designed to equip the current and future aero/space workforce in North Carolina.” 

In Fall 2005, the NCSG announced a membership expansion program open to all institutions of higher education in North Carolina. Fourteen institutions applied, and in February 2006, UNC Asheville, Appalachian State University, and Elizabeth City State University were selected to join the 8 member institutions (Duke University, NCA&T State University, NC Central University, NC State University, UNCC, UNCCH, UNCP, and Winston-Salem State University), bringing the university membership to 11 institutions. 

As a Space Grant member institution, UNC Asheville receives annual funding of $20,000.  From this, UNC Asheville has established a program of undergraduate research in parallel with the PARSEC-PARI partnership. This research involves students from across the sciences and mathematics. Nearly the entire annual budget is used in support of undergraduate internships and scholarships, consistent with the goals of the NCSG. In Summer 2006, six paid PARSEC internships were awarded to UNC Asheville students through a combination of funds from the NCSG, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Glaxo-Wellcome Endowment at UNC Asheville. The first NCSG-funded scholarship was awarded to a UNCA freshman that entered in August 2007. 

Our institutional membership in the NC Space Grant also allows students to apply directly to the Space Grant for scholarships to attend UNC Asheville. In the latest statewide competition, 4 UNC Asheville students won scholarships from the NC Space Grant. The UNC Asheville success rate for these scholarships was one of the highest in our state, even though it was our first time to participate in the scholarship offerings.

The proposed Minor in Astronomy will bring undergraduate education, our core mission, directly into line with all of these efforts mentioned above.




2.  Add:     On page 70, under Astronomy, after the listing of participating faculty, the following:


A minor in astronomy complements related natural sciences and mathematics offerings. The goal of the astronomy minor is to broaden the student's intellectual perspective through the application of basic science to the universe. Those students with a professional interest in astronomy should consider combining the astronomy minor with a physics major since a thorough grounding in fundamental physics is required for graduate study in astronomy.

Students in the minor program will have hands-on access to unique research facilities, such as those at the nearby Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI). UNC Asheville serves as the administrative campus for the Pisgah Astronomical Research and Science Education Center (PARSEC), a UNC-system-wide center dedicated to promoting student and faculty participation in research and educational programs at PARI. UNC Asheville is also a member institution in the North Carolina Space Grant Consortium, which provides funds to support related educational activities. UNC Asheville students are eligible to apply for North Carolina Space Grant scholarships.


Minor in Astronomy

18 hours in Astronomy: ASTR 105, 321, 322, 411, 412, 430, 431. Note the upper level ASTR courses have prerequisites of MATH 191, MATH 192, MATH 291; PHYS 221, 222.



he sequence of the new course offerings is given in the table below. An analysis of the overall projected commitments of the Physics Department indicates that the department can allocate sufficient teaching resources, including half of Brian Dennison's teaching, to meet these new course needs for the astronomy Minor. The Physics department will be adding a new tenure-track faculty member (Tim Giblin) in Fall 2007 which will enable the department to meet its needs as it adds new courses for the astronomy minor. Dr. Giblin holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy and will be contributing to the astronomy minor in addition to Dr. Dennison.







AY 07-08

ASTR 321

ASTR 322

AY 08-09

ASTR 411, 430

ASTR 412, 431

AY 09-10

ASTR 321

ASTR 322

AY 10-11

ASTR 411, 430

ASTR 412, 431


Most students pursuing the astronomy minor should have all the prerequisites necessary to begin these courses by the end of their freshman year. Virtually all should be prepared to take these courses by the end of their sophomore year. Since the ASTR 321/322 and ASTR 411/430; 412/431 sequences can be taken in either order, all prepared students should have ample opportunity to take the required courses for the Minor. 


Others in the Physics Department are also qualified to teach the ASTR 321, 322, 430, and 431 three-hour courses. Randy Booker has a background in Astronomy as well as Physics and taught PHYS 373 Astrophysics at UNCA as a special topics course during Spring 2000. In Fall 2002, Dr. Booker taught a special topics course PHYS 273, Exploring Black Holes. He has also team-taught the ASTR 105 course at UNCA (with Mike Ruiz) since its inception in 1991. Judy Beck has a Masters degree in Astronomy and could teach any of these courses for the minor. She has also team-taught the ASTR 105 class on several occasions over the past 6 years. There are others in the department who could teach the ASTR 411 and ASTR 412 lab courses. Randy Booker and Judy Beck have expertise in hands-on optical and radio astronomy and could teach these courses if necessary. Dr. Mike Castelaz, a UNCA adjunct professor who also works at PARI full-time, would also be an excellent resource for these courses. Dr. Giblin, the new faculty member joining the department in Fall 2007, is an optical astronomer, has taught astronomy at the College of Charleston for the past 5 years, and is excited and well-qualified to teach courses in the new UNCA Astronomy Minor.




As a discipline that integrates insights from various fields, astronomy is tied to research programs in academia and government.  Since the basic intellectual foundations of astronomy are built upon physics and mathematics, students should not pursue an exclusive focus in astronomy until graduate school.  Rather, seriously interested undergraduates are well advised to acquire a strong foundation in physics and mathematics, complemented by a minor in astronomy. Through the exposure afforded by the minor, these students can better define their long-term interests, and make informed decisions about graduate study at the appropriate time. Those who pursue graduate study in astronomy will be well prepared to address the inevitable choices of specialization within the field. Those choosing other directions will have the broad options afforded by a strong background in physics and mathematics. 

The proposed program is also designed to serve students with a supplementary or exploratory interest in astronomy. These students are expected to come from a variety of majors, which in many cases would be well complemented by a minor in astronomy.