By Ryan Semerad
The idea of general education has been a thorn in the side of students at institutions of higher learning for many years. The issue has always been a matter of necessity. Students have their reasons for attending a certain college and for declaring a certain major, but they often wonder what exactly general education has to do with their plans.
Union has decided to take a proactive step in this regard by implementing a new approach to the presentation of academics. Before continuing, it should be made clear that Union is in no way changing its general education requirements or any aspect of its present curriculum; it is simply clearing up the mystery of why its students study what they study for current and prospective students, faculty, and administrators.
|QUICK GENERAL EDUCATION INFO|
|A little confused? Here is a quick reference:Part A: Core1. Freshmen Preceptorial 2. Sophomore Research ProjectPart B: Distribution1. One social science course 2. Two humanities courses 3. Two linguistic and cultural competency courses 4. Three courses from the math and science departments, one with a labPart C: Cluster1. Three courses in one cluster across two departmentsVisit the Union website for more information|
The new presentation focuses on clarity. The words “Think, Connect, Act” are the shorthand for the new presentation plan. According to the new presentation, general education provides a foundation for students to build upon academically. Students will use this foundation to focus their thoughts on a major. They will then pursue this new specific interest while making connections to their broader base of knowledge. Finally, they will take action and contribute something to their specific field of study using the connections they made as a result of being educating in a wide variety of topics.
This ideal process will potentially be explicated in updated brochures for prospective students and others, as well as in a larger source of information regarding Union’s overall approach to academics. Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Therese McCarty has been working with other VPs, faculty, and current students on the new articulation of Union’s plan. Vice President for Admissions, Financial Aid and Enrollment Matt Malatesta and others in Admissions will interpret McCarty’s work for brochures and other documents that will be dispersed to relevant groups inside and outside the campus.
This action has been a response to the stigma associated with general education. “I don’t see anything ‘wrong’ with general education, but those two words don’t give a full picture of the interesting aspects of our curriculum,” Malatesta said. Capturing the gestalt of Union’s academic program in clear language is elusive, but it is necessary work.
Intelligibility can help students understand “how parts of the curriculum fit together” McCarty said. McCarty believes clarifying why professors, deans and other faculty want students to study general education is instrumental in allowing students to get the most out of their education. “I think [the new presentation] will help current students understand the steps in their academic development,” Malatesta said.
Despite this emphasis on the rationale behind education, McCarty understands the organic nature of the learning process. “It’s fine for students to study topics solely out of interest,” McCarty said. “We want students to learn how to think and to learn how to act in a whole variety of settings—that’s what liberal arts is about.”
McCarty would like to have a group of students review the new language her team has been working on. If you are interested in participating, contact her at [email protected]