By Gelsey Plaza
The General Education Steering Committee (GEST) is continuing the process for the transition to the new General Education (GE) requirements and its implementation. GEST is planning to submit the final course schedules by Oct. 2019, and then the newly revamped GE system will go into effect for students coming in Fall 2020.
In the new GE plan, “Words” and “Numbers,” which is just the provisional name, will replace the current Exploration and Discovery Core model. (“Words” and “Numbers” are just provisional names.) Students will be able to select among many options of topics, working with faculty on their areas of expertise. The “Words” course is for students to acquire a foundation in critical reading, discussion, and writing practices at the core of a liberal arts education. The “Numbers” course is for students to gain experience in quantitative reasoning and the critical analysis of quantitative data. The “Words” and “Numbers” will be just for first years and taken in the fall and spring semesters.
For the Distribution requirements, each student must take at least one course in each section. The Distribution sections are: Natural Sciences, Creative and Literary Arts, Global Contexts, Cultural Difference and Power, World Language and Historical Perspectives. Instead of Categories A, B and C in the current Scientific Quantitative and Reasoning gen ed requirements, students will now only need to take one course in the Natural Sciences as a distribution requirement. Furthermore, it will not necessarily have to be a lab. Instead of the current eight credits of International Studies, now students will have four credits of Global Contexts and four credits of Cultural Difference and Power. The latter could be international, but could also get into questions of culture and power here in the U.S. The new Creative and Literary Arts requirement builds upon the current Creative Arts. However, now it adds literature classes to it. Currently, the Creative Writing class counts towards the Creative Arts GenEd, but literature classes do not.
Historical Perspectives is brand new, and its goal is for students to develop critical familiarity with historical contexts prior to the contemporary period. Other components of the new GE requirements will be Bibliographic Research in Writing (BRW) and Wellness and Physical Education. BRW is for students to acquire proficiency in bibliographic research and writing practices as a mode of critical inquiry across liberal arts.
With the new GE requirements finalized, this year GEST will be figuring out the details of each requirement, such as: what are the very specific learning outcomes that they want for all students to have in these requirements?
In the student survey data from last spring, students overwhelmingly said they wanted to be sure that the GE requirements were clearly described in what they were going to accomplish and why they should be of value to them. GEST does not want students to feel like they are just checking off boxes. There is one working group for every new requirement, including “Words” and “Numbers.”
GEST Chair and Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Kathy FitzGibbon said that all of the students she has met with regarding GE are very excited about the changes.
“The only negative comments I’ve heard are from students who are sad that it won’t take effect until after they graduate,” FitzGibbon said. “The faculty has worked hard to articulate our LC identity and to design a new GE curriculum that will better reflect the institution we are and what we believe is important for our students to understand and experience. The faculty feels, in general, that these changes represent an exciting improvement over the status quo. We are here to serve the students, and we feel that this new curriculum will help us to prepare students even better for leadership and opportunities after graduation.”
GEST Social Sciences representative and Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies and Director of Ethnic Studies Kundai Chirindo believes that the faculty, staff, and students will see and better appreciate the integrated nature of LC’s liberal arts curriculum, which would bring LC closer in line with the traditional understanding of a liberal arts education.
“Sometimes I think people use the term ‘General Education (requirements)’ to refer to coursework that they view as parallel (and sometimes even opposed) to one’s major/disciplinary interests,” Chirindo said over email. “What we now refer to as ‘Gen. Ed.’ has long been understood to be essential not inimical to a good education. From that perspective, the so called “general education (and its requirements)’ is not just important — it is essential to getting a good education. To my mind, ‘Gen. Ed’ is a phrase in curriculum design that expresses the value of a broad based education.”
GEST student representative Gabriela Lopez ’19 thinks Gen Eds are important because they unify a diverse student body and create an opportunity for the college to share with that student body their motto and values.
“I think, and I hope, that the changes we are working on will allow both students and faculty the opportunities to become more engaged in topics that will be of greater interest to both faculty members and students,” Lopez said. “I also hope that the new Gen Eds will create greater connections between what is learned inside the classroom and how that knowledge is applied to your fields of interest.”