UAS approves invisibility of cognates

GVL / Amy Hammond
Provost Gayle Davis speaking at the UAS meeting.

Amy Hammond

GVL / Amy Hammond Provost Gayle Davis speaking at the UAS meeting.

Ryan Jarvi

Grand Valley State University’s academic senate unanimously approved a motion to remove the visibility of cognate requirements from program descriptions and embed those courses within the regular Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts majors.

“What the University Curriculum Committee, and now the university senate, has done was basically to fold those requirements into the major programs,” said Maria Cimitile, assistant vice president of academic affairs.
“So no actual requirement was changed, it will just appear differently to the students in order to, hopefully, cause less confusion.”

Cognate courses are already required for students to receive their degrees. The change will simply remove the cognate format and establish those required courses as part of the B.S. or B.A. program.

For example, the B.A. program in philosophy would require all the same philosophy courses and three semesters of language proficiency it currently requires, but there would be no use of the word ‘cognates’ within that program’s description. The altered program appearance will take effect next fall at the beginning of the new catalog year.

“It will be invisible to the student,” Cimitile said. “If you had to take stats for your biology degree, and it was labeled under cognates, now you’ll just see it as part of the regular program requirements.”

Currently the B.S. cognates differ from major to major, and Cimitile said there has been more confusion with those requirements than the B.A. cognates, but this change will make it smoother for students overall.

Robert Adams, chair of the UCC, said the change to remove cognates from the catalog is a culmination of two years’ work.

“The gist is to remove them from the students’ sight so that they don’t see they have university requirements and cognate courses to fill, but to embed them within each major so that students who take a major, and what they need to do to make it a B.A. or a B.S., is built right there,” Adams said.

Charles Pazdernik, chair of the department of classics, said his department supports the change and hopes that it will help to broaden GVSU’s approach to education.

“I hope that this is a springboard for further discussions within the university about the place of foreign language instruction, and some of the conversations that are happening in other bodies about internationalization and global skills sets and things like that, (and) we’ll continue to take that into account,” Pazdernik said.

Concerns were raised about the change impacting courses with low enrollment and with departments waiving courses like the B.A. requirements of language proficiency. Cimitile assured the senate that those problems would not happen.

“The language proficiency is too important,” Cimitile said. “What we would do from an administrative point of view is make sure that at records that would never be allowed to happen, because they’re the ones that actually control those audits.”
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