Proposal seeks to change general education program

Grand Valley student Justin Willmannreads over the General Education requirements. The university has recently adjusted some of the requirements.

Nathan Mehmed

Grand Valley student Justin Willmannreads over the General Education requirements. The university has recently adjusted some of the requirements.

Eric Higgins

Hot on the heels of the announcement that WRT 305 will no longer be a general education requirement, administrators are proposing an overhaul of Grand Valley State University’s general education program.

Roger Gilles, chair for the general education committee, said the general education requirements will change to keep up with what is going on around the country.

“The two main reasons are that we are always trying to make sure that the general education program at Grand Valley is keeping up with the national conversation on liberal education and general education,” he said. “One of the things that we have decided as a committee, and I think as a university, is that we would like to add some goals to the general education program that are a little bit more skill oriented.”

The proposed changes would add three new general education goals, reduce the number of goals for each general education course, eliminate the theme categories, create an upper-level global issues requirement and decrease the upper level requirement from three courses to two.

David Vessey, who sits on the General Education Committee, said the three new general education goals, which inslude teamwork, problem solving and civic responsibility, were decided on as a result of studies done on higher education.

“There have been important studies done by the AAC&U (Association of American Colleges and Universities) on ‘High Impact’ teaching practices and globalizing higher education,” he said. “The new goals came from their list as a result of an all-faculty conversation that took place two years ago.”

The General Education Committee Eliminating proposes the elimination of the theme categories because of student reaction to them. Zach Conley, a member of the Student Senate and member of the General Education Committee, said the theme categories were eliminated because students were confused about how the themes worked.

“Firstly, the current themes comprise 22 relatively small categories, 6-15 courses each, making it difficult for some students to complete their themes because of a lack of choice or a lack of course availability,” he said. “Secondly, students have voiced concern as to if they will be relevant to their future lives.”

If the theme categories are eliminated, a global issues requirement would take their place. For the requirement, students would have to take two classes instead of the three currently required for the theme categories. Gilles said the global issues requirement would make the courses more relevant and interesting.

“We thought it would be helpful also to connect our upper-level general education component to issues that are out in the world that students and faculty like and are interested in focusing on,” he said. “By asking the courses in the upper-level component to connect to a big issue – a global issue – we are hoping that it’s apparent to students that this upper-level course has relevance.”

The current draft proposal is intended to get students and faculty talking and by late April, a final draft of the proposal will be created to reflect the conversations that have gone on around campus. If the proposal passes, the General Education Committee will look to implement it at GVSU in 2013.

Conley said the current system has been around for a while, and it is time for a change.

“The old system has functioned for over a decade, and had some great successes in expanding students’ academic experiences,” he said. “But it can be done better, and that is the stimulus for the General Education Committee’s proposal.”

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