For many students – especially those at liberal arts colleges like Grand Valley State University – fulfilling general education requirements can become an obstacle for students seeking an efficient graduation date.

However, following the University Academic Senate’s approval of changes within the general education program’s theme requirements, the university has made a positive stride in making liberal education more valuable for students and making graduation requirements more conquerable at the same time.

The switch, which phases out current theme requirements and replaces them with issues requirements, gives student much more flexibility in how they will tackle their general education, allowing them to choose one of three methods of fulfillment.

Keith Rhodes, chair of the university’s General Education Committee, said the shift is in part a move to a new way of teaching and assessing intellectual skills, integrating writing and oral communication with newer ones like ethnical reasoning, quantitative reasoning, collaboration and problem solving.

“We want to integrate those into the courses in such a way that, really for students they’re just happening, but they are learning new things – not simply working in groups, but being taught how to work better in groups and then working in groups.”

The university’s recognition of the shortfalls of the older general education program articulated by Rhodes, as well as their effort to facilitate a more practical application of liberal arts at GVSU, is a reassuring signal that officials within the university are, in fact, in touch with the student body and do, in fact, want to prepare us for graduation and get us to our graduation date in a timely, productive and valuable fashion.
In the past, restrictive guidelines that mandated three theme courses, in different disciplines, under one category had posed a number of challenges for students already overwhelmed with a roster of requirements outside of their major so much that as students, we’ve become skeptical of the system.

So skeptical, that Rhodes told UAS members during a presentation on new theme requirements last week that following the announcement of the changes, students have come to advisor with concerns that indicate a larger assumption that the university, in Rhodes words, is “going to do things that will make life hard for them for some reason.”

Rhodes said the office continually has to field these concerns, and explain that “No, no, we’re not adding new requirements on top of your themes, we’re actually making it easy for you so you can now satisfy themes in multiple ways.”

And, believe it or not, they are.

So let your guard down, GVSU, and embrace the ways in which sometimes the institution does not become the obstacle.