General Ed. program top concern for new UAS chair

Anya Zentmeyer

The new academic year brings a new chair and fresh goals for the University Academic Senate at Grand Valley State University.

The UAS serves as the connecting body between faculty and staff and the administration, voicing and acting on the concerns of faculty, staff and community members at GVSU. As of April, the Executive Committee of the UAS elected professor Figen Mekik to serve as chair, along with Cory DiCarlo as vice chair of UAS.

Mekik, who is in her 13th year as a professor in the geology department, said the senate’s largest focus will be the revision of the General Education Program.

“This is just really important because we’ve been working on it for a long time and it does affect almost everybody on campus, so that’s a big thing on our plate,” Mekik said.

The General Education Committee, headed by writing professor Roger Gilles, has been hard at work on a proposal for revised General Education goals, holding frequent workshops and forums with faculty.

The GEC’s workshops are currently focusing on three new goals — collaboration, ethical reasoning and problem solving. Gilles said members of the GEC, including Student Senate representatives, have been working on this choice of goals for the past four years, basing selections on what other colleges and universities are doing, the academic literature on the aims and values of the general education programs and a variety of surveys and conversations on GVSU’s campus.

“The GEC is convinced that these three goals — collaboration, ethical reasoning and problem solving — are crucial to what it means to be a generally educated person,” Gilles said.

The GEC will submit its proposal closer to Thanksgiving. From there, the UAS will hold a forum on Dec. 2 to get feedback from members before acting.

“The workshops are very collaborative — it’s not like people come in and tell you, ‘This is the goal and this is what it’s going to be about,’” Mekik said. “It’s more like faculty contributes to creating those goals.”

Both Gilles and Mekik said faculty participation is critical to getting a solid proposal together.

“The issue here is, if you’re teaching a general education course, then there are some guidelines that you need to follow,” Mekik said. “It’s defining those guidelines. The guidelines are things you actually have to be doing in your class. Like, I’m a science professor so it’s hard for me to talk about a social conscience, for example, let’s say. So if it’s something that you actually can’t bring into your class, then those guidelines have to be revised.”

She said so far, the GEC has been doing a good job of getting faculty input on the revised guidelines to help strengthen the General Education program.

More detailed information about the GEC’s proposal as well as a “backgrounder” can be found on the General Education website at

The other big issue facing UAS this year is the potential reduction in summer salaries; however, Mekik said no new information has been released by the Faculty Salary and Budget Committee, who has been in discussion with administration.

“We have the Faculty Salary and Budget committee working together with our Provost, and they’re in discussion,” Mekik said. “I haven’t received a memo, I don’t know what went on, but we’re still at the beginning.”

More information will be released as developments are made.

Mekik said as the senate heads into this next year, she looks forward to more transparency and accountability within UAS.

“I have an open door policy for faculty,” she said. “I would like them to come tell me what they’re thinking, because anybody in our community can bring an issue to the senate, and if it seems like an issue the senate can deal with then I would like to take that to them. But I’d like to have it so that whatever we do, everybody knows about it, that we’re open – and that’s a two way street, obviously. So transparency, and with that comes accountability — to say that we made this decision, here’s why we made this decision.”

And with the goal of having a strong, liberal education program at GVSU, Mekik said she will continue to work with the GEC, faculty and administration to push the passing of General Education revisions.

“If that’s something we can pass through this year and get it started, because it’s not easy,” Mekik said. “Once we act on it and we pass it, then some courses need to be modified, so they have to go through our curriculum system and that takes time. So in order to do this, we need to expedite it a little. That’s something I would consider a success – if we had a really good proposal, and we could discuss it well and have the process start. I think that would help the faculty and that would help the students.”

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