- Letters to Editor
By Kristie Hamon
The board of regents approved a proposal to decrease the current general education requirements Tuesday, Jan. 17, and the changes will take effect in the fall for new students.
The amendments made to the current general education requirements decreased the overall requirements from 48 hours to 36 hours and relocated two courses to become a part of university requirements.
University Provost Janna Vice said the general education committee began looking at Eastern’s general education program in February 2011, with a few objectives in mind.
“One was to make sure that our general education program provided a seamless transfer for students who are transferring to EKU from KCTCS,” Vice said. “Up until the last year or two Eastern had the most transfer friendly general education program with KCTCS because we actually aligned our general education program with KCTCS.”
As other universities began to reduce their number of general education requirements, the committee began to compare Eastern’s requirements with all other state institutions and KCTCS with the goal to build on to their current program and decrease required hours at the same time.
“We cannot afford to lose our competitive edge in attracting good transfer students from KCTCS but really from any institution in the state,” Vice said.
She said more than 40 percent of Eastern students are transfers.
“I think it will be certainly more transfer friendly,” Vice said.
Garett Yoder, associate professor in physics and astronomy and the university general education coordinator, said one of the benefits of the new program is organization.
“I think in general we also wanted a simpler program,” Yoder said. “Block eight has a number of different options with a number of different themes and things like that and was difficult for students to understand and navigate. So this just makes the whole system much cleaner and simpler.”
The current general education program is comprised of eight blocks of requirements totaling 48 hours. Vice said the first five blocks are mandated by the state and the other blocks are at the discretion of the university and what has been deemed valuable.
The new general education program is comprised of six “elements,” what used to be called blocks are referred to as elements in the new program. Elements one through five remain the same as outlined by the state. Element six is titled Perspectives and Experience and will be satisfied by courses in languages and courses with content focused on non-U.S. cultures and/or historically marginalized groups, like women and gender studies and African American studies.
University requirements were also amended. Orientation remains a university requirement now accompanied by an Applied Critical and Creative Thinking (ACCT) requirement, which is a student experience program, and wellness has been removed from general education requirements and placed in university requirements.
Vice explained ACCT as a requirement that is currently required in most majors, and is now just being placed in a different location under a new label.
“The ACCT requirement reflects the value the university has always had on students engaged in learning in somewhat of an independent type of learning,” Vice said. “I think, almost without exception that every academic program in the university required at least one of those. This is not really a three hour addition, it’s just a three hour identification.”
Options that will satisfy this requirement include capstone courses, co-op, practicum, internships, student teaching, clinicals, service learning, honors thesis, study abroad, leadership experience and more.
Vice said the general education changes will benefit most majors. She said majors are required by the state to have at least 120-hour programs.
“The result in many programs is that students will have more free electives,” Vice said. “It now gives the academic programs a little bit more flexibility because in most cases hours are freed up.”
Yoder agreed that the changes are beneficial.
“I think the courses that will be in there will be stronger courses and better courses because there are fewer categories,” Yoder said. “It’s easier to maintain a strong program.”
Vice said this project involved a year full of faculty forums, surveys and workshops. This plan had to be approved by the general education committee, the council on academic affairs, faculty senate, the provost council, the provost and president, and finally the Board of Regents.
“To accomplish that in one year really reflects the commitment of our faculty to understand and be willing to have a program of high academic quality that is also transfer friendly,” Vice said.
Vice said that any student can opt into the new general education program just like any one can opt into a new year’s course catalogue.
Overall, Yoder said the project was a good experience.
“In a lot of institutions if you try to change general education, it becomes controversial and you get a lot of bad feelings generated across campus and somebody who tries to change it can really feel under attack, I have not felt that way at all,” Yoder said. “It was a really positive experience for me all the way around.”