Illustration Courtesy of Raya Deussen

GenEd committee reconsiders core classes for future students

THE LEWIS & CLARK Curriculum Committee is proactively working on reforming the General Education (GenEd) curriculum. The GenEd committee, a smaller subcommittee discussing these issues (SoGE), is stepping outside the box and contemplating what they want LC students to experience and learn during their time at LC.

The GenEd classes at LC are the courses that teach content and intellectual skills which the faculty thinks every student should have before graduation. The school hopes that these classes will enhance the skills necessary for students to become leaders and make a difference in the world. The GenEd classes are also supposed to be an opportunity for students to study fields outside of their major.

The committee is in the ongoing process of transforming the way LC utilizes their GenEd courses. The plan is to start with creating a statement of identity encompassing what LC as a community represents for the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) — both descriptive and aspirational — and stating a list of goals for all students who pass through the curriculum. The content of the statement and goals has been generated from discussions among faculty, students and staff during last school year and this semester.  From the general goals for students, the faculty can decide which would be most optimally met through the GenEd curriculum rather than majors or other experiences at LC.

In late August, CAS Dean Catherine Gunther Kodat supported the GenEd committee in focusing a CAS faculty retreat on the LC Identity Statement and goals. At the retreat, the committee received feedback about a draft of the Identity Statement. The retreat helped get everyone on board to frame conversations regarding GenEd issues. Faculty discussed aspects of GenEd for an hour in groups of 10-12 people. The groups conversed on a wide range of topics including how LC can meet their goals, whether students could succeed with only Exploration & Discovery (E&D) or some other version of core courses, how they should best structure students’ time at LC and how classes can further develop students’ studies. The GenEd Committee is valuing all of the faculty feedback and is compiling them into a coherent action plan.

The committee consists of Associate Professors Karen Gross of English, who is also the Chair of the Curriculum Committee, Greta Binford of Biology, who is also the Chair of SoGE, Paul Allen of Math, Oren Kosansky of Sociology and Anthropology (SoAn), Elliott Young of History and the Director of Ethnic Studies, Deborah Heath of SoAn and the Director of Gender Studies, as well as Student Academic Affairs Board (SAAB) Chair Allison Schneider ’17, Faculty Outreach Librarian Dan Kelley and Assistant Professor of History Sara Jay. They are currently engaged in finalizing their Identity Statement and goals that the faculty will vote to agree upon as a guide for GenEd reform. They are discussing what would work best for LC, who LC is as a community and how Gen Ed can serve LC in becoming a better community.

The GenEd committee is currently reviewing and finalizing the LC Identity Statement. A central aspect of this is that LC students are here at LC to motivate themselves and others to engage in the lifelong work of self-development that will help them pursue successful careers. Part of the draft of the Identity Statement incorporates feedback from the faculty retreat and conversations from weekly GenEd meetings.

“[LC] students are united in fostering a community of independent spirits who share a curiosity about the world and desire for service to the common good,” the draft states. “Often thinking of themselves as both locally and globally committed citizens and environmental stewards, they seek deeper understanding of their place upon this earth … This cultivation takes place in a larger community of creative and critical people committed to affecting change in the world.”

The GenEd committee is also highly engrossed in finalizing their set of goals for LC students. Some of the goals stated in the draft plan include hopes that students should have “stretched themselves as scholars, researchers, and artists to achieve a high degree of facility in their chosen field, engaged constructively with cultural difference and power, explored multiple modes of experience and creativity in expressive arts, [and] reflected on why they are here seeking their education in the first place.”

The partial Identity Statement and set of goals are not set in stone. The committee is still discussing them. They welcome any and all feedback from students, faculty and staff to contribute to the conversation over general education.

Binford hopes that GenEd will help students develop the skills that will help them succeed in the world.

“We’re excited to be working through this process to clearly articulate our goals for the students and their time at LC and then build the curriculum around that,” Binford said. “We have an opportunity to design a GenEd program that is structured around the intention of providing opportunities for student development in areas we as a community agree to prioritize.”  

As a first-year member of the faculty who was introduced to the general education ideas at the faculty retreat in August, Jay was interested in attending the GenEd meetings.

“I think that general education courses should generate graduates to believe that their general education curriculum (in whatever form it may take) was a productive and valuable feature of their time at LC and not just a series of requirements to check off of a list,” Jay said.

Jay has been most impressed with the committee’s pursuit of succeeding in this goal.

“What I have found most unique about [LC] in my short time here is how open the committee has been to student input and ideas in order to help craft a model that is reflective of what they want from their education,” Jay said.

As Jay attended a liberal arts school, she found herself prepared for her professional endeavors as well as her graduate program due to the rigorous curriculum at her undergraduate institution.

“I think this is one of the reasons why I wanted to attend [the GenEd] meetings — just to learn more about this process and my own identity as a student and educator,” Jay said. “So personally, it is my hope that LC not only adopts a program that prepares graduates for their future endeavors, but also that graduates are able to recognize how crucial this component was to their overall education.”

Gross is less interested in what form particular requirements take and more interested in having the LC community come together in articulating how GenEd contributes to a student’s educational experience at LC.

“I want to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard and that proposals are given a fair hearing,” Gross said. “I am not pushing for a particular model or set of requirements. However, one piece that I would like to see reformed, or at least seriously discussed, is the bulkiness of our current GenEd. LC must be accessible for transfer students, and that includes having a GenEd program that is not burdensome for someone who arrives on campus for only two years.”

Kosansky emphasizes that as a committee, they do not begin with what general education should look like: they begin with what their goals are for LC students and then how a GenEd program might reach these goals. According to him, questions the committee considers include why LC should have GenEd classes and if GenEd is necessary to meet LC’s goals for its students. If the committee decides that GenEd requirements are good for LC students, Kosansky wonders what would guide the principles and the core of GenEd.

Kosansky said that it is critical to have formal and robust student involvement in the process.

“I think the next step is to figure out a formal way to ensure student participation,” Kosansky said. “And not just invite it, but to ensure it and to ensure that it is an important part of the process.”

Schneider would like the SAAB goals and Identity Statement to accurately reflect the student body or what the student body hopes to become.

“I am particularly interested in creating a requirement and/or goal that reflects diversity in the U.S. and abroad,” Schneider said. “I think in today’s world learning about the experiences of others can go a long way toward making us a more inclusive community.”

All students are welcome to attend committee meetings every Tuesday in Maggie’s at 5 p.m. SoGE encourages input from the student body on all things GenEd, especially the goals and action plan. As Schneider said, it is an exciting process that will affect students in the coming years.


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