General education committee makes strides towards decision on new class requirements

Illustration by Sarah Bradbury

By Gelsey Plaza

After a long deliberating process, The General Education Super Team (GEST) is making strides towards finalizing new general education (GE) requirements. In the two weeks leading up to spring break, GEST sent out a survey to faculty and students.

The survey had 98 faculty respondents and 445 student respondents. When asked what model they were most excited about, between a divisional and thematic model, the majority of respondents chose the divisional model. In the divisional model, students must take at least one course in each division, including arts and humanities, social science and math and natural sciences.

On the other hand, the thematic model would incorporate different theme requirements that the students would be able to choose classes from. According to Associate Professor of Music and GEST Chair Katherine FitzGibbon, the thematic model could be an efficient way to deliver GE requirements because there are so many ways to fulfill these themes; it would also give students much more flexibility and an opportunity to discover new disciplines.

The majority of respondents thought that students should have a basic quantitative or math proficiency requirement, which would be fulfilled either via a placement exam or a course. In the student survey, many students highly valued a data and writing component as part of Core.

Additionally, many students were excited about the idea of a Portland lab. This would include hands-on experiences around the Portland area, such as community service, as well as lessons on the history and infrastructure of Portland. In this course, students would work with either two or three faculty from different disciplines who would offer “deep dive” modules of five or seven week durations, each of which considers a theme from a different disciplinary approach.

Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies Magalí Rabasa is optimistic about the creative alternatives for a new Core foundation.

“I am excited about the possibility we have as a faculty to create a new, innovative and creative Core curriculum that develops transdisciplinary connections and reflects our commitments to critical engagement with questions of power and difference,” Rabasa said.

GEST is currently preparing finalist models. However, they must carefully take into consideration staffing matters. According to faculty survey results, a Core writing seminar is clearly staffable, yet the staffing data is not clear about a second Core, such as a math-oriented course or a Portland lab. The faculty plan to vote for the new GE curriculum at the May faculty meeting.

“Hopefully people will be excited about our new (GE), so that prospective students will be drawn to Lewis & Clark as a place to come do interesting, innovative things,” FitzGibbon said. “We’re really excited about the potential this has to change things up a bit.”

GEST committee member and Associate Professor of History Benjamin Westervelt greatly appreciates the committee’s hard work, patience, vision and leadership.

“GEST and (the Curriculum Committee) have been working extraordinarily hard to give the faculty the information it needs to make an informed decision about the new (GE) program,” Westervelt said.

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