By Andrew Devine President
UMF will implement a new general education system beginning with the incoming class of 2022.
In March, the process to reform the structure of General Education requirements (Gen-Eds) was approved by the Faculty Senate and university administration. The new system will retain course requirements similar to the current Gen-Ed course load with the addition of a new element known as Pathways.
Luann Yetter, Assistant Professor of English and former Chair of the General Education Committee in the Faculty Senate, spoke on her experience in the process of reform. “The main thing that’s changing is that there’s going to be this thing called Pathways,” Yetter explained. “The idea is you take pretty much all the same Gen-Ed classes, but you’re encouraged to see connections between them, and that’s what we feel like has been lacking.”
Incoming students will need to fulfill very similar requirements as students do now, with the addition of the Pathway that they choose. Pathways are overlapping concepts that are covered by several courses and the student will write on in a larger project. Some examples of the Pathway’s available include Sustainability, Peace, Conflict, and Conflict-Resolution, and other big-picture concepts.
The process to reform Gen-Eds traces back to the New England Association of School and Colleges assessment of UMF in 2012. In the assessment, UMF was recommended to revise their curriculum for General Education.
Anne Marie Wolf, Associate Professor of History and Director of Director of General Education, lead the effort to pass through the changes. “All of these [Pathways] are designed to be ‘big-picture’ questions, meaningful questions, and to encourage and invite people to think broadly about them in conjunction with questions, sources, and methods raised in other disciplines.”
Wolf continued, “I hope students find that exciting and attractive. I think one of the bigger changes they’ll have is the opportunity to be thinking about big-picture questions like that, and to think of their education as something that enables to to do that and not just ‘checking off boxes.’”
Chris O’Brien, Professor of History and Chair of the Division of Social Science and Business, voiced his support for this reform and why past efforts were not as successful. “I remember hating Gen-Eds… I remember going through that thinking ‘why do I have to take this.’”
O’Brien elaborated, “There is actually a fundamental agreement what a well-rounded human being that comes out of college ought to have. We haven’t really changed our minds on things that people need. The purpose of the reform has to be clear. One of the things that can change is the path through those things.”
O’Brien concluded with, “What this reform did that others didn’t is it came up with a thing that made sense: the pathways. Whatever you’re interested in, whether it’s sustainability or Rock music, pick some courses that fit together, write a paper at the end that makes that Gen-Ed more than just a taste for things, that there’s some continuity between those classes. That reform should make it clear why we want people to do this. That’s why this one was successful.”