UMF to Change Process for Students to Fulfill General Education Requirements

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.”


Panel of Teachers Speak at ‘Tales from the Classroom’

Panel of Teachers Speak at ‘Tales from the Classroom’

By Andrew Devine – Editor-in-Chief

   The UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine (AEM) hosted a panel of teachers to discuss horror stories, life lessons, and experiences that came from working in the classroom.

   The panel consisted of teachers of all levels: Dan Ryder and Andrea Palmer, who have been teaching for about twenty years, high school and first grade respectively, Chelsey Oliver, a first-year teacher and recent graduate from UMF, and Elaine Grant, a retired teacher that taught for nearly 40 years.

   The program started with a potluck style dinner to which all attendees were invited. Following the meal, the panel began with a light-hearted question that led to some serious answers: “What is your favorite story to tell about teaching?”

   Most responses from the panelists resulted in profound lessons that the group had gathered over what amounted to over 80 collective years of teaching. Dan Ryder, an English teacher at Mt. Blue High School for nearly 20 years, included some of these important responses.

   “You can be friendly without being a friend,” and “You have to be authentic, and figure out what that means exactly,” were some of the lessons Ryder shared with the club.

   Students in attendance seem to have taken in important lessons pertaining to their future careers from the event.

   Bradley Howes, a sophomore Secondary Education student who worked with Ryder during his practicum, said, “What I took away from it is, you’re going to screw up many times in your first, second, and third years; the point is you have to go with it and own it.”

   On the horror theme of the event, Bryan Eldridge, a member of AEM, said: “Kids aren’t scary; kids are only scary if you make them scary.”

Stephen Riitano, President of UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine.
(Photo courtesy of Andrew Devine)

   Stephen Riitano, President of UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine, helped organize the event and led the panel on stage in the Landing. Riitano said, despite the title of the event, which is a spin on the 1980s television program: ‘Tales From the Crypt’, it was not meant to be a scare.

   “I think the big thing was a balance between horror stories and what is rewarding and informative about teaching.” Riitano said, “If we had just done an hour full of the worst that can happen, it might come as turning some people off.”

   AEM has held similar events in the past, under former name Student Maine Educators Association, and hopes to continue work in aiding students in their advancement towards work in the education field.

   “It’s usually an annual event that Aspiring Educators does,” said Riitano. “Last year it really wasn’t that big, there were only five or six people in the Ed Center lobby, so it was great to have 65 people show up.”

   This event, and the high attendance, shows the progress the club has shown since the start of the school year.

  The club will be hosting an event focusing on Special Education in November.