Administrators are revising the university’s general education requirements to be implemented starting in the 2023-24 school year. In past years, students have been required to obtain 56 general education credit hours, but starting in the fall, students will be required to obtain 54 general education credit hours.
Dr. Jessica Smith, associate provost for curriculum and assessment, said faculty puts a lot of thought into choosing general education requirements.
“The new general education requirements that we got represent what our faculty has said is the breadth of education that every student should have,” Smith said. “One of the things that is most valuable about those requirements is the opportunities for students to see the connections among the things they care most deeply about and a lot of things about the way that the world works.”
The general education proposal team, led by language and literature professor Dr. Cole Bennett, collaborated from 2020- 2021 to prepare their proposal for presentation in 2021. The proposal went to the University General Education Council next, and was reviewed throughout the fall of 2021 and approved on Dec. 8, 2021. The University Undergraduate Academic Council approved the proposal in January 2022. Finally, the team presented the proposal to the Abilene and Dallas campuses for a faculty vote a little over a year ago.
Bennett explained what he hopes students will take away from the new requirements with four points:
“The broad student learning outcomes for the general education revision were that students will A) communicate clearly; B) examine diverse perspectives; C) gather and use information to address problems; and D) engage Christian approaches to community and the Bible,” Bennett said.
Throughout the process, the committee sent a survey to all current students asking what value they found in all of the general education requirements. Faculty from all departments and from both campuses were invited to talk with the committee in focus groups to discuss what was working well for students and what was missing.
Bennett worked alongside other faculty members during the process, and said the decision making process was open to anyone who wanted to be involved in discussions.
“Many as had opinions,” Bennet said. “There was a committee who facilitated the initial changes: Myself, Dr. Sara Blakeslee Salkil, Dr. Stephanie Hamm, Dr. Monte Lynn, Dr. Autumn Sutherlin and Dr. Rodney Ashlock.”
Program initiators interviewed academic advisors at Wildcat Central to understand what challenges they regularly deal with. In addition, the committee reviewed the undergraduate requirements other institutions enforce and researched trends in education about how transferring credits affects abilities to complete general education requirements.
Dr. Eric Gumm, registrar and director of the first-year program and academic development center, said he is looking forward to the updated general education requirements being in place.
“The faculty took a careful look at our general education requirements and what we want all of our students to experience in their general education courses, and this process resulted in a refocussed set of general education requirements which will provide a solid foundation for our students as they work toward their undergraduate degree at ACU,” Gumm said.
Most notable are changes to the university requirement catalog. The public speaking course requirement is now COMM 100, an introductory course rather than the previous advanced version, 211. The math requirements will be more specific. The humanities menu is expanded to include more courses approved to fulfill the requirement. The cultural awareness menu is renamed cultural literacy, with a slightly different list of course options to fulfill the category in student degree plans. The kinesiology/PE requirement has been entirely removed. Other small changes have been made to the list of requirements as well. These changes will be visible on the online catalog or on Degree Works starting in the fall semester.
Many students are speaking about the removal of the PE credit, but Smith said the changes are more extensive than just the PE credit change.
“So it wasn’t simply a matter of taking the current general education requirements and cutting out the PE activity requirements,” Smith said. “We put everything on the table. We changed a lot of stuff throughout, but that for students will probably be the most notable change.”
This academic year, the University General Education Council, the group most involved in working out the details of general education requirements, has been in the process of hearing applications from faculty all over campus to determine which courses should be on those menus. Menu options have since been determined, and confirmation that all majors align with these changes is currently being approved for the catalog release.
Bertling said she can appreciate these changes to the requirements.
“I believe these revisions will allow students to more fully explore classes that pique their interests instead of trudging through courses that are requirements to earn our degrees,” Bertling said. “I appreciate not needing to obtain PE credits anymore and will instead fill those credit hours with courses I find will better my education and personal growth.”
The general education requirements are specific to a student’s catalog year. All incoming freshmen will be under the 2023-2024 catalog. Current students can change to the 2023-2024 catalog if they choose to, or they can stick with their current degree plan. Smith said it is best for current students to talk with their academic advisors to discuss which catalog will be best for them to continue working under.
“We’d encourage current students to talk with their academic advisors about whether it makes the most sense to stay on their current path or change to the new requirements,” Smith said. “Students who change catalogs also must meet the major requirements of the new catalog, so there may be lots of differences that current students will want to take into account.”
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