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General Education Realignment

Working Group Background

General education should be a place for an institution to live its values. It should tell a story of who we are and who we want our students to become. Since our current gen ed program was initiated in 2013, several changes have occurred as a university: we now have a 4 college structure with 4 campus locations, we have changed our institutional mission, we have become an access institution, and we initiated and subsequently ended an incentive based budgeting model. Given all of these changes, we should refocus our gen ed efforts to make sure it is meeting our overall goals. The need for general education reform was noted as one of the recommendations from the 2021 Comprehensive Program Review. In addition, general education realignment was recommended in the initial HLC feedback report we received.


The working group will be composed of the following:

  • Chair: Val Murrenus Pilmaier, Assessment Coordinator
  • Arts & Humanities Faculty Representative: Alison Gates
  • Natural Sciences Faculty Representative: James Kabrhel
  • Social Sciences Faculty Representative: Jason Cowell
  • Professional Studies Faculty Representative: Christin DePouw/ Matt Raunio
  • At-large faculty: Clif Ganyard
  • Administrative Liaison to Gen Ed Council (ex officio, non-voting): Ryan Martin
  • Gen Ed Council Representative: Breeyawn Lybbert
  • Student Representative: Hannah Beauchamp-Pope

Committee Charge

The committee is charged with accomplishing the following:

  1. Review current general education program.
    • Determine what is working well and what needs to be revised.
  2. Revise general education program to be aligned with our mission.
    • Access. Our current list of 435 gen ed classes with 20% counting in multiple categories is unwieldy and confusing to students (and faculty/advisers). We need to significantly shrink this list of courses and minimize the cross-counting so that students can better understand what courses they should pursue. UW-Milwaukee is in a similar situation. As a fellow open access institution, they are significantly reducing the number of gen ed offerings so they have no more than 100 courses in total. As part of our refocusing, we would also be able to address upper-level courses that count toward gen ed, where students would need to complete a prerequisite before they enrolled in the upper-level course.
    • From our select mission, "The culture and vision of the University reflect a deep commitment to diversity, inclusion, social justice, civic engagement, and educational opportunity at all levels. Our core values embrace community-based partnerships, collaborative faculty scholarship and innovation."
    • Strategic Priorities (e.g., Student Success, Inclusivity, Digital Transformation, Community Connections, and Sustainability)
  3. Determine the key competencies, skills, and knowledge we want our students to possess upon graduation.
    • The revised general education program should be able to articulate these to our students in an understandable way via our categories and courses represented.
    • Our approach needs to better tell the story about why general education is a core part of the curriculum to students, rather than approaching with a "checkbox mentality". Some other institutions even use their general education curriculum as a selling point and recruitment tool (See UW-Oshkosh and University of Virginia for two examples of this).
  4. Ensure robust assessment procedures of general education.
    • Shared assessment of designated learning outcomes
    • Create shared institutional philosophy and principles on general education for use by Gen Ed Council to ensure continued future alignment despite turnover of the Gen Ed Council.

Tentative Timeline

The committee’s work will primarily run from January 2022 through Fall 2023. The committee will meet during Summer 2022 and faculty members will be compensated for this work.

Semester Milestone
Spring 2022 Collect feedback from general education stakeholders (Gen Ed Council, students, faculty, staff, employers/community)
Summer 2022 Synthesize realignment ideas based on feedback from stakeholders
Develop rough draft of realignment proposal
Fall 2022 Collaborate with Gen Ed Council on rough draft
Finish rough draft of realignment proposal
Spring 2023 Open forums for feedback
Revise and finalize proposal (May 2023)
Fall 2023 Present proposal at Senate (2 readings: September and October)
Enter into Courseleaf (December)
Fall 2024 Start date of revised general education program


Proposed Model Spring 2023

Current Graduation Requirements Compared to Proposed Graduation Requirements

Current Credits Proposed Credits
Introduction to Writing 0-3 Introduction to Writing 0-3
Advanced Writing 0-3 Advanced Writing 0-3
Math competency 0-3 Math competency 0-3
Capstone 1-3 Capstone 3
Ethnic Studies 3 Ethnic Studies 3
Total Grad Requirement Credits 4-15 Total Grad Requirement Credits 3-12

Changes & Rationales:
*The capstone requirement has been removed as a graduation requirement. Programs that wish to have a capstone experience are encouraged to continue to do so. Capstones have been inconsistently applied across the university and serve as a significant staffing burden to larger programs.

Current Gen Ed Requirements Compared to Proposed Gen Ed Requirements

Current Credits Proposed Credits
First Year Seminar 3 First Year Seminar 3
Fine Arts 3 Fine Arts 3
Social Sciences 6 Social Sciences** 6 3
Humanities 6 Humanities** 6 3
Biological Sciences 3 Biological Sciences 3
Natural Sciences 3-5 Natural Sciences**** 3
Sustainability Perspective 3-4 Environmental Sustainability**** 3
Global Culture 3 Intercultural Competency/Global Studies 3
Quantitative Literacy 3-7 Math/Quantitative Reasoning**** 3
  33-40 Civics*** 3
    Ethics and Social Responsibility*** 3
    Inquiry and Informational Literacy*** 3
Total Gen Ed Credits 33-40 Total Gen Ed Credits 36

Changes & Rationales:
**Both the Social Sciences and Humanities requirements have been decreased from 6 to 3 credits. The rationale for decreasing the number of credits requirement in these two areas is to help make room for the new requirements (Inquiry and Information Literacy, Ethics and Social Responsibility, and Civics). It is assumed that most of the courses on Ethics, Civics, and Information Literacy will be taught in the social sciences and humanities, so the decrease in credits is largely superficial.
***Three new categories (Civics, Ethics and Social Responsibility, and Inquiry and Informational Literacy), each with 3 credits required, have been added to the model. All three of these new categories are considered essential learning outcomes of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Their absence reflects a considerable deficit of our current general education model.
****Removed the credit ranges in Natural Sciences, Sustainability, and Quantitative Literacy. The requirement remains 3 credits. Students can, of course, take more than that, but the requirement is 3 credits.


Total Credits from Graduation Requirements and General Education

Current Credits Proposed Credits
Total Grad Requirement Credits 4-15 Total Grad Requirement Credits 3-12
Total Gen Ed Credits 33-40 Total Gen Ed Credits 36
Total Combined 37-55 Total Combined 39-48