UM introduces new integrative experience gen-ed

By Katie Landeck

Over the winter break, the General Education Council announced the Integrative Experience General Education requirement, an upper level Gen. Ed. course that will be completed by juniors and seniors within their major.

The goals of the new Gen. Ed. are three-fold: According to Maurianne Adams, chair of the GenEd Council, the administration hopes the requirement will encourage students to apply what they have learned in their majors to other courses, provide advance level practice in objectives such as oral or written communication and provide a chance for students to apply what they have learned to “real world” problems.

“We can help our majors think back over their educational experiences and reflect on what they know and what they need to know to continue their education and to enter careers and professions,” said Adams. “We can also help our majors work collaboratively or in teams to solve real world problems and deal with new situations and challenging questions that are directly related to their majors.”

The new requirement, which all students who entered the University in fall of 2010 or later will be required to take, will be a three credit class similar to the 300-level writing course.

The Integrative Experience Gen. Ed. classes are still in the process of being finalized, as departments’ proposals for classes are due to this month, according to Martha Stassen, assistant provost in the office of Academic Planning & Assessment. However, regular courses, add-on modules to existing courses, independent studies, internships and service learning experiences could all potentially fill the requirement.

“A lot of departments are adapting upper-level courses that students already to take to provide more opportunity for students to think about how their Gen. Ed. courses affect their major,” said Stassen.

While the course is another class students will have to take, it will not influence the number of credits students have to take to fulfill their Gen. Eds. Two years ago, the number of required Gen. Ed. courses was reduced from 13 to 11. Despite that, this change also included the increase of number of credits required to fulfill some requirements, such as the social world requirement, which left room for the three credits for the integrative experience Gen. Ed.

“Nothing has been ‘added,’” said Adams. “When we reduced the total number of Gen. Ed. courses required, we also reshuffled those courses to make room for the Integrative Experience.”

Therefore, the number of credits required from the Gen. Ed. program will remain 39, the same as the old system.

The proposal for the new Gen. Ed. came from the General Education Task Force, a group created five years ago to talk to both students and faculty about the Gen. Ed. program and ways to improve it without a complete overhaul.

According to Stassen, the task force came to two major conclusions while they were talking to student focus groups and examining faculty answers to survey questions.

“We found that students thought the Gen. Ed. program was valuable overall,  but thought it was difficult to connect the Gen. Eds. to their major,” said Stassen.

“They wanted a class to help make better connections. The other big thing they thought was valuable was  class to help to connect the classroom to the real world.”

After realizing the need for more interdisciplinary, connective curricula, the Gen. Ed. council created “at least” 10 focus groups of students to discuss how to shape the requirement.

“We really have been trying to get student input from day one,” said Stassen.

As the new Gen. Ed. was announced recently and no mass email has been sent to the campus community, many students have yet to hear about the Gen. Ed., but at least one student who heard the news thinks it will be a positive experience.

“Personally, I don’t mind it,” said sophomore environmental science major Amber Tidlund. “As it is, we have 120 credits we need to fill to graduate, and this might be good for those students who need classes to fill that space. Plus, it might be helpful to us, the students, so we can see where our major interacts with other fields.”

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]