Gen ed task force reevaluating curriculum

Elizabeth Beilman

WKU’s general education core is being revised by an ad hoc General Education Task Force that could change requirements for the first time in more than 10 years.

Larry Snyder, associate dean of Potter College of Arts & Letters and chair of the Task Force, said the task force is working on a revision proposal now to be viewed by the University Senate.

The proposal will lower the general education required hours from 44 to 39, making the general education core curriculum 30 hours, he said.

Snyder said the nine hours that aren’t core curriculum are “where we can put our mark and say this is a uniquely Western experience.”

He said general education is important because it represents “what you value as an institution.”

“Your core curriculum tells to students and faculty that this is what’s important,” Snyder said. “This is the heart of the academic mission, because this is the only experience that every student takes away.”

Snyder said he hopes to complete the proposal to submit to the University Senate before the semester ends.

He said the committee would like to have changes go into effect in fall 2012, but 2013 is possible.

“It’s more important for us to get it right than to get it fast,” Snyder said.

Rich Weigel, professor of history and chair of the General Education Committee (a standing committee of the University Senate), is also on the General Education Task Force.

Weigel said his longtime involvement in the committee will allow him to offer insight.

“I think I have a broader knowledge on campus,” Weigel said. “I would say I know our system very, very well, and I can look at what is proposed here in that context.”

Snyder said the general education core is being changed for three reasons.

The first was a recommendation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, WKU’s accreditation organization.

“One of the things they pointed out was our general education credit needed more coherence,” Snyder said.

The second reason is to comply with a piece of legislation that requires institutions to revise their transfer agreements to make transfers easier, specifically with general education courses, Snyder said.

He said Kentucky has adopted the Liberal Education and America’s Promise, or LEAP, initiative to model the general education core after.

According to the LEAP initiative, essential learning outcomes are based on four key principles: knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and integrative and applied learning.

“This is the heart of the new transfer agreement and something we’re committed to,” Snyder said.

The third reason the general education core is being changed is because he said it hasn’t been revised for 12 or 13 years.

Snyder said he isn’t sure if the proposal will only affect incoming students or not. But he said nothing new would put current students at a disadvantage.

He said his goal is to make general education a more integral part of the learning experience.

“General education is not something that you just get out of the way,” Snyder said. “We are not training folks just for their first career. We are educating them for a lifetime of success.”