Rita Vilorio knows exactly what she wants to do when she graduates college. The freshman physics major wants to work for the NASA as a successful aeronautical specialist. However, when she learned she had to also take an art requirement in addition to four science-related classes, she was slightly baffled.
The reason Vilorio needed to take an art course is because of the General Education curriculum, the newly designed program for incoming freshmen and transfer students.
GenEd, which replaced the previous core curriculum, requires students to take 11 courses in nine areas, including a four-course minimum in reading, writing, humanities and math.
Vilorio now takes a theater course for her art requirement, and she enjoys it because she “likes the balance of classes.”
Both students and faculty are skeptical about the new curriculum and the goals and prospects it hopes to accomplish.
According to the GenEd Web site, “the best way to prepare for the future is to learn how information is linked and interrelated. GenEd is about making connections.” However, some students feel otherwise and only want to take classes that pertain to their specific majors.
“I went to high school for a general education,” said freshman film and media arts major Matt Huber. “College should be more geared toward my major, so I have a better idea of what I want to do.”
Terry Halbert, director of the GenEd program, said research from the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows that job markets have better responses to well-rounded applicants who have critical thinking and communication skills.
“They must be knowledgeable on a plethora of information, not just the focus of their major,” Halbert said. “[GenEd] is going to help students in their futures when they go into the job market because it teaches multiple skills required in a more globalized world.”
“There’s a huge variety of classes, which I like, and any class is beneficial if there’s learning,” said freshman communications major Stephenie Foster. “People shouldn’t be so narrow-minded because the class isn’t completely related to their major.”
This seems to be the basis of the GenEd philosophy.
George Leef, vice president for research at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, is dissatisfied with Temple’s GenEd program.
“Instead of ensuring a broad, foundational education for all students, [universities] have become smorgasbords with a wide variety of courses,” Leef said.
Some professors at Temple agree.
An economics professor, who wanted to remain anonymous, said there is an uneven flow within the program and no guidelines to teach basic introduction classes. As a result, he feels that he cannot “dive deeply into information” because most of his students do not plan on pursuing anything related to his course after they graduate.
Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Dr. Peter Jones said besides teaching students “the development and utilization of critical skills,” the new GenEd program also “encourages faculty to explicitly incorporate these goals into their courses, and where possible, extend beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries.”
He said teachers are now expected to go beyond conventional teachings and educate in a more modern way. For instance, GenEd includes themes, such as the Philadelphia Experience. This theme is included in some of the courses, and it incorporates at least one lesson out of the classroom and into the city. The program partners with the cultural institutions in Philadelphia such as the Art Museum and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
“Temple is unique in the country for the way that we’re integrating our city into the classroom,” Halbert said.
Faculty responses about GenEd are positive.
Marva Sumlin, an instructor in the African-American studies department “enjoys the change.”
“Class sizes grew from the students who wouldn’t normally take my class,” she said. “[Higher student enrollment] makes it really interesting.”
Since students are required to take classes in 11 different areas of study, they are now taking more unusual classes they would have otherwise skimmed right over during course selection. One of the curriculum’s greatest attributes is its emphasis on what Halbert calls “information literacy.”
In a world complicated with “information overload,” Halbert said, “we needed to do something.”
GenEd certainly maintains the tradition of its predecessor in that both curriculums offer modern and intuitive courses that define Temple as a leading research institution. GenEd is a cultural change for Temple, despite the fact that not all students and teachers agree with it.
Still, the main objective of the curriculum is to engage students in learning that will better contribute to their roles in the global market.
Matt Petrillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.