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Helping Students Succeed with a Proposed New General Education Program

Oct 10, 2019

A team of faculty, with representation from all schools and colleges, worked hard over the summer to create a proposal for a revised GE program. The proposed program, which includes a revised breadth program and revised required seminar program, was designed with the intention of addressing and developing specific skills that will help students in their personal and professional lives. If approved, the new curriculum would go into effect in fall 2020.

The revised general education curriculum was inspired by students and the need to prepare them both for their academic careers at Pacific and their professional careers upon graduation. Students' needs are not the same as they were in the 1980s and 90s, when the GE program and PACS courses were designed. Students are facing a much more competitive job market, and the new GE program aims to address that. Ajna Rivera, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Chair (AY 2019-20), General Education Committee, says that, "Careerwise, employer and HR surveys typically find that employers value liberal arts skills in their employees but find many employees lacking in them. These skills include problem solving, critical thinking, ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity, communication and creativity. These are all skills that are taught in the new GE program."

Rather than the three PACS seminars, the new curriculum will be composed of two CORE classes that focus on developing those essential skills of problem solving, critical thinking, and written communication in all students. The change in name helps to distinguish the new proposed seminars from PACS and also communicates their centrality to students' education.  The program also includes seven breadth categories that will show students how their courses of study are relevant to the ways we engage the world as professionals, individuals, and members of various communities. These breadth categories are: Artistic process and creation, Civic responsibility, Language and narratives, Quantitative reasoning, Scientific inquiry, Social inquiry, Worldviews and ethics. The Diversity and inclusion requirement, also woven into the proposed program, will be met through approved GE courses that have an attribute as a certified Diversity course.

The way that the new program is structured, there seems to be a stronger emphasis on liberal arts courses. Derek Isetti, Assistant Professor of Speech Language Pathology and Chair (AY 2018-19), General Education Committee, says that this is because "The breadth categories are aligned with Areas of Inquiry that transcend all majors, including non-liberal arts. It's difficult to argue that any student, regardless of major, wouldn't be able to benefit from courses involving Civic responsibility, Worldviews and ethics, Diversity, or Creation. These are inquiry areas that in some capacity will play a role in the lives of virtually all future professionals."   

With all the revisions, the GE program is almost unrecognizable. But, according to Rivera, the old and new programs focus on similar skill sets - like the ability to view the world from multiple perspectives or the career and life skills necessary to succeed at Pacific and in the future - the new program just makes these skills more explicit. It offers the advantage of helping students become critical and integrative thinkers, creative problem solvers, effective communicators, and globally aware and ethically engaged citizens.

By emphasizing these skills, the new GE program will continue to uphold Pacific's mission of providing a student-centered learning experience that integrates liberal arts and professional education and prepares individuals for lasting achievement in their careers and communities.  

Thank you to the faculty who spent a substantial portion of their summer doing the careful review and revision that informed this proposal.

Read the Proposal for Revising University of the Pacific's General Education Program. (Log-in required)

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