A President's Reflections

General Education

Posted on March 21, 2010

I had a recent opportunity to review the new General Education model. As a reminder, our Strategic Plan calls for us to shift to a competency-based Gen Ed program, one that moves us away from the “spray and pray they’ll retain something” approach of most Gen Ed programs. There is much to like about the draft program.

For one, it is actually a program. It has a set of clearly understood competencies, it is scaffolded, it offers both breadth and some depth, and it still gives student more options. It offers an alternative of the “students HAVE to have this” or “they HAVE to have that” competition for territory that tended to be more about departmental desires than student need. I also like the fact that it is a disciplined program. It doesn’t allow for substituting what are essentially school or departmental requirements for core requirements.

On the NEASC Commission on Higher Education we worried about two things:

*The encroachment of majors into the Gen Ed program;

*The shrinking of Gen Ed in the face of ever more demands for time in the major, sometimes driven by specialized accreditation and professional guidelines.

While I could make an argument for an even larger core or Gen Ed program, our proposed program is at least standard. There are of course tweaks I would like to see. The love the three course concentrations on special topics, but fear that too little opportunity for synthesis and cohesion exists without a fourth capstone course. I worry that we still do not include enough writing across the four years and that perhaps we lack the broad commitment to what is a most essential and marketable skill. Others while find things they would like to change.

However, the Gen Ed task force deserves an enormous amount of credit. They have worked hard at the program, pursued extra training, looked hard at other programs, and brought together our best thinking as an institution. If we can resist the temptation to chip away at the proposal and revert to what we had before, the proposed program would be more genuinely innovative than 90% of what is touted as new and different. SNHU would finally have a distinct Gen Ed Program.

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