Steering Committee reevaluates General Education Requirements

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March 29, 2012

11:40 PM

General Education Requirements courses, required by the College of William and Mary in an effort to provide students foundational knowledge, have become  a fixed part of many student registration schedules.

Yet this curriculum may be changed by the Curriculum Review Steering Committee, a project that began in April of last year.

“This process is very much in the present tense,” Interim Dean of Arts and Sciences Eugene R. Tracy said. “The draft proposal continues the primary commitment to student learning and recommends, for example, the retention of the foreign language requirement and some version of the popular freshman seminars.”

The Society for the College, an outside group that is separate from the Alumni Association and the College, recently voiced criticisms of the current curriculum requirements.

Although no changes have been announced yet, the Steering Committee will present a new curriculum proposal to the faculty of Arts and Sciences for consideration later this year.

“While the Steering Committee is not unmindful of possible repercussions, its charge is to steer an intellectual conversation among the faculty that results in the best possible set of general education requirements for our students,” Tracy said.

Faculty input into the curriculum has been a long-standing tradition at  the College.

“When we say ‘faculty as a whole,’ we’re talking about hundreds of faculty [members] who are deeply committed to our students’ success,” Tracy said. “Through their work and their deliberations, they are seeking a faculty consensus on a new curriculum that results in an affirmative vote by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.”

The Steering Committee has, however, encouraged students to begin thinking about what exactly a liberal arts education means to them and how it will help them begin to shape their futures.

“The proposed approach conceives a new curriculum that emphasizes inquiry, communication and collaboration throughout the undergraduate years and encourages students to integrate their knowledge of the liberal arts and to learn to think broadly and critically,” Tracy said. “Basically, the structure is intended to help students make sense of the liberal arts experience and connect the dots between one course and another.”

While Tracy noted that it is important to understand the opportunities available after completing a liberal arts education, there are many student criticisms of the current requirements for GERs or languages.

“I think, as far as changes are concerned, the one that always frustrated me most was the language requirement. I am a psychology major with a minor in women’s studies. For students that aren’t going into a field that requires a language like me, they shouldn’t have to take four semesters of a language just to satisfy that requirement,” Dexter Strong ’13 said. “That’s four different classes I could have taken toward a major, minor or GER.”

These requirements have inhibited some students from focusing on the major or minor that they are working towards.

“I honestly wish we had the option not to take certain GERs once we’ve chosen our major. When I declare my government major, I don’t want to still be required to take chemistry. It isn’t like in that time I am going to find new-found love for the subject,” Liam MacDonald ’15 said. “That being said, I really wish I [weren’t] required to take two different science courses.”

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About Author

  • Bailey Kirkpatrick

Senior staff writer Bailey Kirkpatrick '15 is an international relations major from Ashburn, Virginia. She was previously Associate Variety Editor and Associate News Editor.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. 7hou
    March 30, 2012 at 1:04 AM

    "psychology major and women's study minor."  good god -- quick, to the business school with you.

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