College faculty approve new general education curriculum, will replace GERs in 2015


The College of William and Mary’s Arts and Sciences faculty approved a new general education curriculum during its meeting Dec. 12. The new curriculum, expected to take effect in fall 2015, eventually will replace the current GER system, which has been used at the College since 1993.

Like the current GER system, the College Curriculum will make up about 30 of the 120 credits students need to graduate.

Unlike GERs, which may be completed at any point during a student’s career at the College, the College Curriculum will be spread over four years. First-year students will continue to enroll in freshman seminars, titled COLL 150, and will also take a COLL 100 course designed to introduce them to college-level rigor.

“We love the way our current freshman seminars have worked over the past 14 years or so, and what we’re really doing is intensifying that experience by adding a COLL 100 that asks students to think about how we ask questions — big questions — and then how we go about getting the answers,” Arts and Sciences Dean for Educational Policy Lu Ann Homza said.

Following their first year at the College, students will then complete one course in each designated COLL 200 knowledge domain. The three domains will be related to the physical sciences, social sciences and humanities.

Homza explained that COLL 300, to be completed in the third year of a student’s career at the College, focuses on the world beyond Williamsburg. She said students may complete the requirement through study abroad and other academic experiences taking place off-campus or through colloquium courses at the College.

The final requirement under the curriculum will be COLL 400, a capstone course offered through students’ majors, to be completed in their fourth year at the College.

In addition to operating on a more specific timetable, the College Curriculum will differ from the current GER system in that it will not allow students to use AP and IB credits in fulfilling various GERs.

Dean of Undergraduate Studies John Griffin said part of the purpose of this decision was to promote the idea that students have a shared educational experience at the College.

“We certainly want to respect those credits and hard work, and they will still be applicable,” Griffin said. “Many of them will count for elective credit at the College. What’s different is the College courses — the 100, 150, 200, 300, 400 — that you will have to take here.”

He emphasized that students will still be required to take 120 credits to graduate from the College, so the AP and IB credits can be put to use in fulfilling other graduation requirements.

Homza said the College Curriculum meets the standards of the College’s accrediting bodies, the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

“We deeply respect the efforts that students and their families go to, to seek out AP and IB classes,” Homza said. “That’s terribly important and can be very, very rewarding. We also deeply understand the need for students to graduate in four years for all kinds of economic and other reasons, and the curriculum that was just voted in today fully adheres to the standards of our accrediting institutions.”

Homza and Griffin also emphasized the faculty’s role in approving the new curriculum. Approximately 200 full-time Arts and Sciences faculty members voted on the measure, with 55 percent in favor of implementing the College Curriculum and 45 percent against.

After the framework for the College Curriculum was approved in February 2013, the College’s Curriculum Review Steering Committee made presentations to each academic department, surveyed faculty members, and met with focus groups to discuss potential changes.

“As a faculty, we really refined what we want to see in each of these College courses, which was exciting because it made the commitment even stronger to the principles we wanted to see … and the shared experience [we] want our undergraduates to have,” Griffin said.

The two added that, because one of the goals of the College Curriculum is to encourage interdisciplinary learning, they are hoping the new courses will encourage faculty members from different departments to collaborate in helping students learn about a subject from multiple perspectives.

Homza said she thinks an increasingly interdisciplinary approach will also help prepare students for the job market they will face upon graduation.

“What we think this [curriculum] will produce is an intellectually astute, intellectually flexible student who is intellectually curious and who knows how to cope with change,” she said.


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