After many years, Virginia Wesleyan University is looking to change their general studies program. The plan has been in the works for at least three years, thanks to a group of faculty members.
Associate Professor Margaret Reese, director of the general studies program, called the current curriculum “kind of complicated.” The general studies courses range from English 105 to the Senior Integrative Experience (SIE) and include a range of topics that can be simply art- or math- related. Some of the professors on campus strongly believe that it’s time for a change.
“The old system has spent 30 years as the general studies program. So, every decade or so people talk about changing it and things change a little,” Reese said.
As described by Reese, the proposal for the new curriculum will essentially strive to improve the college experience for Wesleyan students.
Per the new proposal, classes would be divided into three different sections or seminars. These seminars will aim to generate more engagement with academic work and improve certain skills like writing, communication and reading. Benefits would include making the program and senior seminars easier to understand and providing a chance for faculty to explore interesting courses that they would be passionate about.
“The content of the courses may be different… Instead of the letter courses and the senior integrative course, the new plan has sort of integrative courses starting with first year students. So instead of students taking all these seven courses and then integrating them, we try to teach students integration right from the beginning,” Reese said. She also stated that the changes wouldn’t be too drastic, as they would mainly affect organization.
Students are unsure as to how exactly this can improve a student’s educational experience.
Junior Tanail Canty doesn’t believe that the new program would make much of a difference. “During my freshman year I was extremely stressed out putting together my four-year plan,” Canty said. “Later it [turned out] I didn’t follow that four-year plan whatsoever. Life happens.”
Fellow junior Nickal Williams also agreed and added that having students get a head start on senior integrative courses wouldn’t be a good idea. “In college it’s pretty important for freshmen to get acclimated to the environment. They need to be able to realize or understand their own studies habits and what works for them before they try to take the SIE courses,” Williams said.
Williams thinks that there’s a risk of no improvement given the changes made to the institution recently. “I think it will be a little of a detriment for the students because it would decrease their exposure to things outside of their major,” Williams said.
Williams also stated that it simply wouldn’t work. “Anytime a drastic change like that is made, the first year usually doesn’t work. I don’t think this change should be made especially with the start of the Batten Honors College.”
Overall, Canty and Williams agree that while change is coming to or school, it should be focused less on the curriculum and more so on the students themselves. “If they are going to change anything they should change how the professors teach the classes to make it more engaging for students so it doesn’t feel as much of a chore, so students are not learning for a grade but learning for life,” Williams said.
Canty agreed. “Rather than changing the program they should get the students’ perspective, or survey the students on how they would like their education to be affected.”
Faculty hope that the new general studies program will be enacted by fall of 2019.