Curriculum debut expands elective, gen-ed options


Trustee computer lab

It’s April, the time to welcome the new bloom of springtime, to con- quer the home stretch of the semester and — of course — to register for fall courses.

However, registration season is different this year.

Starting Fall 2018, St. Edward’s students have the option to change their degree plan to t new general education requirements that could possibly lessen their course load.

Since Fall 2016, more than 80 faculty and staff worked to revamp student learning objectives and other requirements for a new general education curriculum.

Mary Rist, professor and Department Chair of Writing and Rhetoric, explains the reason for the changes and what it means for students.

“In some ways it’s a total overhaul of the gen-ed requirements,” Rist said.“In some ways, many things are.”

The current foundational course requirement that has been in place since the early ‘90s sits at 57 hours with freshman studies, two writing courses, math, modern language, computer science, oral communication, either religion or philosophy, two science courses, ethics, six cultural foundations classes and Capstone.

The new curriculum changes freshman studies to freshman seminar, adds quantitative reasoning (which can be fulfilled through math or statistics), axes computer science, requires religion course instead of a choice of philosophy and one natural science instead of two science courses, with 44 hours as the new required hours.

In place of six cultural foundations courses, the new curriculum requires four classes in Diverse American Perspectives, Global Perspectives, Exploring Expressive Works and Creativity in Making.

A variety of classes will be able to fulfill these credits– with many in history, political science, sociology, global studies and education classes.

Professors can request for their class to full the requirement should the course ful ll the learning outcomes.

“The idea was that we would streamline the required courses, we would allow students choice in variety that they took,” Rist said.

“And then rather than requiring them to take two Diverse American Perspectives classes, we have mission marker requirements where we’re encouraging faculty in the disciplines to adapt their classes to make sure that they cover some of this mission content and that they touch back on mission goals.”

The new requirements allow students to lend the classes from their major into the general education requirements.

Fulfilling specific mission markers brings major and general education classes closer, which is further exemplified at the end of a student’s college experience by taking culminating experience in place of Capstone.

“We hope that what a student is doing is using everything they learned in their major to create a disciplined-specific project,” Rist said.

“Which also shows their abilities to write, to reason critically, to communicate orally and to understand diverse perspectives in their work.”

A push from the Board of Trustees made it so the new curriculum would re- quire a religion credit rather than having philosophy as an alternative choice to full the credit.

According to Rist, St. Edward’s was one of the few Catholic institutions in the country that did not fully require a religion credit.

However, with the new curriculum, students still delve into philosophy with a required ethics credit. 

120 is still the number of required hours for students to graduate; however, students are now given more freedom 13 additional hours in the new curriculum.

“If you pull some of [hours] out of the gen ed program, that puts them into your electives which gives you a bigger pool of elective-hour courses that you could use to create a second major or a minor or you could just use to take a diversity of classes that you were interested in,” Rist said.

“Which, again, is really quite a liberal arts mission is to get you to explore some things that you might not have explored before.”

Incoming freshmen and transfer students will be required to register in the new curriculum; however, current students have the choice to switch over.

A quick look into the “What If” tab in Degree Works on myHilltop can show current students how many hours they would have left if they switched. Students would remain on track for their major as general education courses will be the only courses changing even if “What If” on Degree Works doesn’t reflect this.

Rist says the university assures that the registrar will change the general education courses, but not major-specific courses.

The switch could be mean less courses for some students, but more for others.

For instance, if you have already taken a philosophy course to count for your religion credit, you will still have to take a religion course.

If you’ve taken both required science classes under the current curriculum, you will have satisfied the new science requirement.

The change could also work unfavorably for rising seniors.

“I would say probably for most seniors it’s not going to make much sense to switch,” Rist said.

“For one thing, the culminating experience, many majors aren’t quite ready to offer their culminating experience.”

The Writing and Rhetoric major, however, is one of the majors ready for the culminating experience course that replaces Capstone.

Rist says rising sophomores are likely to benefit from the new requirements and rising juniors should highly consider switching.