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Feb. 3 , 2005
CONTACT: Ron Podell
734.487.4400
ron.podell@emich.edu

EMU general education reform focuses on academic outcomes and flexibility

YPSILANTIFewer required credits, more flexibility in scheduling and an easier transfer experience are a few of the benefits Eastern Michigan University students can expect when general education reform takes effect.

The new general education program, dubbed "Education for Participation in the Global Community," becomes effective in fall 2006.

The new program will require EMU students to take 40 hours of general education credits rather than the current 50 hours required (48 general education credits and a 2-credit requirement in health and wellness). The current general education program, or basic studies program, was implemented in 1989, and is more course-specific. A review of that program began in winter 2001.

The new curriculum is outcome-based and focuses on five areas. Under the new program, the largest number of credits — 25 — must cover knowledge of the following disciplines: natural sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities. Other credits are required to demonstrate effective communication (6), quantitative reasoning (3) and perspectives on a diverse world (6). 

The Board of Regents unanimously approved the new general education program at its Jan. 18 Board meeting.

"We think this program does a better job with coherence, flexibility, ease of transfer and integrating academic programs into the educational experience," said Marty Shichtman, chair of the General Education Reform Committee and a professor of English language and literature. "We believe it is a program that is responsive and responsible to EMU and (follows) national trends."

For example, students will be required to take foundational courses in writing, speech and quantitative reasoning within their first 45 hours. Having these basic skills early will translate to upper-level courses, where such skills become more prevalent, Shichtman said.

In addition, students will, through two required courses, become better aware of global perspectives and issues relating to U.S. diversity. These courses must be completed within a student's first 60 credit hours.

An upper-level writing requirement in a student’s major, as well as options emphasizing “Learning Beyond the Classroom,” provides general education throughout the college years. Under the current program, many students tended to take most, if not all, of their general education course requirements within their first two years.

The move to an outcomes-based general education program makes transferring to EMU considerably easier than the current program, which requires specific courses, said Interim Provost Don Loppnow. The program also is far more responsive to the spirit of the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (MACRAO) agreement than the current program, he said.

"The program offers opportunities for curricular innovation such as interdisciplinary offerings, interest groups, learning communities and linked courses, and seminars and capstone courses," Loppnow said. "The curriculum acknowledges the educational value and importance of the co-curriculum and makes explicit the linkages between curricular and co-curricular activities."

"The proposal offers an exciting, enriching, flexible and involved curriculum for general studies, and will provide students with not only a general education, but a global education and an opportunity to become involved in learning," said Student Government Vice President Bobby Murkowski.

The Student Leader Group supported the proposal with a position paper.

The Faculty Council passed the proposal at its Jan. 5 meeting.

To begin readying the new program, a general education leadership team (a smaller group from the General Education Reform Committee) has been formed and will work with the Faculty Council to set up program implementation committees, said Ellene Tratras-Contis, assistant vice president for academic administrative services. The committees will work with departments to look at current courses and make sure they satisfy outcomes in the new general education program. If they don't, existing courses will be revised to satisfy outcomes in the new general education program and/or new courses will be created that satisfy the outcomes, Tratras-Contis said.

To aid this process, spring and summer term institutes will be set up to train faculty in course development, Tratras-Contis said.

The initial phase of implementing the plan will cost approximately $120,000 for fiscal year 2005 and will be funded through reallocation within the current budget in academic affairs. The cost for future years will be incorporated into the annual budget process.

Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.

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Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.


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