MU faculty discuss possible changes to general education requirements

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — MU faculty proposed adding, dropping and changing class requirements in a forum about the General Education Program on Tuesday in Memorial Union.

John Adams, a chemistry professor, led the discussion and kept it geared around a central question:

"Are there things that we're doing that are irrelevant these days?"

Adams is chair of the General Education Task Force, a committee put together by the MU Faculty Council to address concerns about the current requirements. The committee's original purpose was the discussion of a diversity initiative, but it's now focusing on a possible overhaul.

About 25 faculty and staff members weighed in on the usefulness of the general education program. Some proposed changes in personal finance and health and nutrition courses.

Tom Thomas, professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, said his department hadn't thought through the technical aspects of adding a health and nutrition requirement, which would add three more credit hours to the general education curriculum, but classes to fit his proposed requirement already exist.

Deanna Sharpe, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the financial planning department, proposed allowing it to satisfy general math requirements in an effort to better prepare students for life after graduation.

Eliminating the capstone requirement was a popular idea among many professors at the forum. Ian Aberbach, director of undergraduate studies for the math department, said capstone courses take the place of more useful courses in a senior's schedule. "We end up with this kind of generic senior seminar," he said.

Larry Ries, associate teaching professor of statistics, said that while capstone courses might be relevant in certain areas of study, they're unhelpful to students in programs such as math or statistics.

Faculty members also voiced concerns that general education course listings are difficult to find and interpret.

Mary Moore, an academic adviser in the English department, worried students see general education requirements as tiresome. "I want a Gen. Ed. list to help me do my job," she said. Having a more accessible list and knowing general education objectives would make advising easier, she said.

The requirements now include a college algebra course, an English exposition and argumentation course, a writing intensive course and an American history or government course, according to the MU General Education Program Web site.

Other requirements are determined by department.

Forum participants also discussed the mission of the General Education Program, the process for deciding which courses satisfy which requirements and how to handle transfer or dual credits.

Adams said the purpose of the forum was to bring the Task Force's attention to the faculty's ideas about general education requirements — some of which were more revolutionary than evolutionary, he said.

The task force will report these ideas to the Faculty Council, who would then evaluate these suggestions and make changes. Adams said he was unsure when they would present their ideas.

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