Proposal would alter undergraduate core

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It all started with a simple letter.

Last year a frustrated student wrote a letter detailing how she was sent from office to office, from one end of campus to the other, trying to find answers to a few academic advising questions.

That letter made it to the desks of University of Arizona President Manuel Pacheco and Provost Paul Sypherd, and the administration's plans to revamp undergraduate education originated, according to Sue Brichler, Associated Students of the University of Arizona Campus Policy Review Committee chair.

"Students are supportive of trying to make this general education mess easier to go through," Brichler said. "It's a nightmare to switch majors or to deal with degree checks to see if what you have taken will actually count and you will be able to graduate."

Brichler said most students are supportive of the idea of changing general education requirements, even if they don't agree with the specific core curriculum proposal.

The proposed core curriculum plan would require all entering freshman to take three year-long classes in sciences, social sciences and humanities. Currently, each of the colleges has different general education requirements. The plan would be phased in beginning in the fall of 1996.

The core curriculum must pass muster with the UA Faculty Senate, Pacheco and the Arizona Board of Regents.

Brichler said the core curriculum idea is only a proposal at this point, and the opinions of current students will be considered heavily in developing the curriculum plan.

"They (the committee) listen to our opinions because we know the reality of being students," she said. Brichler serves as one of the two students on the core curriculum planning committee.

"Students have more say than they think they do."

John Struble, an undeclared freshman, said he supports the proposal because he thinks students with a well-rounded education will be more successful in the current job market.

"Employers don't want the old-fashioned engineers who can just punch numbers and do nothing else. They want engineers who can interact with people from different firms and different countries," he said. "The specialization that occurs at the undergraduate level will suffer (under the core curriculum plan), but most jobs now require post-graduate education anyway, and that is when you can specialize."

Andrew Rogers, a deaf education sophomore, said he agrees that students would benefit from the core classes.

"It would expand our horizons by taking classes we wouldn't take otherwise," he said.

The Undergraduate Senate voted unanimously two weeks ago to endorse the core curriculum proposal and the idea of changing undergraduate requirements. The legislative body is comprised of eight elected undergraduate senators.

"The biggest asset is that it will offer a lot of structure, especially during the first and second years," said Brad Milligan, senate chairman. "It will give students a little taste of everything so they can decide what they want to do and have better direction right off the bat. And all students would also graduate with a broader base of knowledge."

Sen. Jennifer Haber said the proposal would be especially beneficial to students who are undecided about their major.

"This would be helpful to people who are changing majors," she said. "They would have two years without being penalized for exploring."

Under the proposal, in each of the generalized classes students would be exposed to several disciplines. For instance, a science class would give the student a glimpse at different areas of science.

Haber agreed that employers would also look positively on a more diverse education.

"After graduation, companies would know we (as UA graduates) had a background in several areas besides in our specific field," she said.

However, she also sees several potential problems that would need to be addressed before enacting the proposal.

"If all students would be required to take two years of foreign language or if math requirements included calculus, there are some people who don't really need to take these classes," she said.

Other students, including undeclared freshman Diane Linden, also have doubts about the proposed plan.

"It would be just like high school again if we had to take required courses," Linden said. "One of the greatest things about college is that you get to take classes you really want to take, that really interest you.

"I get excited about going to my classes, but I wouldn't if I had classes I had to take."

Jill Culbertson, a general biology junior, said she feels the quality of undergraduate education would be improved more by concentrating on hiring quality professors.

"No matter if they change (the core curriculum) or not, there will still be good teachers you can learn from and bad teachers you can't," she said.

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