UA weighs designs for curriculum

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

While the UA is considering changing a large part of its undergraduate curriculum, the question of how to go about it remains an issue among other state and Pacific 10 Conference schools.

Last semester, Provost Paul Sypherd presented a concept that would reinvent general education at the University of Arizona by replacing the requirements of different colleges with a university-wide core curriculum. All students would be required to take yearlong survey courses in natural sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities, as well as courses in composition, mathematics and foreign languages.

Arizona State University, which follows a general education system similar to the UA's current system, also has varying requirements among the individual colleges.

The colleges require varying numbers of courses in humanities and fine arts, social and behavioral sciences, lab science and math, statistics or computer applications, said Clara Moore, an ASU academic advisor.

However, there is little similarity in the requirements of various colleges, which often causes problems for students who change majors, she said.

"There is not a lot of overlap in the requirements of different colleges," she said. "We attempt to get students to take those general studies requirements that would allow them to transfer to another college or major. There are certain courses that are fail-safe, like psychology and sociology, which are accepted by all the colleges."

Moore said the university has tried to minimize the problem of students taking unnecessary, nontransferable classes by designating students as "mandatory mid

advisees." These students, which include all students in their first academic year and any student with below a 2.0 grade point average, cannot register for classes until they see an academic adviser each semester.

Northern Arizona University, on the other hand, has a university-wide general education program similar to the proposed core curriculum.

Although departments can require more specific requirements, students who follow the "liberal studies" requirements can usually transfer easily between colleges without worrying about dealing with another set of general education requirements, said Dean Packard, an NAU academic advisor.

Packard, who was once a UA undergraduate student, said he thinks a program like NAU's would work at the UA as well, since it is flexible for students and allows colleges to consider their own needs.

"The system has been around a long time and we are happy with it," he said. "It works because it encompasses what colleges need for their degree, but at the same time allows for flexibility for students."

Students are required to take 43 units, including 12 upper-division units in English, math, arts, language, natural science, social science and world cultures.

Oregon State University has also adopted a "baccalaureate core" that applies to students in all colleges. Under the core, students are required to take 48 credits in three areas skills, perspectives and synthesis courses, said Ralph Reiley, the OSU assistant registrar.

Skills courses include math, English, communications and fitness classes. Physical and biological sciences, western cultures, cultural diversity and arts and literature course are included in the perspectives area. Synthesis courses are upper-division courses in "contemporary global issues in science and technology."

The current program was adopted in 1990 to replace a less extensive, more general university-wide program, Reiley said.

The program is very specific and can often be confusing for students to designate courses that meet each requirement, but the university has developed a system to improve academic advising, he said. On a student's transcript, the core courses are highlighted to help the student and adviser focus on what requirements still need to be completed. The student also periodically receives an automated degree audit that highlights which areas still need to be completed, Reiley said.

University of California-Los Angeles, however, still follows a college-specific general education program like the UA and NAU.

The requirements between colleges are not very similar, but since about 20,000 of the 22,000 students at UCLA are in the college of Letters and Sciences, it is rare that students transfer into a new college and have to deal with a new set of general education requirements, said Penny Unruh, a UCLA academic advisor.

However, if a student from the colleges of engineering, fine arts or film and television transfers into Letters and Sciences, he or she would need to make up additional classes to complete the college's general requirements, Unruh said. Since the college of letters and sciences requires more classes, the transferring students would not likely "waste" any classes that they had taken under the previous general education program, she said.

The Letters and Sciences requirements include 14 classes, but students are exempt from two of the classes in the area of their major. Students can choose from about 250 classes to complete these requirements.

Unruh said the complex structure of the requirements allows little flexibility for students and often makes it confusing to try to fulfill each of the separate "compartments" of the program. For example, to fulfill the three-class science requirement, students cannot chose any three courses, but must take one science and two "complementary" natural science courses.

"The tendency to compartmentalize gets a little bureaucratic," Unruh said. "It makes good sense intellectually, but realistically it seems that we are following the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law. A lot of people think we need to be more flexible."

Unruh said a UCLA Faculty Senate committee is currently studying general education, but she said she would be surprised if a university-wide curriculum would be adopted.

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