General education core under discussion

First- and second-year experience courses part of plan representatives say will focus course requirements

Suggestions for changing the university’s core curriculum garnered mostly positive feedback in a student-centered discussion last week. Supporters of a plan to redesign required courses said they hope to see smaller classes and more departmental focus.

The Proposal for Reform of Undergraduate Education at UNLV was discussed at an open meeting on Feb. 23, hosted by CSUN.

According to the proposal, required classes such as world literature and both constitution courses would be removed from the core curriculum, to be replaced by “first-” and “second-year experience” classes.

The new courses would be aimed at advancing five key outcomes of undergraduate education: intellectual breadth and lifelong learning, inquiry and critical thinking, communication, global and multicultural knowledge, and citizenship and ethics knowledge.

The proposal would see the installation of seminars to help students understand and achieve these learning outcomes.

The Faculty Senate is set to hear the plan at their meeting March 22 and is expected to vote on the proposal in April. Changes would be instated for students entering UNLV in the fall of 2012.

Joseph Valenzano III is a member of the Faculty Senate General Education Committee and the General Education Task Force formed in December.

He said that the proposal, which has already been presented to most university departments, came about after UNLV’s accreditation review in 2000 cited a need for a more coherent assessment of general education.

Valenzano said the proposed changes would give general education at UNLV “more coherence and more direction.”

The plan also came to be after data indicating that UNLV students are not as academically challenged as students in other institutions came to the attention of planning committees and UNLV’s retention rates were judged to be too low, according to the proposal on the provost’s website.

Undergraduate Student Body President David Rapoport, the only student who sits on the General Education Task Force, said UNLV administration wants to make sure students get a quality education.

He said the meeting allowed students to offer suggestions on the proposal, which is subject to change according to the needs of the university.

“As a committee member, my job is to listen to what the feedback is from all [the departments on campus] … and figure out how to change [the proposal] to accommodate concerns brought up,” Rapoport said.

Likewise, Valenzano said his goal at the hearing was to gain insight into students’ perspectives.

“I was at the meeting to present the proposal and gather feedback, not to defend it, argue or persuade,” Valenzano said. “I was basically there to present it and gather general feedback from the students regarding what they thought about it so that I can inform the task force about how we might adjust, modify and change the proposal as it stands.”

However, he did say that the proposal would be a step in the right direction.

“It is an excellent thing for students, and I think it will provide more engagement between students and faculty in the long run,” Valenzano said. ” … There are certain things that need to be addressed and cleared up, but generally speaking, I think the motive behind it is positive.”

Changes to core curriculum would come on the heels of cuts that top UNLV officials have said will be unable to see academic services held harmless, but Valenzano said the new courses would represent an investment that would make a UNLV education more worth the higher fees President Neal Smatresk has assured are coming in fall.

“If students are paying more … they should be getting a better quality education,” Valenzano said. “If you pay more, you want more. These [classes] will get you more.”

Contact Maria Ágreda at [email protected]

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