Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2014 2:53 am
USP keeps students engaged in gen ed requirements
All students at UW Oshkosh have to complete a certain series of general education courses in order to graduate, but some of these requirements seem unbeneficial and many students struggle to apply themselves in these courses that may not relate to their interests or major.
The University Studies Program is trying to address these concerns by transforming general education classes to get students excited about learning things outside of their majors.
It’s discouraging to go to a class not required for a major and absolutely hate it, but USP is trying to make time in the classroom more enjoyable while fulfilling graduation requirements.
“USP classes have not really attributed to my interests but they have given me a broader sense of other topics or majors,” Oshkosh freshman Julia O’Connell said.
Oshkosh faces a retention problem and many students do not end up completing their degrees, which is one of the reasons USP was created.
“The goal we want to accomplish first is retention,” USP interim director Lori Carrell said. “Students come in with the potential, but if their first semester includes a lot of large classes and they don’t feel a sense of belonging they may leave for reasons we can do something about.”
There are more than 250 courses in the USP curriculum including geography of coffee, philosophy of love and politics of food, that are all meant to teach students about culture, civic engagement and sustainability while filling traditional general education requirements.
USP courses are meant to be more interesting and engaging than pit classes, which help students do well and enjoy their required classes.
The courses require students to be active outside of the classroom by volunteering, talking to people in the community and working on long-term projects.
“We wanted to provide this time of exploration so people can discover within themselves what they didn’t already know about but then also be earning credits toward graduation,” Carrell said.
These courses also keep professors interested in their classes. With smaller class sizes and topics that pertain to students’ interests, professors are more likely to be engaging and enjoy their time with their students.
USP also helps transition students into college by addressing problems many first year students reported struggling with, such as test anxiety and homesickness in the first classes they take.
“Teachers ease kids into college better by being patient and clear with their teaching,” O’Connell said.
The program also requires students to be active and visit their professors, create an ePortfolio and talk to their peer mentors. It forces first-year students to do what many don’t: get involved.
“Our students report that they’re not engaged in greater numbers that are acceptable to us,” Carrell said. “There are many, many students who don’t participate and we know they’re more likely to stay, get jobs and be civically engaged after graduation if they’re involved in college.”
Thursday, April 17, 2014 2:53 am.