CSS Adopts New General Education Program

Abigail Blonigen

The College of St. Scholastica will be adopting a new general education program in the 2016-2017 school year, school officials confirmed.

The program is called Veritas which translates from Latin as Truth.

The most visible change will be with the first year Dignitas program. Instead of two credits, it will be four, and it will be held twice a week instead of once. In addition, a two-credit Interpersonal Communications class will replace the four-credit Human Communications class that is currently required.

Veritas has been in the making for over two years said Bret Amundson, head of general education.

“In December 2014, the faculty assembly approved a change to our college learning outcomes. Those college learning outcomes were adapted from AAC&U, or the Association for American Colleges and Universities. They are the outcomes for a liberal education,” said Amundson.

The school’s website condenses these outcomes into intercultural knowledge and competence, ethical reasoning and action, and civic knowledge and engagement.

“To have a great, robust liberal education here at The College of St. Scholastica, a student will engage in these outcomes throughout their entire career in both gen ed and in their major courses,” he said.

Beth Domholdt, vice president of academic affairs, said the main reason for the change is,

“It’s thought that our current general education program is not as coherent as it could be and because it’s not tightly linked to the outcomes that we want to see for student learning,” she said.

Ashley Dressel, philosophy professor on the General Education Committee, agreed.

“[The new program] will do a better job helping students to have the entire sort of integrated experience that we want out of gen ed,” she said.

Instead of students feeling like they are just taking a bunch of random classes, she said they should feel like it was “a really meaningful experience.”

Amundson, Domholdt, and Dressel all referred to Veritas as a “scaffolding.”

“There’s a lot of similarities to the current pathway model,” Amundson said, “but there’s some tweaks to it that make it more integrated throughout the entire program and throughout their entire college experience.”

To break it down, Amundson explained that there are three levels of general education courses: foundational, conceptions, and integrations. The foundational courses are the ones everyone has to take: “four credits of Dignitas, the same composition that we had, four credits of math, the same world language requirement, and two credits of Interpersonal Communication.” In addition, students are required to take four gen ed courses at the conceptions, or 1000 and 2000 level, and two courses at the integrations, or 3000 level. The other two required courses are flexible.

That hasn’t changed as much as the general education pathways.

“We don’t have a writing intensive pathway because all upper division classes in Veritas are writing intensive. We don’t have an analytical reasoning pathway, but we do have a math foundations course. We don’t have a cultural diversity pathway because cultural diversity is integrated throughout the whole program. And we added the open pathway,” Amundson said.

The open pathway is designed for classes that don’t specifically fit in any of the other seven pathways, like Argumentation, for example. Or if a student particularly wanted to take a course that was unrelated to their major, they could double up on one of the seven pathways instead of taking an “open” course.

How will these outcomes be met? Each gen ed course has to be reapproved.

“When each course gets approved, the course is going to have to say what outcomes the course addresses and what assignments within this course can be used for assessment,” said Domholdt.

She explained that some current general education courses already meet those outcomes and will not change. Some will have to tweak their curriculum to better reach an outcome, and some that don’t strongly commit to these outcomes will no longer count as general education courses.

“There will maybe be new courses that are developed. There’s going to be a several year phase in,” Domholdt said.

“When we put this together it took a long time,” explained Amundson. “This proposal took us two years, almost. We had conversations with all sorts of people. Every department on campus, almost every faculty member. We had town hall meetings. We had faculty meetings It was crazy.” Despite the amount of work, faculty have high hopes for this change.”

“The general education program is the liberal arts foundation that our students get. It’s a really important part of our curriculum. So it’s not just a collection of courses students take, it should be a really important liberal arts foundation for the college, regardless of what your major is,” Domholdt said.

“We know this will change students,” said Amundson.

These changes will be implemented next school year. This means everyone currently enrolled at St. Scholastica will finish out the existing current general education program and will not experience these changes.

More information is available at css.edu/veritas.