Choosing a theme for general education in order to improve the experience of students was the main focus at the General Education Enhancement Workshop yesterday afternoon in the Memorial Union Ballroom.
“We use the metaphor of a silo,” said Gary Wyatt, associate dean of liberal arts and science and director of general education. “You hop into the history silo at nine and climb out, and then at 10 you hop into the biology silo and they’re completely different – we want to bring connections.”
The forum chose to use food as the theme for the general education program next year. The forum hopes that incorporating this theme will connect the different general education classes to one another as well as the real world and will help students find more relevance in the courses, Wyatt said.
Some of the topics presented by faculty and students including social networking, death and climate change. The forum participants addressed all of these points in small groups and then voted as a whole through three rounds of narrowing down the subjects.
The idea of choosing a theme to make connections from subject to subject stemmed from previous meetings of faculty and students and Wyatt said that other schools he had heard from had found success with this strategy.
During the debate, food received support because it was broad enough to encompass all of the subjects but not so broad as to dilute the subject so the connections could not be made. Jim Bartruff, director of theater, believed that freshmen would be bright enough to make those connections even with such a broad topic.
“I think the theme will be general enough for people to stay interested, and not a huge political stance like it could have been,” said Traci Schremmer, senior communications major.
Climate change was overlooked because of how polarizing a subject it could be, which could immediately turn off certain students, said Deborah Gerish, associate professor of social sciences.
Death was dismissed as a theme because of previous experience with such a dark subject was poorly received by students in an English course taught by Rachelle Smith, associate professor of English. She was a supporter of the theme but acknowledged the darkness of the subject.
“The overall theme, especially the uplifting one of food as compared to death, I could see that being fun for incoming freshman who can come in and see that all of their classes will have food involved. I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen next year,” said Liz Coffey, senior earth science major.