Following three years of discussion, UNC Greensboro (UNCG) has unveiled its plans for a new general education curriculum. The University’s Faculty Senate, the group that is overseeing the new implementations to the program, approved the updated curriculum structure in October, 2019. It will take effect beginning with the Fall 2021 semester.
Although the change took a while to construct and approve, professors appear confident that it will afford students a stronger foundation for their liberal arts education and will assist them in adapting to life outside of college.
“We’re proud of the work that’s been done,” said Anthony Chow, chairman of the Faculty Senate, as stated in the Greensboro News and Record.
UNC Greensboro, like most universities nationwide, mandates that its students participate in a general education program. “Gen Ed” programs are comprised of a variety of course requirements and are designed to both teach students necessary and basic skills and to allow them to explore areas of study that they may be interested in. General education programs are required to graduate, and typically students complete their general education requirements within their first two years at their university. Following completion of general education courses, students are then able to focus on courses within their major.
UNC Greensboro released its current general education curriculum in 2006, and university Provost Dana Dunn believes that the effort to revise the program is long overdue. The new curriculum will focus on not only updating the courses to present-day standards, but also to resolve the confusing, overlapping current system that has proven difficult for students and advisors to navigate successfully.
The new program requires students to take a total of eleven courses in a variety of topic areas, including science, humanities and fine arts. The University is omitting the requirement that students take math and history courses, although they are still able to do so. Writing and speaking classes, meant to ensure proficiency in each, are still required. The new curriculum also mandates a health and wellness course for all students, which is a nod to the mental and physical health awareness that universities across the nation are trying to instill in their students.
There is also an added requirement for a class that covers diversity, inclusivity, and equity discussions. This is in part due to feedback from former students; over 70 percent of 2019 graduating seniors took a class regarding diversity and equity, and expressed an interest in other students taking similar courses. The new class requirement also stems from the shifting makeup of the University community; at the beginning of the decade, 63 percent of students attending UNCG were white. This number is now 45 percent, with 29 percent African American students, 11 percent Latinx students, five percent Asian students, and five percent students of multiple races.
The implementations of these wellness and diversity standards “are both victories for the 21st century perspective,” said Anthony Chow, the Faculty Senate chair and associate professor of library and information science in the School of Education. “We are global now, and we are diverse. If you’re going to function well, you need to be exposed to these competencies.”
Revisions of the program began in 2017, and a University task force produced a proposal for the new program early this year. The Faculty Senate approved only a part of the proposal, and made suggestions for changes and additions, which were made and approved on Oct. 16. The next step is the implementation phase; professors will now begin working with the University on identifying what they want students to learn in these courses. Some professors have expressed concerns regarding the new program; they are concerned that they will have to substantially alter their existing courses to meet the new standards, and that their courses may not be included in the new program, leading to a decreased enrollment in their departments.
Amy Harris Houk, who worked on UNCG’s General Education Revision Task Force to complete the final draft of the gen ed plan, recognized that these changes may be difficult. “I’m hoping we can use the implementation process to assuage fears about classes,” she said.
According to associate vice provost and associate professor Jodi Pettazzoni, the program is designed to “prepare (UNCG) to serve students in the 21st century…we believe we’ve done that.”