Building Blocks of a 21st Century Education
A second Diversity-Intensive Course will be taken—most likely in the student’s major—to encourage the understanding of diversity issues in a more practical, applied manner. For example, a political science major might choose Diversity in American Politics and a management major could select Women in Organizations for their intensive courses.
“The biggest clamor for diversity courses came from students,” says Associate Professor of Biology Margaret Peeler, who chairs the university’s Curriculum Committee. “They understand that the world they’ll be living and working in will be different from what many of them have experienced. And they want to be prepared.”
GO IS PERHAPS the most dramatic piece of the new Central Curriculum, but it is by no means the only innovative piece. The requirement sprang from the faculty’s recognition that perhaps now more than ever, graduates must be ready to navigate domestic and global challenges that await them in this new century. Susquehanna’s faculty took a fresh approach to this challenge in 2005 when it began a multiyear, campuswide project to craft specific learning goals that all students should meet upon graduation. Their work coincided with a national call for assessment and education reform by the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP), a 10-year initiative of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).
In 2006, campus consensus on Susquehanna’s new learning goals provided the launch pad for further discussion and collaboration among the faculty, this time on a set of new general education requirements.
“When I look across higher education at what institutions are doing in their central curricula, I’m excited about the very different ways we’re helping students to move their educational program forward,” says Linda McMillin, provost and dean of the faculty. “We are a liberal arts college with a great pragmatic bent that’s influenced by our professional programs in business, music and communications. We emphasize the intellectual and critical-thinking skills, but also teach students how to put them to work in today’s world.”
“Knowing is one thing,” adds Alma Clayton-Pedersen, AAC&U’s vice president for education and institutional renewal, “but teaching students how to use their knowledge in different contexts is where the intellectual and the practical elements of SU’s revised curriculum come together to benefit students.”
From this hybrid model of liberal arts and practical education sprang the development of innovative and new curriculum requirements that combine theoretical study and real-world application in exciting ways. Diversity studies and cross-cultural learning are the most distinctive areas of the redesigned curriculum, in addition to the Ethics-Intensive and Intellectual Skills-Intensive Courses.
“The faculty thought hard about what common experiences we want all students to have to be able to lead lives of achievement, leadership and service in a global world,” Peeler says. “There aren’t many colleges that have put it all together the way that we have, by articulating learning goals first and then mapping courses to the goals.”
Adds Thomas W. Martin, assistant professor of religion and a member of the Curriculum Committee, “Traditionally a general education curriculum is 100- and 200-level courses that you take as a freshman or sophomore. But our Central Curriculum is important through all four years so that students don’t get the idea that ‘I get it done my freshman year and then I’m done.’” He explains that the central issues continue to be important and are integrated into the majors, mainly through the intensive courses.
YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY have grown up in a society in which corporate greed, political mistrust and personal scandals are often the news of the day. From the Enron and Worldcom scandals in 2002 to the current financial crisis, this decade has been fraught with all-too-real examples of unethical and, in some cases, criminal behavior. What better time to teach all students crucial lessons about the need for honesty and integrity in all of their business and personal interactions?
“We are living in a world where ethics has been downplayed, as evidenced by corporate executives thinking they need a multimillion-dollar parachute when their employees are losing their livelihood,” says Martin. “We want to send graduates into the world who are capable of considering the moral implications of their actions.”