New general education system passes University Senate

After nearly three years of planning by students, faculty and staff, University Senate passed the Bradley Core Curriculum at its Feb. 19 meeting.

Co-Chair of the Steering Committee Kelly McConnaughay said she was excited everyone’s hard work led to the passing of the new system, and now it is time to get to work on its implementation.

“What this means is that we have passed a new general education curriculum,” she said. “So, the general education curriculum that students are taking today is sunsetting, and students who arrive at Bradley, either as freshmen or transfer students fall 2016 or later, will have a different general education curriculum. It’s called the Core Curriculum.”

The process began in the spring 2012 semester when the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan of the university was passed, detailing a five-year timeline of goals and objectives for Bradley and its departments. One of the key initiatives was the general education system review.

The document states, “The general education program has not been significantly revised, since it was established in 1982. The program needs to be comprehensively reevaluated in the context of our changing society and workplace expectations. Appropriate changes should be implemented as necessary to address the needs of future students.”

The university wasted no time getting started, as the Steering Committee, the heart of the general education review committees, was formed during the summer of 2012 and began collecting data, feedback and populating the “daisy wheel,” as McConnaughay called it, by the fall semester.

The wheel outlined six subcommittees of the general education review program, which were composed of faculty, staff and some students who would report back to the Steering Committee.

Each subcommittee was given a task to complete that played a role in the revamping of the current general education system.

Subcommittee 6, for example, was charged with resource needs, professional development and implementation, which are the final pieces needed to turn the Core Curriculum document into a reality, according to McConnaughay and her Co-Chair Jennifer Gruening.

The passed document also cites an additional $150,000-$200,000 total will be needed to implement programming for the first three-year period, and a subsequent $45,000 will be needed each year after. McConnaughay said this is initially due to professional development, especially with the newer emphasis on writing intensive courses.

“People, like me, have students write a ton,” she said. “They write lab reports and mini papers all the time, but I’m not trained to know how to help them do that. I’m a good writer and a good editor, but I don’t really have the same tools that a professor in the English Department would have to be able to explain to a student, ‘No, this is what you’re doing systematically.’ All I’ve got is a red pen.”

McConnaughay said new professors will not be added to the university; rather, current faculty will be provided resources and developmental opportunities by English department faculty to better aid their students in compositional techniques.

“The writing intensive courses are not being taught by composition faculty,” she said. “[That is why] there is professional development needed for [people], like me, to be able to do this in the most helpful way for students.”

In addition to professional development, McConnaughay said with an increase in writing intensive courses comes an increased need for the Writing Center. The Core Curriculum implementation plan calls for increased staffing for the center to offer students more time and attention.

Two other budget increases include approximately $40,000 during a three-year phase for the development of courses and innovation, available possibly as early as this semester, as well as approximately $5,000-$10,000 per year for assessment of student work and projects.

All of these budgetary additions have been planned for the year and will continue to be evaluated, according to McConnaughay.

“This is all above and beyond what we currently spend [in the general education budget],” she said. “[This budget] is approved in principle, but with any budget, as you move forward, if you need more or if you need less, [it is adjusted].”

Outside of the budget, the newest piece of the general education system is the Multidisciplinary Integration (MI) category. The MI courses will be comparable to that of a current Capstone course, where students of all majors can work together on issues and projects to find common ground and explore multiple areas of study without having to be a major in that area.

The Core Curriculum model calls for three credit hours from the selection of MI classes, which can range from a first-year seminar to a senior year Capstone project. Lower level courses will discuss themes and topics surrounding issues that “bridge two or more disparate fields of study,” and upper level courses will “tackle complex issues requiring some background knowledge in one or more fields of study that are being integrated,” according to the Core Curriculum model.

“I think it’s great that we are undergoing such a huge rethinking of the general education program; it has been thirty years since it was substantively changed,” senior finance and political science major Hunter Vaughn said. “In those 30 years, the level of integration both digitally and globally has exploded, and the old model of a broad liberal arts educational program seems insufficient.”

Vaughn said he fully expects this model to provide a more comprehensive education for future students.

“The new model targets communication and reasoning across different areas of study,” he said. “Hopefully, this focus on cooperation can elevate Bradley students to a level befitting a university of national distinction.”

The six subcommittees involved have all completed their charges and been disbanded, according to McConnaughay. She said the Steering Committee will remain until the implementation phase is seen through, and then further details will be directed to the General Education Committee (now the Core Curriculum Committee) of the University Senate.

To read the full Bradley Core Curriculum document, visit here.