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Senate approves overhauled Gen Ed program to begin autumn 2021

Cohesive structure expands opportunities for electives, minors and double majors

The University Senate has overwhelmingly approved the first major overhaul of Ohio State’s General Education curriculum since its creation more than 30 years ago.

The university will now begin working on detailed implementation plans so that the new GE program can launch in Autumn Semester 2021, providing a cohesive academic foundation for a generation of future Buckeyes.

The new GE is designed to be an integrative program that threads through a student’s undergraduate career but requires fewer credits, providing students with more flexibility to pursue electives, minors or second majors. The structure emphasizes critical thinking and is intended to provide students with a breadth of awareness, knowledge and skills that cross disciplinary boundaries and prepares them to be global citizens.

“It has been decades since we re-evaluated our General Education curriculum in a meaningful way,” Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce McPheron said. “Career paths are different, technologies are different, and the subject matter of our majors has changed over that period.

“It’s understood that our students need a common educational grounding, but the real power of an Ohio State degree should enable them to weave together disparate threads of knowledge and to integrate that information into higher-order thinking and innovation.”

All 12 undergraduate-serving colleges endorsed the GE structure before the proposal was presented to University Senate.

The new structure requires 32 to 39 credit hours of GE coursework. By comparison, a Bachelor of Arts degree currently requires 46 to 69 hours of GE coursework and a Bachelor of Science requires 45 to 66 hours.

The new GE model consists of three parts: foundation courses, courses in thematic areas, and “bookend” courses at the beginning and end of the program.

  • The foundations component includes classes in writing, mathematical and quantitative reasoning, data analysis, the arts and humanities, historical studies, and social and behavioral science. While it aligns closely with the current GE curriculum, it includes one notable addition: It requires students to take three credit hours in the area of race, ethnic and gender diversity. Significantly, the foundations component also aligns with the Ohio Transfer Module, which allows students to transfer credits from one Ohio public college or university to another in order to avoid duplicating course requirements.
  • The thematic component examines broad areas of contemporary importance through a liberal arts approach. All students will complete Citizenship for a Diverse and Just World, a theme that consists of the foundation course on racial, ethnic and gender diversity, plus two additional courses. Students will then complete courses in one of the other themes that align with Ohio State’s mission as a public, land-grant, urban, engaged, research university: Lived Environments, Health and Wellbeing, Sustainability, and a theme or themes still to be developed.
  • The bookends piece consists of two one-credit classes. The first, a General Education Seminar, introduces students to the structure and value of the GE program. The second class, Understanding a Diverse and Just World, is the last class of the GE program. It is designed to give students the opportunity to reflect on their learning across all GE courses and demonstrate how their thinking has evolved.

“Right now we have a GE program, but one that looks very different from college to college. Under this, the GE structure will be more consistent from student to student,” said Eric C. Bielefeld, an associate professor in speech and hearing science who chairs the Council on Academic Affairs. “This cohesive model will provide our students with a broad-based general education, with the theme coursework that can help inform their specialties as they move deeper into their majors.”

With the Senate approval, an implementation committee will be formed that includes broad representation of undergraduate colleges. During the implementation period, individual colleges will redesign courses and adjust offerings to meet the new GE standards.

Ohio State’s current General Education curriculum was established in 1988. (For context, the World Wide Web was created a year later.) Since then, the GE program has been reviewed three times — in 1996, 2002 and 2007 — but never substantially revised, even as the university shifted to selective admissions and first-year students increasingly arrived with course credits already in hand.

Following the recommendation of the University Senate, a 16-member coordinating committee — led by Larry Krissek, now professor emeritus; Catherine Montalto, associate professor of consumer science in the College of Education and Human Ecology; and Andrew Martin, professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences — was established in February 2017 to review the GE curriculum, a process largely driven by faculty. In March 2018, the committee released its draft proposal after soliciting feedback from the university community.

Each of the colleges and campuses with undergraduate students then began its own review. Once endorsed by all parties, the final, revised proposal was sent to the Council on Academic Affairs, which unanimously approved the proposal April 17 and forwarded it to the University Senate for consideration on April 18.

Each undergraduate college will review the plan produced by the implementation committee for endorsement by the end of calendar year 2019. If all colleges approve that plan, courses would be submitted throughout calendar year 2020 for review and approval.