Administrators and faculty continue to consider changes to the general education program after eight faculty members brought up the topic during a fall 2012 Faculty Senate discussion.
Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Robert Pangborn said the university is in a study phase at this point. He said a small study group met last year to conduct a survey of the general education landscape and discussed including alternative approaches from other institutions.
Pangborn said the process could take more than a year. He said 2015 would probably be the earliest any new ideas would be implemented.
But Chair-elect of the Senate Brent Yarnal said the process is already starting to come together. He said a small group of undetermined members — probably comprised of three faculty and three administration representatives — will meet at some point during this semester to plan the process.
Yarnal said part of the process would include identifying one or more committees that will undertake the whole general education process. The committees would be assembled to look at the current system and possible changes this summer, he said.
He said the discussions would also include a lot of stakeholder interaction, such as town hall meetings, to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard and is treated equally.
“We don’t want to hurt anybody in this process, but at the same time, if we don’t make any changes, we’re going to be using a dated general education system,” Yarnal said.
He said the process is a long one, and could take two to three years until it’s completed and the university begins to implement it.
Yarnal said the program hasn’t been changed since 1998 and 1999, adding that the changes made then were minor.
“By the time we go through with the reprocess and institute a new general education, it will well be over 25 years since we made a radical change to education,” he said. “It’s about time.”
Former Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Jeremy Cohen said via email that although Penn State’s current program represents common practices from 15 years ago, it is now outdated.
“They do not reflect the thinking of scholars today, nor do they adequately live up to the potential regularly demonstrated by Penn State’s extraordinary students and faculty,” he said.
Cohen said the program should encourage students to seek intellectual answers to questions such as “Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?” He said he believes that instead of offering “a catch-all of co-curricular activities,” a general education program should allow students to have a curriculum that is integrated and developed for their majors.