Faculty Senate approves design for general education revision

Contact: Cheryl Roland

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Acting at its final meeting for the 2016-17 academic year, the Western Michigan University Faculty Senate approved a memorandum of action May 11, adopting a model to use in revising the University's general education curriculum.

By a four-to-one margin, senators approved a model for the new curriculum, setting the stage for implementation of the first significant change to WMU's general education offerings in 33 years. The new curriculum, named WMU Essential Studies at an earlier Senate meeting, is scheduled for use in the classroom for fall 2018.

Approval of the memorandum of action OKs the design plan for the new curriculum, completing the second of three steps in the Senate process which already reflects four years of work. That work began with assessment of the current general education curriculum and the decision to revise it. The next step was to design a model to guide the revision. With that second step now complete, the third step—implementation—will begin immediately. Working over the summer, a Senate Logistics Committee will begin the work of determining key elements requiring faculty/staff and administration consideration. This work will enable the development of a timeline and implementation plan to be presented to senators for approval as a recommendation for administrative approval and resourcing by the end of the 2017-18 academic year.

"This was a definitive action on the design document that has been under development since September," said Dr. Suzan F. Ayers, president of the Faculty Senate in announcing the vote outcome. "This is essentially a blueprint for moving forward with a new curriculum."

The model approved, according to the memorandum of action background, provides "a learner-centered approach to general education that balances acquisition of essential skills and content with prioritizing student-learning outcomes that prepare WMU students to succeed in an ever-changing world."

The design model features a "scaffolding of skills throughout the curriculum" and will strengthen writing across the curriculum. All of the areas taught in WMU's existing general education curriculum can be encompassed, and new skills and content areas will be added. Five areas that will be built into the new curriculum are:

    • Diversity and inclusion

    • Global Awareness

    • Critical thinking

    • Sustainability

    • Real-world problem solving

The WMU Essential Studies' design calls for students to take one course in each of 12 categories, and is focused on supporting student retention and success as well as greater flexibility in teaching approaches and learner experiences.

"I really want to acknowledge the work of the group who did this heavy lifting as well as those who have begun working on the logistics," says Ayers. "They deserve our gratitude."

Design Committee members

Chair Mervyn Elliott, aviation

Vice Chair Molly Lynde-Recchia, world languages and literature

Administration Representative Dave Reinhold

Faculty Senate Board Member Bill Rantz

Dan Jacobsen, music

Kevin Knutson, arts and sciences advising

Staci Perryman-Clark, English

Elke Schoffers, chemistry

Sarah Summy, special education and literacy studies

Kristina Wirtz, Spanish

Logistics Committee members

Chair Mervyn Elliott, aviation

Vice Chair Leigh Ford, communications

Staci Perryman-Clark, English

Elke Schoffers, chemistry

Sarah Summy, special education and literacy studies

Bill Warren, history

Advisory members

Ed Martini, associate dean of Extended University Programs

Terrell Hodge, director of Student Financial Aid

Sharon Van Dyken, director of aviation advising

Administration representatives

Carrie Cumming, registrar

Dave Reinhold

Committee's Faculty Senate board members

Jan Hahn

Dennis Simpson

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.