Provost Stephen Barrows addresses students regarding new general education requirements

IMG_9136Story by Bridget Gibley, Culture Intern
Photo courtesy of Andrea Wirgau

On Feb. 22, Aquinas Provost Stephen Barrows addressed first- and second-year students. He informed them about changes to the general education requirements and provided tips for course registration and declaring majors.

These changes have been in the works since this summer when faculty met to reevaluate the requirements. Elected faculty members and administrative faculty worked on an advisory body called the Academic Reshaping Team (ART).

They found that Aquinas’ general education credit hour requirement was larger than other institutions that are, otherwise, relatively similar to Aquinas. They also recognized that many general education courses are consistently low in enrollment and are likely to get cancelled. These things led to the changes in the general education curriculum.

Provost Barrows made it clear that the new general education courses come as a package and will not be in effect until next school year. Changes would not automatically affect current students. However, students can adopt the new general education package with approval.

“There is a possibility, though, if you’re interested, in adopting this new gen ed,” Barrows said. “You have to get approval; it’s not automatic. We want to make sure you’re deliberate and intentional about it.”

The general education changes are meant to simplify things for students. This includes reducing the minimum credit hours required to graduate from 124 to 120, which reflects peer institutions and makes courses more symmetric. Under this new minimum credit hour requirement, a student could take eight semesters of 15 credit hours and be able to reach the requirement.

Additionally, the Humanities classes (GE201 and GE202) will no longer be required as general education courses. The Kinesiology and Quantitative Reasoning requirements have also been eliminated.

The Social Sciences requirement will change from 9 to 6 hours, and the course distributions in Social Sciences have been altered. There are currently three categories, but the new package will have two categories.

The Artistic Requirement will be split into two categories, one for Artistic Theory and one for Artistic Practice.

Additionally, the technology proficiency requirement will now be dependent on the major. It will no longer be required for everyone, but might still be required under certain majors.

Barrows also explained the new “one catalog” rule that will be in effect this fall. Currently, students can be under a catalog of general education requirements for the year they enter Aquinas and a different catalog of major requirements for the year they declare that major. With the new changes, students will be subject to the same catalog for both their majors and their general education requirements.

Aquinas is also working on additional assistance for exploratory students, including centralized advising through the registrar’s office and having faculty volunteers assist in this. Another helpful addition is the use of an automated system to monitor progress towards degree completion rather than the paper forms students use currently.

Student Senate also provided feedback on the course registration process. Senators indicated that opening registration at midnight is not ideal, so Aquinas will be attempting to change this. On March 24 of this year, the senior Insignis students will do a trial run and attempt to register at 7 a.m. If the trial run goes well, this will go into effect for all students.

Barrows highlighted the importance of declaring a major or minor online, as it will not be official until this form is filled out. Telling an advisor is not the same as declaring a major, or, as Barrows said, “Sharing is not declaring.”

If students are considering switching to the new general education requirements, Barrows recommended speaking with advisors. He also made sure that students know major and minor requirements might change with the new package as well, although they will probably be smaller changes.

He indicated that advisors will have the new general education requirements when students go to their advising sessions in the spring. Communication is key for both general education changes and any major/minor requirement changes. Overall, Barrows emphasized advising and staying in contact with advisors, especially if students are considering switching to the new general education requirements.

“If you become interested in [the new package], make sure that you get advising accordingly,” Barrows stressed.

A video of the briefing, as well as the PowerPoint presentation that Barrows used, can be found on The Moose.

About the writer: 

Bridget Gibley is a first-year at Aquinas studying English and Women’s Studies. She thrives on reading, writing, and lots of coffee.

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