Millersville University, Faculty Senate

General Education Curriculum

Program Review

May 1996


II. Quality of the Program

D. Administration of the General Education Program

As of October 30, 1995, twenty five of 26 departments at Millersville University offer Gen Ed courses. This number does not count HPE or Honors Program Gen Ed courses which are listed in the catalog; Honors courses are not really accessible to all students and the HPE courses count only toward the required HPE requirements. The courses were counted by department and there were 3 "departments" that were subsumed into other, larger entities. Humanities courses are counted as being in the Foreign Language department, Urban studies courses in Sociology -Anthropology, and Gerontology courses in Social Work. Each of these programs is administratively housed in those departments and courses so designated were counted as part of that department rather than as separate departments. Women's Studies and Divisional Courses (2 Gen Ed courses are listed under each category) are considered separate departments. The only Department not offering Gen Ed courses to students outside the major is Special Education. There are Special Education courses listed as Gen Ed but they are only "Non-Core." All "Non Core" courses, in whichever major offered them, are not counted because they are only taken by students in that major. These "Non Core" courses were listed as Gen Ed because they fill the writing requirement. Because they are not "counted" toward Gen Ed "core" requirements for nonmajors, they were not counted in this report. Also not included in the count of Gen Ed courses are the 4 courses that meet the "Advanced" writing requirement. These are specialized courses and most majors specify one of them that is required for students majoring in that department. In these 25 departments 411 courses are offered, consistent with the exclusions mentioned above. 50 are foreign language courses, 44 are history, and the next highest is the sociology -anthropology (urban studies) department's 33. The departments with the fewest Gen Ed courses include the Education and Educational Foundations Departments which offer a total of 3 Perspectives courses, Industrial Technology offers 2 Perspectives courses and the Nursing Department lists 2 Perspectives courses and 1 that meets core requirements in the Science and Mathematics Block. All but 2 departments--Earth Science and Foreign Language/Humanities are the exceptions--have approved perspectives courses to offer.

1. Unit organization and management

Based on the data above it is clear that the organization and management of the Gen Ed curriculum is decentralized. The Faculty Senate, through its Undergraduate Course and Program Review Committee, certifies that an individual course meets minimum requirements for Gen Ed courses, as spelled out in the "Objectives of General Education" in the University Governance Manual. Once approved, it remains for the Deans of each of the Schools, working with the Chairs of each Department, to schedule how often, and with how many sections, to offer a particular course to students. This is done using enrollment and course sequence demand projections supplied by the Admissions Office, the Registrar and the Office of the Associate Provost. Deans and Department Chairs are responsible for balancing "Service" course offering with those in the major, considering faculty departures (both permanently and on sabbatical) and hires, release time grants, classroom availability, adjunct budgets and collective bargaining requirements. Each of these considerations, along with faculty preferences and specialties, impact the offering of individual courses and course sequences more than any "structured" general education plan or philosophy. Obviously, not all courses can be offered each semester and there is no need for every course to be available at all times. Student demand for higher level courses, Perspectives courses, and those that fill the Writing block (in order to meet graduation requirements) serves as a constant and aggressive structure within which course offering decisions are made by Deans and Department Chairs. While there are always some students who do not get into courses they require in a given semester, the introduction of the Degree Audit Report System (DARS) in the Registrar's Office makes it much easier to accurately predict the demand for courses from one semester to the next. A secondary benefit to the DARS system is that advisors and students can be provided printouts of exactly what the University Computers have recorded as the student's transcript. Presented in the context of both General Education and Major requirements for graduation, the DARS printouts give individual decision makers the same information being used to determine course offerings. Sharing this information is intended to maximize coherence between administrative predictions and individual choices at the time of course registration. All of the above serves to provide "informal" management and organization to the General Education Curriculum at Millersville. Only in the last 3 years has there been a Faculty Senate Standing Committee to "Review" General Education. Organized to "evaluate" and "shepherd" through the Faculty Senate any proposed change in the Gen Ed requirements, this committee undertook the first systematic review of the pieces of MU's Gen Ed curriculum. Looking first at the Perspectives Courses, the issue of course drift - movement away from originally planned methods and material - was considered and brought to the attention of the Faculty Senate. In addition to preparing this Five Year Review, the committee has also explored alternative structures, attended conferences, and brought in nationally known figures to consult with the University Community on what we want our Gen Ed program to be and how change should be considered and accomplished. Other SSHE schools have experience with several different formats for organizing the Gen Ed component of their curriculum and, in general, it involves having a "Coordinator" [as suggested in the consultant's report, see Appendix D] work more closely with individual departments and individual faculty members in planning, delivering and assessing the General Education "experience" they want students to have. Millersville's decentralized system leaves more responsibility on the Departments and the faculty teaching each course, and each section, to accomplish the "University's" objectives.

2. Adequacy of facilities and equipment.

Consistent with the school/department based process of scheduling classes at MU, the classrooms used to provide Gen Ed courses are the same ones utilized by the individual departments. In buildings with more than one department offering classes there is some sharing of rooms, but the most common arrangement is for departments to use the same classrooms from semester to semester. The Dean's office in each school has responsibility for matching class size with seating capacity and finding appropriate rooms for special situations. The Registrar's office keeps a master list of classes and other room usage in all campus buildings except the Gymnasium and The Student Memorial Center. Ever since the current Gen Ed curriculum was implemented there has been planned renovation of one or more classroom buildings at a time and this has required considerable juggling and switching of classes and faculty offices. Such renovations have been necessary to modernize facilities, and the scheduling of the building closures has been announced well in advance and most people on campus have been pleased with the final results--if not the disruption required by the construction. In addition to these renovations, which are planned to continue into the next century, there was an entirely new classroom building constructed for the School of Science and Mathematics--Brossman Hall. The University has purchased and adapted for professional use many homes and businesses in and around the University and is now using them for department offices and classrooms. Perhaps the most significant resources/facility development (for the entire university) in the 7 years since the Gen Ed curriculum was implemented in 1988 was the renovation of the old boiler/heating plant building into the computer center. Both academic and administrative computing services are housed in this new complex and there has been a major effort to upgrade the level of computer technology available to both students and faculty since the "hub" of computer services was created. All of the major classroom buildings have been wired for computer access to computer networking, the Library has converted to computerized cataloging and other electronic media resources, there are 13 computer laboratories available to students; both IBM and Macintosh. In 1995 professors were allowed to sign up entire classes for InterNet accounts and there is support available for training and orienting both students and faculty to research on the InterNet. The University is only at the beginning of a process to bring electronic "Information Literacy" to the campus but it is clearly moving in the right direction. Any specific impetus for this move toward computerization from faculty (and students) is obviously based more in concerns about students graduating from their "majors" with up to date skills and knowledge than it is from a Gen Ed perspective. While there may be a consensus on campus that a "college graduate" in the 1990's should know about the InterNet, there is no collective identification that calls for this to be required of all students at Millersville. Another aspect of the adequacy of facilities for General Education is the extent to which there are opportunities for students to participate in "hands on" learning activities. Laboratory and studio courses are available to students for Gen Ed credit; the Cooperative Education Program works mostly with major programs, but the credits frequently count as general electives rather than requirements in the major. The University complies with Federal law in awarding a portion of its financial aid under the Community Service Learning Program whereby students go out into the community to complete their "work study" hours rather than doing clerical work on campus. This brief review of the adequacy of facilities and equipment is best summarized by saying that there is a clear effort to provide enough space and equipment for education to be accomplished. There is, however, more demand than supply and tension generated by pre-registration frustrations, crowding in classrooms, waiting lines for computer access and sharing lab equipment continues to be a defining factor of the student experience at Millersville. General Education courses frequently get the brunt of this tension/frustration, rather than courses in the major, at least partly because of the students' sense of investment in their majors.

3. Cooperation/interaction with other university departments and with appropriate external groups.

This is a difficult review question to address because there is really no "primary" entity which would relate to other departments. The current Gen Ed curriculum at Millersville is the result of intense negotiations, and significant compromise, by many different academic departments. Continuing debate and review of policy, as well as newly proposed and/or modified Gen Ed "courses," takes place in Faculty Senate. As part of those debates, at certain times and depending on personal or departmental agendas, issues of philosophy and pedagogy in General Education will be brought to the floor. At these times the existence on campus of "camps" who support or oppose aspects (or the entirety) of the General Education curriculum becomes evident. There continue to be some faculty who prefer a design similar to the previous Gen Ed curriculum--with a larger range of electives; while others advocate a more centralized conception which would include courses focused on specific issues that they believe all college graduates should have. The most commonly referenced examples of these courses are either a Freshman Course or "Capstone" courses at the Senior level. There are also a significant number of faculty who feel that "problems" with the current curriculum are due more to its implementation than its conceptualization and speak in favor of maintaining the present structure.

Departmental and individual positions on Gen Ed policy vary (within ranges described above) according to how they see the policy affecting either their department and/or their conceptualization of higher education. Such debate and individualized assessment of a policy's impact is the purpose of Faculty Senate; and the intense feelings related to the "issues" of Gen Ed shows considerable faculty commitment in all of the "camps." There is interest in General Education campus wide, but no systemic vehicle for bringing this interest together in a way that would "settle" the questions debated by the various "camps." The Gen Ed Review Committee has worked for 2 1/2 years gathering information on what actually is taught in the various Gen Ed courses so that (future) recommendations will be based on something other than collective opinions.

While the above describes the sense of cooperation/interaction on campus, the most significant external group that has "spoken" on the effectiveness of the General Education Curriculum at Millersville are the employers of MU graduates. To the extent that the current Gen Ed curriculum represents a campus wide commitment to improve the level of students' writing skills - all of the feedback received by the alumni office, departmental follow-ups, field contacts by faculty, fund raising effort contacts by Trustees and Administration representatives indicate that employers believe that recent Millersville graduates write better than people they hire from other schools. Faculty representatives from departments as varied as Business, Education, Social Work and Nursing all have reported feedback from community contacts to the effect that they see positive results from the extensive writing requirements students must satisfy before graduation. The President of the University has included statements to this effect in public speeches, it has been recognized in the Middle States Accreditation report as well as in various accreditation reports for different departments and schools (i.e. Education).

Relationships between the University and the business community, human services programs and governments of Lancaster County and its environs are actively promoted through a variety of contacts. Input from these as well as other external sources is both sought and seriously considered in long range planning at both the University and departmental level. Many departments have advisory councils composed of community professionals and they consistently express the support for the liberal arts as a crucial element of employee background they consider in hiring decisions. It is clear at Millersville that considering graduates' employment opportunities does not suggest that General Education and the Liberal Arts should receive less attention.


Quality of the Program
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