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  March 22, 2004

Competition Announced For
Gen Ed Model Courses

Provost John D. Petersen has announced a competition designed to stimulate the creation of new or revised general education courses that can also serve as models for other courses.

The competition, which will become an annual event, will award 15 grants worth $8,000 each. It is open to all tenured, tenure-track, or non-tenure-track faculty at any UConn campus. A workshop to discuss the competition and exchange ideas will be offered Friday, March 26, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Center for Undergraduat e Education, Room 320. The deadline for proposals is April 5.

"This is the first step toward maintaining the vitality and timeliness of the general education curriculum," says Anne Hiskes, chair of the General Education Oversight Committee (GEOC) and an associate professor of philosophy. "We want to begin to establish a community of scholars, teachers who collaborate on issues of course content and delivery."

The University Senate adopted the new general education requirements in May 2002, and the criteria for courses to be included in the new curriculum were adopted one year later. They take effect with the entering class in September 2005.

The new requirements call for students to complete seven or eight courses in four content areas: arts and humanities, social sciences, science and technology, and diversity and multiculturalism. Students also will be required to take two quantitative reasoning ('Q') courses; two writing intensive ('W') courses, including one at the 200-level in their major field of study; and meet exit requirements specific to their major in computer technology and information literacy.

The new requirements will run concurrently with those included in the current general education curriculum, created in the late 1980's, to allow all current students to graduate without having to switch to different rules.

"We want faculty to offer quality courses, to let the public know that general education is an important mission of the University, to send students the message that general education courses are important, and that faculty, staff and the administration are committed to offering stimulating and rigorous courses," Hiskes said.

Veronica Makowsky, an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where most of the University's general education courses are located, says the competition is "a wonderful idea. It's extremely important because the University's academic plan stresses undergraduate enrichment, and general education is the first step in that process."

General education courses, she says, should be "creative, interesting, and a way of showing students basic structures of learning, not just facts and information, but why these facts and information are important."

Currently, Hiskes says, there are 169 general education courses offered in seven required content areas; the new system will have four required content areas. The number of quantitative courses - currently 130 - will shrink, as there is no need for certain upper division 'Q' courses that already require two 'Q' courses as prerequisites, she says. The number of writing courses, now 334, is expected to increase to between 400 and 500, since all majors must offer writing courses. The number of content-related courses also is expected to increase.

"We're seeing a lot of interest in the diversity and multiculturalism content area," she says.

Winners of the grant competition may use the $8,000 award as summer salary, or it may be applied to a reduction in teaching, Hiskes says.

"We're trying to be as flexible as possible, so more people can work on new courses," she says.

The award winners will be selected in late April, with an initial payment of $4,000 in June. Course proposals must be submitted to the GEOC in early fall, for inclusion in the 2005-06 course catalogue, and the courses should be up and running for 2005-06.

All 15 courses developed with the grants will be evaluated and, if necessary, adjusted.

Hiskes says this sort of oversight is "one of the major changes that makes the new general education system different and better than the current one."

"Now we will have a system in place where we can tweak the general education program - determine its strengths, weaknesses. It allows the faculty to work as a team, sharing ideas."