An Academic Rock Star: New GE Pathways Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: 09-24-2012

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
530-898-4260

The General Education (GE) Pathways program at California State University, Chico, under construction for the last four years, is newly launched this semester. New students are now offered a general education program that provides them with an optional interdisciplinary minor. 

The new program—with 10 pathways and a designed-in minor that was created through an open process that included students, faculty, and staff—is unique to the CSU system. And according to Bill Loker, dean of undergraduate education, it may be unique to the entire country.

Kate McCarthy, professor of religious studies, is chair of the curriculum advisory board and was on the implementation team. “The GE Pathways program is the first of its kind in the system,” she said. “We are a little like rock stars when we go to systemwide GE conferences. Everyone is interested in the program and its design. Most impressive to me, however, is the process that got us there—how inclusive and how intellectually authentic it was.”

The need to reform the GE program came from the perceived need for a program that made intellectual sense to both faculty and students and that would engage students. Up until the reinvention of Chico’s GE program, students had a certain number of undergraduate GE classes to take and then had to choose an upper-division theme to complete their requirements.

In evaluations, students indicated that it felt random, didn’t make sense to them, and didn’t seem like their GE classes were necessary for their degree. On the other hand, students often identified a GE class as a favorite class. “So the classes were often excellent,” said Loker. “They just didn’t make sense as a program.”

The primary goals of the GE Pathways design team were to make general education at CSU, Chico more coherent and the value of it more transparent to students. This was accomplished by extending the idea of “theme,” which became “pathway,” to include lower-division courses and by designing a minor into the program.

The 10 pathways include

The end product of the four years of overhauling general education is that now there is a cohesive program, said Loker. And that program is measurable. “To assess a program you have to have a program,” he added. “Before, the GE courses were like bricks lying around. Now, we have a building made out of the bricks.”

Why was Chico so good at this? “Two main reasons,” said Loker. “The process was open and participatory and happened over two years time. And our faculty rose to the occasion; they saw the potential, were inspired to act, and were willing to invest their talent and a great deal of time in an important and cooperative project.”

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Read the full story with photos on Inside Chico State online.