Dec. 18, 2009
CONTACT: Beverly Makhani,
Communications Director, Office of Undergraduate Education,
Mary F. Wack, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education,
be transparent, emphasize outcomes
PULLMAN, Wash.—The general education
visioning committee report calling for a redesigned general
education program has been approved by Warwick M.
Bayly, WSU provost and executive vice president.
Implementation of the new program would begin in fall 2011 and
continue over the next year or two.
Broad discussion of the report in spring semester will give the WSU
community the opportunity to consider what is fundamentally
important to a 21st-century education, said Mary
Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education.
“It’s a great opportunity to rethink how general
education and the major are related, and how we can better help
students develop critical skills and knowledge through all four
years in a deliberate and coherent way,” she said.
The report will be distributed widely to the general education
committee, the Teaching Academy and various other working groups
that will help spearhead the next phase of the process, Wack said.
The full report also will be posted online.
The 51-page report fulfills a charge the provost gave the visioning
committee in October 2008 to “provide a basis for direction
and strategy for general education” at WSU.
According to the report, three fundamental issues must be
addressed: an outdated budgeting system; widespread lack of
knowledge about the nature, purpose and structure of general
education; and a focus on outcomes rather than
Carol Ivory, WSU fine arts professor and
chair of the visioning committee, said it looked hard at
WSU’s general education program and did extensive research
into model programs both nationally and internationally. Based on
that research, the committee made general recommendations, she
said, but not specific proposals.
“What we felt we needed to do is get the message out
about the importance of gen ed and the issues that need to be
thought about,” she said. Any new plan must be developed with
the full participation of all stakeholders, she said, including
students, faculty, staff and administration.
For instance, she said, colleges and departments use the general
education program in very different ways, with some majors
specifying which general education courses must be completed and
others allowing much more flexibility.
“Balancing all of those different issues is going to be
tricky,” she said.
WSU Vancouver professor of management Thomas
Tripp, a member of the visioning committee and chair of
the general education committee, agreed that the process must be
collaborative and transparent.
“Having a process that most people can buy into is
really important,” he said. “I think we can create that
While the structure and the curricula are yet to be
determined, Tripp said the visioning committee did feel strongly
that general education at WSU must focus more on helping students
acquire specific learning outcomes, whether those are the Six
Learning Goals of the Baccalaureate or another set of learning
National accrediting bodies are demanding more accountability
for outcomes-based learning, he said, and WSU must continue to move
in that direction.
“Everything in undergraduate education rests upon a
solid general education,” he said. “It is the