“We are bringing our ideas to various bodies on campus including students to get their responses,” Stella Deen, Liberal Education Ad Hoc Committee chair and associate professor of English, said. “The changes have been proposed because there is a national movement to renovate liberal education so that students can be better prepared for the changing world.”
The proposed changes include a required seminar for first-year students, four semesters of required language courses, incorporating oral communication skills, ethical reasoning and service learning. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills will also be added to course content and field work and would be required for all majors.
Deen said the movement to renovate liberal education is fundamentally focused on helping students gain expertise in skills they will need such as writing, oral communication and critical thinking. The proposed liberal education plan would assure that students have multiple opportunities to practice these core skills.
Ashlee Garrett, first-year Spanish major, sees some of the proposals — such as the addition of the required freshmen seminar and service learning — as positive changes, yet she is skeptical about other proposals, like the new language requirement.
“Something such as a four-semester language requirement seems a bit ridiculous for students who are not particularly interested in the field,” Garrett said. “As a Spanish major, I am aware of the challenges they may face with taking a new language and culture.”
Deen said the proposals will not be put into effect for some time and they will “unlikely” affect current students. She said if the faculty endorses the proposals, a committee must be created to hammer out the specific details that will allow these new plans to be executed.
Deen has met with the Student Association senate and the Residence Hall Student Association to gain feedback about the proposals. In addition, she said she has organized fora including one that will take place on April 5 in Student Union 409 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students will have the opportunity to raise questions and comment on the proposal.
She said if students are unable to attend the forum they can visit the Liberal Education Ad Hoc Committee website (newpaltz.edu/leahc) to view the proposals and are welcome to send email responses.