Campus News

Undergraduate classroom

Revised gen ed program gets new name, focus


Published September 24, 2015

It’s full steam ahead for UB’s new general education program as the university moves fully into the implementation phase of a new curriculum designed to enrich students’ educational experience and help prepare them to succeed in today’s world.

The Office of Undergraduate Education is gathering proposals from faculty members for courses for the program — now called the UB Curriculum — which is set to begin in fall 2016.

Faculty response has been extraordinary, says Andrew Stott, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education who is overseeing the revision of gen ed.

Faculty so far have submitted “an incredible list” of courses for the UB Seminar component of the program, and more than 200 courses for the Pathways component, Stott says, praising faculty for their “intellectual energy” and “creativity of topics.”

The new program will allow students “to do all kinds of things they haven’t done before,” he says.

While an Oct. 16 deadline for course proposals is looming, Stott stresses that this is the deadline for submission and not for approved proposals. Faculty need to submit an idea by the deadline and then “we can work with them to help them revise and complete their proposals,” he says.

He notes the UB Curriculum website offers faculty the tools they need to develop courses for all components of the program, while the Center for Educational Innovation and Center for Excellence in Writing also can provide support.

Stott calls the restructuring of the gen ed program “the biggest singular curriculum overhaul the university has seen in 30 years.” And the new name — the UB Curriculum — reflects the importance of the program to the student experience at UB.

The UB Curriculum will be the “heart of the undergraduate experience,” he says. “Every student will have the same general education experience, irrespective of their major.”

While the term “general education” tends to carry a “pejorative connotation,” Stott says, the name UB Curriculum better reflects “core university values.”

The UB Curriculum encompasses four main components:

  • UB Seminar: Specifically designed to address the needs of incoming freshmen and transfer students, this discussion-based seminar is built around “big ideas.” It encourages critical thinking, ethical reasoning and reflective discussion across the disciplines.
  • Foundations: Students will take courses in diversity, writing, math and natural sciences that promote critical thinking, creative problem-solving, enhanced communication skills, cultural competencies and ethical and analytical reasoning.
  • Pathways: Students will take a series of courses interconnected by theme or concept —the categories are thematic and global — across a wide range of disciplines. Pathways can be customized to complement pre-existing interests or designed to engage curiosity.
  • Capstone: This final, culminating project integrates the whole general education experience in anticipation of next steps in life and learning. Students will reflect and weave together disparate elements of the program via an e-portfolio platform provided to students at the beginning of their UB career.

The new UB Curriculum moves general education away from the “check list” framework — simply picking from a list of courses to satisfy a requirement — toward something that “complements and integrates” with students’ major course of study, Stott says. “Students will be building customized pathways for themselves.

“Instead of saying ‘pick one course from each of these lists,’ we’ll be saying ‘tell me what you’re interested in.’ The onus will be much more on the student” to be proactive in their decisions about which courses to take and to engage with the material, he says.

Creation of the UB Curriculum has been a “collective effort” of the campus, Stott notes. “The response has been amazing. Things are going incredibly well.”