As more high school students are opting to enter the workforce to pursue an apprenticeship in a trade field, college admissions numbers are dropping nationwide. In light of this, the courses required to earn a degree at different institutions are being called into question. A consequence and benefit of a liberal arts education is that students have mandated classes to ensure their well-roundedness as individuals. Hope’s current general education (Gen Ed) requirements were implemented in 1997, during which time each course fulfilled a specific and articulate goal to provide a more comprehensive education for students. However, with the evolution of technology, cultural focuses and the skills mandated by employers, Hope is reevaluating the courses that students are required to have completed by graduation. Vice President of the student body, Aubrey Wilson (’21), explained that revisions have been in the works for over a year, but a visible change is now in the near future. Her goal and the goal of the entire executive board of Student Congress is “to omit the mindset of ‘I need to get my gen eds out of the way.’” She explained that the role of Student Congress in this process is “to accurately and to the best of our ability to represent the voice of the student body.” Wilson also offered encouraging news that “the administration is eager to partake in the revision process as they see a revamping adding value to what is now Hope’s liberal arts education.”
Mary Kamara-Hagemeyer (’22), a member of the Student Congress and Chair of the Academic Affairs Task Force, expressed how student opinions on the matter are being collected and utilized in the process. She said, “We have discussed different problems and options, and are now gathering opinions via whiteboards placed in various areas across campus. These will be up until this Saturday, January 25, and have already been very helpful in understanding what students want and need. The end goal is for the Academic Task Force to draft a report summarizing these student opinions that will be delivered to the GenEd Revision Board to assist in their decision-making process.” While there is not yet a definitive answer on what classes are being cut or added to the curriculum, Kararma-Hagemeyer explained that the likely course of events will be “to have the faculty committee decide on a new Gen Ed list with a goal of slightly reducing or maintaining the number of credits currently required.” In general, the Student Congress Chair of the Academic Affairs Task Force is optimistic about the progress of potential changes. She stated, “We’ve been impressed with the passion and thought that students have put into this subject. The combination of feedback gathered at the Student Congress Town Hall through general conversations and with the whiteboards has been phenomenal.” Adding to that, Kianna Novak (‘22), who is also on the Academic Affairs Task Force said, “I think it’s really important that students have a voice and are heard. I think Student Congress is a really good outlet for that. However, I think that should not be the only outlet for student voices, and that faculty should definitely be included in the discussion. Faculty and student perspectives should be at the heart of this issue, and everyone wants to do their best to improve Hope while also keeping the liberal arts values intact.”
Part of being a well-rounded individual is finding the value of a class that would not have been your first pick out of a course catalog. By finding a commonality, interest or respect for a subject, lifestyle or opinion they would not have otherwise considered, students evolve not only academically but emerge as more thoughtful individuals. In a world of ever-changing plans, priorities and presentation, it is to the benefit of many students to learn to develop a broader, more accepting view of the world around them. Hope’s goal as a college is to prepare its students to grow with an ever-changing society — after all, the world will not cease growing to fit any one person’s comfort zone. Therefore, the value of general education course requirements and a liberal arts education can be summarized as how to be a lifelong student of circumstance.