NIU’s General Education program to undergo changes

By Kia Clair

Provost Raymond Alden created the General Education Visioning Task Force (GEVT), which will team up with the General Education Committee to make revisions to the NIU General Education program.

The task force is composed of faculty, administration and students who will create a strategic revision plan to help the General Education Program stay current, according to Michael Kolb, general education coordinator of the task force and NIU anthropology professor. NIU hopes its plan will provide a dynamic and innovative outlook that will empower NIU’s faculty, undergraduate and graduate students.

The new changes are based on the “Great Journeys Strategic Plan” that was established by NIU President John Peters in fall 2007.

The task force will analyze and review data from the past and restructure general education to fit the context of the current state of national trends in general education.

“The nature of learning styles has changed, and NIU has not examined how we go about educating since 1983,” said Kolb. “It is important to stay current with those learning styles, and general education classes will provide those skills that are needed for jobs in the future. The skills you learn in general education classes are the skills that employers look for.”

According to NIU’s Baccalaureate Review, which is published by the task force, the purpose, goals and learning outcomes will enable graduates to think critically, create and communicate by participating in an engaged learning environment and prepare for success in a diverse, global society. This learning environment emphasizes the importance of context, so graduates will be prepared to understand the impact of history on modern society, the relationship between our society and others around the globe, and the unity and diversity of the American experience.

“It’s been decades since the general education program has been revised at NIU. So, it’s definitely time,” said Vice Provost Anne Birberick. “The program needs to be a meaningful experience, and take into account the skills and knowledge essential for the 21st century and be relevant to the different majors offered at NIU.”

The goals of improving the program will focus on three C’s: critical thinking, creativity and communication.

Critical thinking involves literacy, reflectivity and understanding how to gather and make sense of various forms of information before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion, according to the Baccalaureate Review. Creativity uses a combination of imagination, intellect, insight and emotion to solve problems and transform existing ideas, images, or techniques in innovative and original ways, according to the Baccalaureate Review. Communication includes the mastery of basic skills, such as language, technology and collaboration, according to the Baccalaureate Review.

Some goals for the three C’s are to create outcomes that will exhibit intercultural competencies with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, analyze issues that interconnect human life and the natural world and also to engage in critical, creative and independent thought, according to Baccalaureate Review.

“I think general education has been overlooked for a long time,” said Bernard Harris, a professor of mathematical science and task force member. “General education is a big role in what we do. It should be streamlined. Students should not just be checking off a box. My personal view is that technology is a lot more than what it used to be. For people to make a decision in the world, they need things like math. For example, in my Math 101 class, I have brought in a credit card counselor to inform students on better decisions.”

The task force and general committee will work together closely until the fall of 2014. They will then prepare and develop a strategy for the creation and implementation of a revised NIU general education program that will tie together newly designed baccalaureate goals and a mission statement that will improve NIU general education years from now.

“It is long overdue for us to evaluate as a community the way in which we address general education,” Kolb said.

Students who want to voice their opinion can contact members of the task force.

“I am the voice for the student body,” said Patrick Birk, a member of the task force and freshman business administration major. “Students can reach me on campus by adding me Facebook or by email. When we had our first meeting, Provost Raymond Alden gave a speech and it made me very passionate towards education.”


Feedback and suggestions are welcome at