Students advocated for an improved general education program and increased transparency at an open forum hosted by the The Strategic Planning Committee on Wednesday.
The forum, held in conjunction with the Undergraduate Student Government, Graduate and Professional Student Senate and the Office of the Provost, gave students a chance to provide input on the university’s future and the strategic plan.
“We need all of you students for this,” said Robin Romans, associate provost of undergraduate programs and a member of the committee. “The university’s broad vision for the future will come in large part from the input of outspoken students.”
The strategic plan is a document drafted by university officials with the input of various university groups to set goals for the future and detail ways to accomplish those goals. Some goals in the past have been strengthening interdisciplinary education and research. This strategic plan aims to find ways to distinguish USC from other leading research universities.
“People know what a Harvard person or a Yale person is going to be, what kind of skill set they’re going to have,” said James Brecher, secretary general of the Academic Senate and another member of the Strategic Planning Committee. “Ten or 15 years from now, when people see a USC person, we need to make sure that they know what that person will have to offer.”
Student input is necessary in ensuring the plan focuses on providing a broad vision of the university as it moves into the future and helps students orient themselves to the university and its goals.
Romans started the forum by outlining the process of creating the strategic plan. The process involves six subcommittees composed of faculty, staff and students as well as open forums and feedback both in physical meetings and on the Strategic Planning Committee’s website.
Some students said they want an easier way to track developments within the university, suggesting ideas such as publishing more information on the internet or allowing for more student representatives to be involved in university decisions.
In addition to transparency, several students took issue with the way the general education requirements forced students to take classes that might add little to their overall education.
“We’re not really getting a well-rounded general education because we’re all learning the same thing,” said Liz Trower, a senior majoring in political science. “The skills I came away with were identical in each of my ten different general education classes. Right now the GEs almost exclusively address the same skills of writing and critical thinking.”
Several students seemed to think it would be more beneficial if the general education program was instead geared toward allowing students to explore possible interests.
“Rather than having to choose from the six GE categories, maybe there could be major-specific or school-specific general education programs that allow students to take classes relevant to them,” said Monish Tyagi, USG president.
Preparation for the strategic plan began in 2008, when faculty members of the Strategic Plan Working Group cconvened to lay the groundwork. The Strategic Planning Committee aims to have a draft ready for review by President C. L. Max Nikias and Provost Elizabeth Garrett by this summer.