The Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science will offer the Writing 150 course in the fall semester 2013, which will be part of new general education requirements.
The restructuring of the new general education curriculum will include two additional category requirements, a broader scope of class offerings and smaller seminar-style classes, Steven Lamy, vice dean for academic programs who has been working on restructuring the GE system, said.
The new general education program, which is slated to be fully implemented by the fall semester of 2015, will increase the six categories of subjects to a total of eight required cateogories.Students will be required to take a course in the arts and in quantitative reasoning.
In addition, the university will offer Writing 150, a stand-alone thematic course. This course, unlike the current requirement Writing 140, will not require students to be dually enrolled in a social issues course. Lamy, who is also a professor of international relations, said these courses will be offered as early as fall 2013.
All first-year students will be required to take a freshman seminar. These smaller classes will fulfill one of the eight category requirements while providing new students with a more intimate class experience.
Lamy said the idea is modeled off of courses for Thematic Option, the university’s core general education honors program, because the university received positive reviews on end-of-the-semester surveys about the program.
“The students, when they come right through the door, would have the opportunity to do their GEs in a small, seminar environment,” Lamy said,
Lamy noted that while the university is adding more seminars to its program, other universities are cutting back on the amount of seminars they offer.
Some students point out that more categories would result in an increase in the number of units one has to take, which would be a potential problem for incoming students who want to pursue multiple major-minor combinations.
“Fitting in general education units with my Spanish and pre-med courses has been manageable, but if there were more categories added on, it would be problematic,” said Julianna Paul, a freshman majoring in Spanish.
However, Lamy and Gene Bickers, the vice provost for undergraduate programs and professor of physics and astronomy who has been working on the restructuring as well, said they are working hard to ensure that more general education courses can fulfill major requirements.
Lamy and Bickers said they are working to improve the extensiveness of the general education courses offered with the hope that students will be purposeful in selecting courses that compliment their chosen academic disciplines while giving them balance.
“We’d like students to be thoughtful in how they chose their GEs. We want to give them the option to take courses that will work well with their disciplines,” Bickers said.
The renovation of the general education system presents many challenges to curriculum planners, such as accommodating the logistics of additional smaller classes. The program will also accommodate transfer students who wish to fulfill their GEs with courses taken at other universities.
Planners said providing a holistic curriculum to all university graduates is one of their most important goals.
“Many of our students study technical fields — they study business, they study professional areas — but we think it’s key that they also be grounded in the liberal arts,” Bickers said.
Lamy insists that the changes are coming from a place of improvement rather than repair.
“We’re not addressing flaws. We’re trying to make it as innovative as possible. We’re trying to increase the depth and breadth of courses and really take advantage of all the assets USC has to offer,” Lamy said.
Some students were not as optimistic about the benefits of the changes to the general education system. Daniel Kim, a sophomore majoring in international relations, said the restructuring would alter the way students approach the way they select their classes.
“I think it creates less flexibility for students because a lot of people want to take classes that aren’t really major classes or GE classes … and I feel like if you add more GEs, that takes away that flexibility,” Kim said.
Despite the varied reactions, Undergraduate Student Government Academic Affairs Director Andres Guarnizo-Ospina said he is positive about the new GE proposal.
“I think it’s a great program and there has been a correlation between general education getting better and USC rising in rankings,” Guarnizo-Ospina said. “I think there’s always room to improve and evolve for a changing student population and changing student interests. Fortunately, USC is very flexible and can keep up. I think it’s going to keep evolving for the better.”