Later this summer, when incoming first-year Marietta College students and their parents arrive on campus for PioSOAR, Dr. Suzanne Walker will share with them the data compiled by the National Association of Colleges and Employers that ranks the top job competencies employers are looking for.
“Critical thinking, teamwork collaboration, professionalism and work ethic, oral and written communication, leadership, digital technology, career management and global multicultural fluency top the list,” she says. “When I share that Job Outlook with them, then I stack it up against our General Education curriculum, they can see where they’re developing those competencies.”
During the 2017-18 academic year, Walker and fellow members of the General Education Task Force and the Curriculum Committee completed the restructuring of Marietta’s curriculum requirements. In November 2017, the faculty voted on and approved the Gen Ed Curriculum proposal, which will be implemented in fall 2019.
“The new core classes — our new Pioneer Path — was made more robust so our students can better achieve the educational goals we set for them,” says Associate Professor Sara Rosenstock, who co-chaired the second year of the Task Force with Professor David Jeffery.
The Pioneer Path changes the First-Year Seminar model to begin with an Information Literacy course and a Student Engagement Lab; requires students to take Writing 103 (replacing Writing 110) before taking Communication 203 (formerly Communication 101); adds a Second-Year Integrative Learning Seminar course; adds an Ethics & Communication course related to the student’s major during the junior year; and refines the requirements for the Capstone Experience in order to ensure college-wide consistency.
In addition to the core courses, the General Education Curriculum requires students to complete 28 hours across five categories (Artistic Expression, Civilization & Culture, Social Analysis, Scientific Inquiry and Quantitative Reasoning), as well as fulfill secondary concentration (a minor, certificate or second major) and modern language proficiency requirements.
Each student must also have a transcripted experiential education component. This component can be an international experience, a research or creative project, a service learning project, an internship or a leadership development project.
“Historically, we would start our students out on their First-Year Experience courses and then we would end their academic career here with a Capstone,” Rosenstock says.
One of the issues the group discovered during student surveys and town hall sessions was the lack of connection between those two experiences. The Task Force set out to close the gap.
“And so the core courses we created are supposed to guide the students through the process of finding the connections between all of the courses and disciplines that they’re studying,” Rosenstock says. “It will scaffold and add to — rather than repeat — information and skillsets within communication and information literacy.”
Dr. Matt Menzel, Professor of Mathematics and Curriculum Committee member, adds that the Marietta College curriculum as a whole is evolving.
“While the First-Year program in our current curriculum has required courses in written and oral communication, as well as a Freshman Year Program, we now are coordinating these courses more intentionally. They will focus on information literacy, which is something that 20 years ago wouldn’t have been as relevant, but today is essential,” Menzel says.
David Erzen ’19 is an active member of the Curriculum Committee. He wanted to be sure that the decisions made by the Task Force and the Curriculum Committee affecting the College’s General Education curriculum were clearly imparted to all students.
“Students can appreciate the fact that most of what made up the Gen Ed requirements were already happening,” he says, “but now there is an intention to reframe it and make the intentionality of our Gen Ed known to all students. While some students understand what this curriculum is for starting from Day 1, some students don’t get it at all. This new structure makes sure that every student, by the time they leave Marietta College, has that same shared experience of having an intentional liberal arts education and that they understand why that is important.”
Erzen is majoring in Applied Physics and is in the Engineering Dual Degree Program. He is also pursuing a Leadership minor and participates in choir.
Marietta Registrar Tina Hickman emphasizes that the General Education is the core of the larger curriculum, and the majors are a component of that.
“The language that we tend to use, for example, is that ‘this student is getting a degree in Chemistry,’ but we actually don’t offer a degree in Chemistry,” Hickman says. “We offer a Bachelor of Science and a major in Chemistry, and there is distinction in that.”
Dr. Debbie Egolf, Chair of the Curriculum Committee and General Education Task Force member, adds that degrees from Marietta reflect students’ total academic experience, not just the majors they pursue.
“One of my comments in the Gen Ed Executive Summary emphasizes the point that it is this richness of depth, breadth, integration and experiential learning that comprise our students’ undergraduate educational experiences that will create graduates who are both competitive in the workplace and well-rounded individuals,” Egolf says.
Rather than ask prospective students what they want to do professionally, Dr. Nicole Livengood, Associate Professor of English and member of the Curriculum Committee and Gen Ed Task Force, asks, “Who do you want to be while doing it?”
“The vast skillset you learn at a liberal arts school prepares you to do the things that you don’t know exist,” Livengood says. “I’ve put a call on Facebook to my English majors who have graduated, asking what they do and how they use their English skills. You don’t major in organizing scientists, but that’s what my former English and Political Science student is doing. You don’t major in speechwriting, and yet the English Department has a former student who is a speechwriter.”
Those concrete examples demonstrate how a humanities-based collection of courses can be molded into a satisfying career.
“We know in the market today that there are going to be new professions that we don’t know exist yet, and we’re going to lose professions, as well,” Rosenstock says. “Things are constantly changing, so we need to prepare students to be able to pivot in their skillsets so they’re equipped to make those changes.”
- Gi Smith
General Education Task Force Members
Doug Anderson (2015–2017)—Library
Janet Bland (Provost)—Administration
Tim Catalano (2016–2017)—English
Ali Doerflinger (2015–2017)—Psychology
Debbie Egolf (2015–2017)—Chemistry
David Jeffery (2015–2017)—Geology
Jackie Khorassani (2015–2016)—Economics
Nicole Livengood (2016–2017)—English, First-Year Program
David Makuch (2015–2016)—Theatre
Jonah Mitchell (Student Representative, 2015–2016)
Sara Rosenstock (2015–2017)—Graphic Design
Alane Sanders (2016–2017)—Communication
Joe Sullivan (2015–2017)—English, Assessment
Suzanne Walker (Spring 2017)—Administration, First-Year Program