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   from the issue of September 14, 2006

Colleges to receive Gen-Ed proposals


General education reform is transitioning from committee to UNL's eight colleges.

Building on a set of institutional objectives released in December, the General Education Advisory Committee chaired by biology professor John Janovy Jr., in October will release two of four planned proposals aimed at reshaping general education at UNL.

The two proposals are Student Learning Outcomes and Structural Criteria.

The Student Learning Outcomes will articulate what the committee has determined all students, regardless of major, should know and be able to do upon graduation. The Structural Criteria will outline rules that will guide the structure of the new general education program.

Janovy said the committee is finalizing language in both proposals.

"By early October, we will send to colleges the institutional objectives, the proposed learning outcomes and recommended structure of the program," Janovy said. "Then, it is up to the colleges to officially discuss and vote on the proposals."

The general education program on campus has been known as the Comprehensive Education Program (or IS/ES) since being formed in 1995. The current reform initiative is being called Achievement-Centered Education.

"That phrase is an accurate description of what we are trying to do," said Janovy. "It reflects exactly what we are working to make happen."

Harvey Perlman, chancellor, identified general education reform as a priority during the annual State of the University address on Sept. 9, 2005.

The Comprehensive Education Program at UNL is 10 years old and has been outpaced by national trends in general education. It has grown to include nearly 2,400 courses, only about 600 of which are accepted by programs in all of UNL's eight undergraduate colleges - Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources; Architecture; Arts and Sciences; Business Administration; Education and Human Sciences; Engineering; Fine and Performing Arts; Journalism and Mass Communications

"Our present program is not entirely bad," said David Wilson, associate vice chancellor in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. "But, it is cumbersome and unassessable and often seen by students and advisers as an obstacle to timely degree completion and as a barrier to new students, particularly transfer students."

Wilson also said many students and faculty no longer understand or see the relevance of the Comprehensive Education Program.

"General education is a set of common requirements that enhances the undergraduate experience," Wilson said. "We are trying to build a general education program that provides our undergraduate students with a set of important skills and broad exposure to multiple disciplines so that they're well prepared for a variety of life and work challenges.

"But, we're trying to do it in a way that is elegant, simple and transparent to students, faculty and advisers."

Janovy said the draft version of the student learning outcomes is available online at

The outcomes and structural criteria proposals will be forwarded to each college. Wilson said it would be up to the colleges to discuss and approve the proposals in accordance with their bylaws.

The Academic Senate is also helping gauge faculty opinions related to the general education reform program. According to Ali Moeller, president of Academic Senate, the faculty-led body is surveying faculty on their support for the institutional objectives.

Two additional proposals will be released in the spring. The General Education Advisory Committee and the General Education Planning Team will compile a list of courses for the new program and outline guidelines for an assessment and governance system. UNL colleges will also approve those proposals.

Perlman, in the State of the University address on Sept. 7, said the goal is to have the Achievement-Centered Education program in place by fall 2007.

"We are trying to go further with general education than many other institutions have gone," Janovy said. "If we are able to complete the program in the direction it is now going, then UNL will be a national model in general education."

For additional information on the general education reform initiative, go online to



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