Professor of Humanities at Yavapai College
In the fall of 2010, I volunteered to become the college’s General Education Coordinator. I’m not really sure how I ended up in this position, to be honest. As a humanities teacher both at community colleges and at a for-profit university, I’ve always been interested in general education because it was the justification for what I taught and why. I’ve come to relish the challenge of demonstrating to students that general education topics are of immense value to students, no matter what their major or career. So taking on the role of overseeing and influencing the shape of general education at Yavapai College was certainly an extension of that effort. But I was also just beginning my second year at the college and was still very much a newbie when it came to understanding the background, interested parties and mechanics of how general education at the college was constituted. So it was a steep learning curve!
My first focus was on understanding the Arizona General Education Curriculum (AGEC.) I’d heard the term before, but as an adjunct faculty at other Arizona community colleges, I’d never been expected to understand what it actually was or did. But now, by dint of my elevation to General Education Coordinator, I was also a member of the General Education Articulation Task Force Committee (GEATF.) By attending Gen Ed ATF meetings and interacting with other members of the task force, I began to develop a fuller understanding of the statewide agreement that ensures that general education credits transfer smoothly from community colleges to the state’s universities and the important role that plays in binding individual institutions together.
Most of my first months at General Education Coordinator were spent in figuring out those connections between Yavapai College’s own offerings and the state’s requirements. In the years just before I was hired, the college had radically revised the organization and classification of its own general education offerings, and some of my first tasks as Gen Ed Coordinator were to address any lingering discrepancies or ambiguities from those changes. One such discrepancy arose in reviewing AGEC regulations regarding the Physical and Biological Sciences requirement for the science focused AGEC-S. After a GREAT deal of research in the minutes from past YC curriculum minutes and GEATF meetings, as well as consultations with both Ann Huber and Mike Hensley of APASC, I realized that unfortunately the state regulations meant that our excellent geography courses could not be used to fulfill the AGEC-S physical and biological sciences requirement of “8 credits of university chemistry, or 8 credits of university physics, or 8 credits of university biology.” What the state has against geology, I don’t know, but we are bound by their rules. So it was my job to submit a program modification to delete the two geology options from the list of appropriate classes for this requirement.
Another discrepancy that I was made aware of shortly after assuming the role of Gen Ed Coordinator was the inconsistent way in which courses were categorized on the college’s list of AGEC courses. While courses with an HIS prefix, for example, were not allowed to be cross-listed in both the “Historical Perspective” and “Social Sciences” categories and courses that fulfilled the “Critical Thinking” college AGEC requirement were taken out of any other category they might have fulfilled depending on their prefix, a few classes, notably ART 200 and 201 were found on both the” Historical Perspective” and “Arts and Humanities” lists. There were differences of opinions on whether it was appropriate to make exceptions for specific classes when the general rule has been to considered both the “Historical Perspective” and “Critical Thinking” categories, created as a part of the college’s own interpretation of the state’s AGEC requirements, as distinct from other categories of classes. This question was brought to the General Education committee on March 11, 2011 and it was determined that there should be no exceptions to the separation of courses into separate AGEC categories. Thus in the fall of 2011, Amy Stein, as the faculty member responsible for both ART 200 and 201, submitted a Art 200 and 201 Proposal that confirmed the inclusion of both classes on the Arts and Humanities AGEC course list. In addition, the recent division of the AGEC “Social and Behavioral Sciences” category into two separate lists, “Social Sciences” and “Behavioral Sciences,” meant that the one course that spanned both categories, SOC/PSY 277, also had to be revised. Mike Ruddell, the faculty member who most commonly teaches this course, undertook the revisions.
As Gen Ed Coordinator, I was a consultant and reviewer of both of these courses, as well as more than 20 other courses that have undergone curriculum revision, from education to biology, physics to geography. I’m well aware that I am no expert in topics outside my own fields of study, which is why when I was given the choice of continuing the General Education committee or reverting back to an earlier system in which the General Education Coordinator reviewed all course revisions alone, I opted to maintain the committee. Although the previous committee has collapse in some disarray in the spring of 2010, I have found that working with colleagues from across the disciplinary spectrum both enlightening and enjoyable. In the spring of 2011, in light of a massive campus reorganization, the committee was reconstituted to reflect the state’s AGEC categories. That is, we determined that this committee should have a representative for Arts and Humanities, Social and Behavior Sciences, Physical and Biological Sciences, Communication and Quantitative Reasoning. Along with representatives from Student Services and from the occupational education departments, I feel that we now have the different perspectives needed to address the general education needs of our students and a group that is strongly committed to serve those needs.
I am currently at the beginning of what will undoubtedly be the biggest project I’ve tackled yet as the college’s General Education Coordinator, the revision of the General Education Outcomes of the college, to ensure that they comply with the expectations of the Higher Learning Commission, the accreditation institution that will conduct the college’s ten-year review in 2013. While that process is in its very earliest stages, I expect that the experience will serve to deepen and expand my understanding of the central purpose of general education at Yavapai College.