General Education Program
The Academic Council, extending the deliberations of the Working Group on Curriculum Reform and various ad-hoc committees, reviewed the general education requirements and now proposes the following approach. The attached proposal incorporates the guidance of the faculty as reflected in previous questionnaires and discussions across the campus.
According to our Mission Statement, the curriculum of the college and its extracurricular activities are designed to meet three central goals: 1) a rich knowledge of facts and concepts discovered and developed by scholarship (content); 2) an enhanced capacity for tolerance, for responsibility toward the natural world, and for judgment in ethics and the arts (aesthetic and moral sensibilities); and 3) life-long habits of intellectual curiosity and independent learning (intellectual powers).
Any subset of courses is, however, only part of a student's college education, and does not carry the full burden of achieving our goals. For example, our concentration requirements are intended to ensure in-depth study; sustained inquiry in a major allows students to learn much substantive material about a particular subject beyond the scope of introductory courses and to achieve competence in specific research methodologies and in oral and written communication skills. As a whole, the general atmosphere at Willamette University, including classroom and extracurricular activities, should foster all three central goals and should provide a community that nourishes intellectual inquiry, multicultural awareness, environmental responsibility, and moral sensibilities.
To complement the depth of study in the major, we have chosen to focus on the principle that the purpose of our general education program should be to nurture approaches to learning that will help our graduates engender the habits and intellectual framework for a lifetime of learning. There is no single word that can best describe the range of intellectual capabilities, arts, perspectives, and experiences comprising a liberal arts education. However, we have chosen to embrace a model of liberal arts education based on diverse intellectual approaches. Content will not be slighted in this system of general education requirements. We believe, however, that the general education system should be organized by the approaches to learning or modes of inquiry developed by diverse courses rather than by the department that houses them. Our focus on modes of inquiry and approaches to teaching and learning will help us look beyond disciplinary expertise to a broader general education vision. Problem solving in the real world does not happen in discrete boxes, but rather involves the integration of many intertwined and overlapping modes of inquiry; it is our hope that we can develop our students' abilities to apply these processes in viewing the world, solving problems, and establishing a lifelong habit of learning.