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Symposium on general education set Jan. 29

January 13, 2014
Michael Kolb

Michael Kolb

An open symposium is planned for noon Wednesday, Jan. 29, to roll out ideas for general education and baccalaureate curricular reform essential for improving educational quality and enhancing NIU’s mission of student success.

Hosted by the General Education Visioning Task Force and the Office of the Provost, the NIU General Education and Integrative Learning Symposium will take place in the Capital Room of the Holmes Student Center.

After introductions by NIU President Doug Baker and Acting Provost Lisa Freeman, the symposium will open with a keynote address titled “Making the Most Out of General Education” by Thomas Steen. Steen is director of the University of North Dakota’s Office of Essential Studies, an award-winning program in general education.

Formed in 2013, the task force began the process of curricular reform so that NIU might better meet the needs of 21st century students. This group is comprised of faculty, staff and students who will provide the leadership necessary to critically re-evaluate current general education learning goals, their related outcomes and how such outcomes can be most appropriately taught, learned and assessed.

Michael Kolb, professor in the Department of Anthropology and general education coordinator at NIU, chairs the task force.

After conducting campus faculty and student surveys in the fall of 2013 on the attitudes and views regarding general education and the Baccalaureate Student Learning Outcomes, the task force has developed some strategies for integrating the curriculum that are now ready for public review.

The group’s national and institutional research has revealed that the value of NIU’s general education program is often misunderstood and viewed as a secondary or even irrelevant part of the baccalaureate degree process. Survey results reveal that students consistently view their general education requirements as a barrier to completing their “real” disciplinary or professionally focused education, even though national employers consistently rank the skills developed through a general education experience as critically important for their employees.

Further research by task force members reiterates the “age-old” idea that academic breadth is essential for building a foundation for life-long learning, a fruitful career, and responsible citizenship.

Thomas Steen

Thomas Steen

The Jan. 29 schedule of events for the workshop includes:

Noon Introductions
12:20 p.m. Keynote Address: Thomas Steen
1:20 p.m. Preamble: Vice Provost Anne Birberick and Kolb
1:30 p.m. Task Force Panel Discussion on an Integrated Curriculum

  • Employing the Baccalaureate Student Learning Outcomes
  • Improving educational breadth
  • Intensifying writing requirements
  • Enhancing curricular flexibility
  • Credentialing co-curricular activities

2:30 Break-out Round Table Discussions

Members of the Visioning Task Force are:

  • Anne L. Birberick, vice provost
  • Patrick Birk, business administration major
  • Terry Bishop, associate professor of management
  • Brianno Coller, associate professor of engineering
  • David Gorman, associate professor of English
  • Bernard Harris, chair, Department of Mathematical Sciences
  • Antoinette Jones, certification assessment assistant
  • Edward Klonoski, associate professor of music
  • Michael Kolb, general education coordinator and professor of anthropology
  • Jeff Kowalski, professor of art history and Presidential Research Professor
  • Christopher Parker, associate vice provost for assessment
  • Brandon Phillips, history major
  • Jeanette Rossetti, associate professor of nursing
  • Gretchen Schlabach, associate professor of kinesiology and physical education
  • Donna Smith, catalog editor and curriculum coordinator
  • Julia Spears, associate vice provost for engagement and experiential learning
  • Joel Stafstrom, associate professor of biology
  • Amanda Thrun, family and child studies major
  • Beth Towell, associate dean of undergraduate academic affairs in the College of Business
  • Josephine Umoren, associate professor and coordinator for nutrition and dietetics, chair of the General Education Committee
  • Teresa Wasonga, associate professor of educational administration

For more information about the symposium or the task force, contact Kolb at [email protected] or (815) 753-7037.