The General Education Taskforce was initiated in fall 2003 and completed its charge to propose a new general education program for Saint Xavier University in fall 2006. The Taskforce’s proposal was distributed to the SXU community and discussions occurred prior to a faculty vote on the proposal in late November. Subsequent meetings in December and January led to minor revisions, with the final approval in late January 2007.
After examining curriculums at peer and aspirant institutions and reviewing the 1997 NCA evaluation of the core curriculum, the Taskforce composed vision and mission statements, as well as general learning objectives. Guiding principles were also established with specific goals for revision, including making general education an explicit focus and topic of faculty interest and conversation, drawing a distinction between general education courses and courses designed specifically for majors, establishing an administrative structure and strengthening the relationship between general education and the particular characteristics of a Catholic and mercy education.
Next a framework and specific requirements for the curriculum were developed. This three-level framework accounts for students’ transition into university learning by creating a first-year learning experience, for the need to broaden learning in the liberal arts by creating distribution requirements in the arts and sciences and integrating knowledge by instituting a interdisciplinary seminar at the junior-level and a general education capstone experience during the senior year.
Other new requirements included a first-year seminar, an introductory philosophy course, writing across the curriculum, diversity and global studies, community-based learning and a foreign language requirement for all undergraduates seeking a bachelor of arts degree. Revisions to transfer and adult student requirements are also included. In addition, specific learning outcomes were established to foster student achievement in and integration of learning in three areas: understanding of human culture and the natural world, intellectual and practical capacities and individual and social responsibility.
The administrative structure developed by the Taskforce is to be housed in the School of Arts and Sciences. Its purpose is to promote and maintain the vitality and quality of the program, especially the effectiveness of its curriculum. The administration of the program includes a General Education Committee, a director, assistant director, and the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The General Education Committee has the primary responsibility for ensuring the quality of the program, its curriculum and related activities, including responding to course proposals, promoting faculty discussion and development and assessing the curriculum. This committee draws its membership from tenure track faculty; all elected by faculty with one member appointed by the dean of the College of the Arts and Sciences. The director and assistant director are appointed by the provost in consultation with the General Education Committee and the deans and are responsible for coordinating and publicizing the activities of the program, including working with academic support units and student affairs.
Designed as a response to faculty and accreditation assessments, advances in higher education, and a revitalization of the University mission, the General Education Program at Saint Xavier also accounts for the developmental journey that leads students into the University, introduces them to the disciplinary perspectives to be found there, challenges them to think about how their studies bear upon one another and helps them enter the world beyond college. It is also designed to enliven and enlarge the imagination by promoting questions, knowledge and actions that investigate and contribute to human understanding and the common good.