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Last updateWed, 18 Sep 2019 12pm

Features

Liberal Arts Across the Disciplines

No matter their major, all students attending the University are required to take the same courses to fulfill general education requirements. These liberal arts and humanities classes are designed to give students a wellrounded education and are, according to many professors and students, important.

Jean Li, ancient history professor, speaks out about the general education requirements in the history department. “History touches upon every aspect of contemporary society,” she said. “A business major should know why economic systems developed the way they did. For example, they should know the origins of our current system of banking arose in Renaissance Europe to meet certain demands of globalized trade. Law or pre-law students learn that history is inherent in law. The law is built upon history; lawyers argue based on precedent.” She continues that history can be used for various reasons in other departments such as communication and political science.

Li believes that the history requirements are minimal and should be more diversely focused on. “I think it’s important for students to take History 101 and 102, not just one or the other,” she said. “I also think it’s important for students to take world (not European or American) history classes. Students need to expand their knowledge beyond the traditional ‘Western Civilizations’ since contemporary society is truly global. If you think about it, human societies have never been isolated, but global in their own ways. History ties all the disciplines together. It, along with anthropology, is the study of human achievements,” said Li.

Dorothy Lobo, associate professor of biology, is a strong supporter of gen-ed requirements as well. “The new general education requirements were passed in 2010, and the task force of faculty working on revising the requirements mapped out the courses that we felt any collegeeducated individual who was to be prepared for lifelong learning would need,” she said. “One of the learning goals of the new general education requirements is ‘to be informed by knowledge of the natural and social sciences and basic forms of inquiry, including competence in basic research skills, scientific method, collaborative problem solving, and working in interdisciplinary groups.’ Science is such an integral part of everyday life, from global environmental issues to understanding healthcare - having a background in some of these topics will help future graduates be better informed citizens.”

Linda Flaming, Chair of the accounting department has an opposing view on general education requirements. “I would have preferred the total number of general education credits to be less, so that students who have large major and concentration requirements, including accounting majors could have more free electives,” she said. “Accounting students have only 8 free elective credits after taking their general education, business administration and accounting requirements.” Flaming said, however, that there are no courses required for all majors that she would eliminate. Many students, though, could think of a few classes they could go without.

“Classes like college composition and math are good, but I think it’s unnecessary for classes like music and theater appreciation,” sophomore Brandon Bulinsky said. “I’m a business major so when am I ever going to need to know anything about the theater?”

Sophomore Drew Corrigan agrees. “I agree that the English requirements serve a purpose, but I know for my major I only had to take one semester of math and that seemed a little pointless. It’s like I had to take it just to say I took a math class in college because I’m not going to retain most of the information from a class in my fall semester of freshman year when I graduate.”

Along with basic math, English and history classes, students are also required to take social sciences such as psychology, sociology and political science. Gary Lewandowski Jr., Chair of the psychology department, comments. “Social sciences are important because they represent a very direct confluence of individuals’ everyday life experience and a scientific mindset,” he said. By learning to apply science, or think more scientifically students can gain insight into why others around them think, feel and behave the way that they do.”

Though social sciences may be required, they are not always dreaded by students. Lewandowski mentions that introduction to psychology is a very well-liked social science for any major. “Across the country and at Monmouth introduction to psychology is one of the most common courses that non-majors take,” he said. For some it is required, but many students seek it out intentionally because it is so readily applicable to their lives.” Lewandowski adds that he believes that courses such as child psychology and social psychology should be added to the general education requirements.

Joseph Patten, Chair of the department of political science and sociology, comments on the importance of social sciences as well. “The department of political science and sociology offers courses toward the social science elective including Introduction to American Government, Introduction to Political Science and Introduction to Sociology, all of which are vital in promoting active citizenship,” he said.

Students should not feel condemned to a strict academic plan. Many of the requirements, such as social sciences, provide many choices as to which courses students may take to fulfill their requirements. The aesthetics requirement offers a range of music, theatre and performance classes while even the science department offers courses more relevant to non-science majors. “Science of cooking (SC 120), nutrition science (SC 110) and the physics of sound and music (PH 103) are very popular,” said Lobo. The biology department offers non-major courses in environmental science, evolution, human biology, and neuroscience. Everyone in the School of Science is passionate about his or her field, and really wants to share their love of science with students.”

Students also have a variety of selections for the foreign language and cultural diversity requirements. They can choose to take two (or more) semesters of a foreign language, or two classes with the cultural diversity label (CD). “The department of foreign language studies offers Spanish, Italian, French, German, Arabic, Chinese and Irish. Students can easily satisfy the global understanding and cultural diversity gen-ed requirement by taking two semesters of the same language,” Mirta Barrea-Marlys, Chair of the department of foreign language studies said.

Barrea-Marlys stresses the importance of awareness in cultural diversity. “Former students are always reporting back that they were hired because they have studied a foreign language and/or studied abroad,” she said. “In today’s global market, it is imperative to have the edge that language study gives you, no matter what field you plan to enter,” In a letter to Barrea-Marlys, a former student explains how studying abroad has influenced her career.

Stacy Moreno, 2001 University graduate, writes that her minor in Spanish helped her find jobs in social work, management and therapy, taking her all the way from England to Arizona to work with minority Hispanics. She believes her success would not be as great without her study abroad experience in Spain. “I love the abroad experiences and feel this is so critical in helping us understand the global world around us and making us more well-rounded,” Moreno writes.

Though students are unable to choose which of these courses they can take, mathematics does consider each major when setting up requirements for general education. “Our department offers a variety of courses designed to offer these learning outcomes to different majors. Joseph Coyle, Director of financial mathematics said. “For example, we have a course called Mathematical Modeling in the Biological Sciences (MA 115). Other courses are more general, but still facilitate the same outcomes. We offer a course called Quantitative Reasoning and Problem Solving (MA 100). The book we typically use for this course includes chapters devoted to the mathematics of scheduling and descriptive statistics. I’d like to think that for many majors these outcomes are reinforced in their core subject courses. They are an essential part of a university education,” he adds.

Coyle also believes in the importance of other general education requirements, and even thinks that additional required courses could benefit students. “A finance or economics course would be great,” he said. “In addition, I think requiring some level of proficiency in a foreign language would be useful. The reality is that there are only so many credit hours a student can take, and consequently, we have to strike a balance in setting the requirements. At the end of the day, if we are doing our job properly, the students will be lifelong learners and have the skills to continue their general education long after they graduate.”

According to many educators, general education requirements are essential. Some even believe they should be expanded, or altered to cater more toward a student’s major. Although quite a few students dread going to classes they did not choose to take, some embrace the education they are receiving and are very eager to learn subject matter in more than one area. Senior Mark Cosentino comments, “General education classes are essential to a liberal arts education. Those foundational courses across the disciplines are what separates colleges from trade schools and make a student more intellectually wellrounded.”

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