by Genny Boots, Guest Writer

It’s not uncommon to hear the quiet grumbling of a senior on their way to their physical education class or overhear a rant about a religion reading from a group of students at Old Main Market.

Even cries of desperation fill the dorms as students struggle through their general education classes. In order for any of the 3,500 undergraduate students at Pacific Lutheran University to graduate, they must fulfill the general education requirements.
Whether this is through International Honors or the GUR program, students are expected to fill their schedules with a variety of classes across disciplines.

Forcing students to reach outside of their comfort zones can be, well, uncomfortable.

Professor Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen teaches a 200-level early Christianity course. Many of her students take the class to satisfy their Christian religion requirement.

“I know that more students in these courses will be less invested initially because they will see this as subject matter to ‘get over with.’” Llewellyn Ihssen said.

PLU’s GUR programs are managed by two administrating groups: The General Education Council and the Education Policies Committee (EPC). Both panels are under the scope of the Office of the Provost.

The EPC evaluates courses, programs and departments and how they fit within PLU’s academic requirements. It’s a panel of seven elected faculty members and additional advisory members, including one student representative. The EPC reports its assessments to the General Education Council which oversees all curriculum changes.

The framework that guides the General Education Council, the EPC and all courses at PLU are the Integrated Learning Objectives (ILO). These principles outline the goals PLU has for all students.

Abilities such as critical reflection, expression, and interaction are included among the ILOs. It is the core to PLU’s undergraduate education.

Hal DeLaRosby, Director of Academic Advising, said general education requirements and ILOs teach students how to learn.
Still, students bemoan. General education classes are typically larger classes that are difficult to get into and schedule. The apathy for many general education classes is what DeLaRosby attributes to a checklist mentality.

“I think that some students see the general education program as a checklist, hoops to jump through,” DeLaRosby said, “but the students who view the GURs as something that enhances the experience get the most out of it.”

Ashley Mercy, senior Nursing major, is one student who uses GURs to her advantage. GURs can be enjoyable and can contribute to your other classes she said.

“In nursing, there is such a set agenda of classes I really liked taking GURs,” Mercy said. “One of my favorite classes was my philosophy class, ‘Ethics of Food,’ where I learned about the link between processed food and chronic health issues. What I learned in that class impacted the way I think about the world and my approach to nursing.”

The General Education program is here so each student can grow and learn outside of their focus.

“Learning what wisdom looks like and how one might use it can happen in a variety of contexts, but it has an excellent chance of success if that process begins in a Gen-Ed course,” Llewellyn Ihssen said. ◼︎

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