By Ryan Bartelmay, Dean of General Education
Students at Kendall College are razor focused on their professional goals. Whether they want to don a white chef coat, join the management team of a hotel, educate children, or launch their own businesses, they pass through our doors on day one visualizing their place in the workforce. That’s why it’s crucial that the college’s general education courses support their academic journey by helping them develop skills, such as writing, public speaking and teamwork, and engaging them with relevant and meaningful “big” questions so that they can become, as we like to say at Kendall: “Ready for the World.”
Two years ago, we hosted focus groups with students and local employers to learn what each wanted from the college’s general education program. We found that students want to take courses that relate to them personally and challenge their pre-conceived notations about not-easy-to-pin-down topics and employers want graduates to have strong soft skills, like the ability to communicate clearly, problem solve, and analyze and interpret information.
By adjusting our curricular goals to reflect the desires of the students and employers, our faculty re-conceptualized the curriculum to feature four themes: the Citizen, the Professional, the Globalist, and the Leader. We grouped the 12 general education courses into four clusters of three themed courses. Each of the 12 courses are interdisciplinary (meaning they combine multiple disciplines, like philosophy and psychology or literature and leadership theory into a single course) and has the role of both challenging the student personally and developing the student’s soft skills.
The curriculum is highly structured and sequenced so the learning builds and accumulates. The first course of each cluster exposes students to topics in the humanities while developing written and oral communication and information literacy. A good example is the first course in the Citizen cluster, “Seeking Selfie: Exploring Identity in the 21st Century,” which asks students to examine who they have (or hope to) become. The second course of each cluster addresses science or math and technological literacy and problem solving. The Professional cluster’s “Billfold to Boardroom: The Financially Prepared Professional” asks students to reflect on the ways their financial decisions impact themselves and others. The third course addresses social science and develops students’ abilities to collaborate as a team. “Global Ripples: Diving into the World” of the Globalist cluster, for example, asks students to imagine the world in 25 years, and the Leader’s “The Steps and Missteps of Leadership” challenges students to compare themselves to leaders to determine if they have what it takes to be a leader in their industry.
We designed this curriculum so our general education courses complement and enhance what students are learning in their degree program courses. In fact, with these courses, we hope the boundaries between general education and degree program courses begin to blur, if not disappear, and the students see these courses as relevant and necessary to their future career success.
We’re very excited about the changes (the first courses are being taught this term—Winter 2017) but know our work doesn’t have a finish line. This project will always be iterative, allowing us to constantly tweak and improve each course in response to students’ feedback. Ultimately, our hope is that these new courses will continue to influence students well after they’ve become successful professionals.
Learn more about Kendall’s General Education program.