UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Faculty Senate approved on Tuesday (March 15) a detailed implementation plan for the new integrative studies requirement in General Education, which will impact freshmen beginning in summer and fall 2018. The Senate approved seven separate recommendations, including endorsing the descriptions and criteria for the Knowledge Domains, and principles for both the linked and inter-domain pathways.
The new requirements are meant to broaden students' understanding of how information and material from different fields — or Knowledge Domains — can be tied together. Students will take either two “linked courses” —courses that approach a subject from two different Knowledge Domains; or two “inter-domain courses” — courses that bring subject material from two Knowledge Domains into one course.
“While students now take course work in each of five Knowledge Domains — arts, humanities, health and wellness, natural sciences, social and behavior sciences — integrative studies courses will advance our students’ abilities to make connections between and among knowledge domains,” said Carey Eckhardt, a member of the special Senate Committee on Implementation of the General Education Reform.
Eckhardt noted that the requirements will be incorporated into existing baccalaureate requirements, and no additional credits will be added; that new and existing courses have the potential to be approved as integrative studies classes; and that the model includes several flexible options for implementation.
Emily Miller, with the University Park Undergraduate Association, said that UPUA and the Faculty Senate’s student caucus fully support the implementation plan.
“These changes will provide deeper exploration and flexibility to students and will also expose students to a more blended experience,” Miller said, reading the UPUA resolution. “We believe that this should not be the end of a process, but merely the first step. We are urging the Senate and the University to continue to strive for changes to general education that will deepen the curriculum’s commitment to flexibility and exploration for students.”
The Senate also:
- Approved implementation of updated general education learning objectives, which provide the foundation of the general education curriculum. The seven learning objectives are: effective communication, key literacies, critical and analytical thinking, integrative thinking, creative thinking, global learning, and social responsibility and ethical reasoning.
- Approved an advisory report that recommends changes to HR21 policy on the definition of academic ranks across all units. Specifically, the Senate recommends establishing a third rank for promotion of fixed-term faculty and establishing a fixed-term promotion review committee.
- Approved a consultative report recommending changes to the University’s family leave provisions that allow faculty seeking tenure to stop the tenure clock twice during the process and to add reasons why the clock can be stopped. For example, the recommendations add foster care to the reasons a faculty member can request that the tenure clock be stopped. It is not currently included in HR23, while child birth and adoption are. The recommendation also increases the amount of time the tenure clock can be stopped, from one year to two years, and says that requests for stopping the clock should not have an impact on how faculty seeking tenure are evaluated.
- Approved a consultative report that recommends principles the University should follow when considering upcoming health care plans: making information accessible, keeping plans affordable, offering choice to employees, maintaining a fair cost-sharing approach, being guided by a principle of informed utilization when implementing data warehouse and cost transparency tools, and fostering a culture of health.
The recommendations were developed by a subcommittee of members from three University committees: The Faculty Senate Faculty Benefits Committee, the University Joint Committee on Insurance and Benefits, and the president’s Health Care Advisory Committee.
These advisory and consultative reviews will be sent to the president for approval and implementation.
The Senate also heard from:
- Board of Trustees Chairman Keith Masser, who addressed the Senate and reviewed revisions that have been made to Trustees’ governance structure, including integration of faculty expertise into board governance, more focused discussion of academic issues at board meetings; implementing best practices in governance; and ensuring student accessibility.
- President Eric Barron, who discussed the state budget impasse, and Provost Nick Jones, who spoke about the 2015-16 budget and looked ahead to 2016-17. The University has not received an appropriation from the state for 2015-16 yet, but has already had to begin planning for the upcoming fiscal year.
Barron said Penn State is financially a very sound institution and has been able to manage the lack of state funding because of a buffer incorporated in the University budget.
“We have worked and planned to make sure this institution is in the black,” he said, noting that Moody’s recently upgraded the University’s credit rating.
- Intercollegiate Athletics Director Sandy Barbour, who provided a review of Athletics’ current goals and achievements and a prospective look at Athletics’ strategic plan.