Why General Education Matters conference to feature author/professor Delbanco

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On Oct. 31, the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence and the Schreyer Honors College are hosting a conference titled Why General Education Matters. The conference, at the Nittany Lion Inn, coincides with Penn State’s recently launched initiative to revise the general education (Gen Ed) program and will serve as a public kick-off event for future discussions that will take place with stakeholders across the University.

The conference program will emphasize and explore the foundations of the General Education program — its purpose and value in today’s world.

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Andrew Delbanco, professor and director of American Studies at Columbia University and author of "College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be" will open the day’s events as the keynote speaker, followed by Christian Brady, dean of the Schreyer Honors College, interviewing Delbanco about his views on general education.

Students’ voices will be represented in a video created by Penn State Public Media that allows far more students to offer perspective than through a panel discussion. The interviewers asked students a variety of questions about the purpose and benefits of Gen Ed, what courses they have taken, and what they gained from the experience.

The remainder of the conference includes a sequence of four panels representing other constituencies that impact, or are impacted by, the Gen Ed curriculum. Each panel will answer questions about the importance and value of a General Education. Each panelist will have a brief opportunity to speak, but the format is designed to facilitate dialog between panelists and participants.

Gen Ed is so deeply embedded in Penn State’s undergraduate curriculum that its value is sometimes assumed by default. The Schreyer Conference will provide the Penn State instructional community a rare opportunity to delve into the underlying intent of the program.

Penn State has a long-standing commitment to General Education and its impact is vast. The program was first launched in 1954. Brent Yarnal, chairman of the University Faculty Senate, recently noted that it touches all undergraduates, most faculty and countless staff.

Since the last revision of the Gen Ed curriculum in 2001, the world and our students have changed — or have they?

This past spring, the provost and the University Faculty Senate chair charged a task force to plan the revision, oversee the process and identify subcommittees to hammer out the details.

Many colleges and universities are exploring their own approaches to general education. Some have taken a “Great Books” approach as an introduction to the scholarly traditions of higher education. Other institutions have created an inclusive curriculum that integrates the intellectual traditions of a broad range of the world’s population.

What direction will Penn State take? Two areas of particular attention for the Gen Ed Task Force are providing opportunities for students to be more engaged in learning beyond their course work and revisiting how we help our students navigate an increasingly diverse society.

All members of Penn State’s teaching and learning community are invited to attend and add their voices to the dialogue. Information about the event, the keynote speaker and panelists is available at http://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.edu/schreyerconference2013.

Additional co-sponsors of the conference include the University Faculty Senate, General Education Task Force, University Libraries, Center for the Study of Higher Education and Lambda Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. 

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Last Updated January 10, 2014