Student Lauryn Hall (image source: Devin Pouliot)

What factors determine whether a class appears as a general education requirement as opposed to falling in the free elective category?

Courses eligible for general education credit fall within a diverse array of curriculum ranging from photography to English. The conversation surrounding what is included in this curriculum is an essential one to have as students partaking in studies at SNHU are mandated to take a variety of these courses to fulfill their educational requirements.

The director of general education at SNHU, Dr. Susan Cook, was interviewed to understand the process. There were three goals for the interview. Firstly, to know who sets the requirement for gen-ed curricula. Additionally, to determine if course offerings are flexible. Finally, to know the process for adding new courses to the already existing general education landscape.

Dr. Cook explained that for the last decade, SNHU has had a committee tasked with deciding what classes count towards gen-ed credit. Their members include faculty alongside university administration. The committee’s mission is to provide students with a well-rounded educational experience while ensuring the classes properly fit New England standards for accreditation. Gen-ed programs seek to enrich students with skills in communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. Additionally, they are meant to provide students with an understanding of responsibility, reasoning, and culture.

Ever since CETA was added to the SNHU umbrella three years ago, there has been a moratorium in place that prevented the gen-ed curriculum from being altered. However, the moratorium’s days are numbered as its planned end date is next year. This means the committee will be once again open to re-evaluating gen-ed with an updated course catalog, after which “all courses will have the opportunity to propose to be part of [the gen-ed] program,” says Dr. Cook.

If new courses can become eligible for the gen-ed curriculum then what is the process for getting new classes offered? The good news is that a diverse range of topics can be considered for participation in gen-ed. Professors can petition the gen-ed committee for their class to be added as credit for general education; however, whether that happens depends on factors like prerequisite requirements or the ability for the class to take on additional capacity.

Given greater leeway in customizing their own educational experience, students benefit from a degree more tailored to their unique goals. Consideration given to expanding the scope of what general education means in an SNHU context has the potential to go the distance in setting new heights for student involvement.