Last April, The Weekly reported on a potential new curriculum proposed by the faculty. After several months of debate and discussion, the faculty voted on a new curriculum, entitled Pathways of Discovery, at the end of last semester. Next fall, the class of 2028 will be the first group to enroll with the new curriculum, while current students will continue with the current General Academic Requirements (GARs).
Unlike the 18 GARs currently required (such as HU and SL) this new curriculum has much fewer requirements. In addition to the First-Year Seminar (FYS), which isn’t going away, the new curriculum will require only eight additional courses spanning all the various subjects offered here at Muhlenberg. This curriculum will also include a long discussed yet not implemented GAR called Race and Power in the American Experience. While this requirement appears in the new curriculum, it is possible that current students will also have to fulfill this requirement since it has been in the College’s plans for a while. Although students will still need to take a Writing Intensive (W) within their major, they will only need one W rather than the two currently required.
Since the new curriculum was voted in, faculty have been working to approve the specific language within the learning goals for each requirement.
In the most recent faculty meeting on Nov. 10, the faculty debated the learning goals for one of the new GARs, Intercultural Communications (IC). Upon the presentation of the proposed learning goals, Erika M. Sutherland, Ph.D., proposed an amendment that she developed with her department. As the chair of the College’s Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures as well as an associate professor of Spanish, Sutherland expressed her concern that the learning goals focused too little on learning a foreign language. For this reason, the proposed amendment offered students the choice of studying either a language other than English or diverse cultural perspectives. This amendment sparked a lot of debate but was ultimately approved with a vote by show of hands.
Faculty members will continue to vote on the learning goals for each new requirement at upcoming meetings.
The work discussed at this recent meeting is part of a long process of creating, approving and now implementing this new curriculum. The faculty who are leading the task force to implement the curriculum explained that students who may be avoiding certain subjects, either consciously or unconsciously, will be encouraged to engage with new subjects. Rather than starting a student off with the question of their major, this curriculum aims for students to begin their studies with the goal of exploring multiple ways of knowing. In anticipation of the challenges that will result from this refiguring of the GARs, a representative of the implementation task force likened the implementation process to playing a game at a party: It is very difficult to be the person in charge of explaining the rules as each player has a different learning style, so it is best to “play open a few rounds so no one is out.” This thought process applies to students, as this new curriculum means to give them more academic freedom to explore diverse subjects, as well as to faculty who are orchestrating these changes and trusting the process.
The new system discussed in this faculty meeting alone emphasizes the drastic changes Muhlenberg will undergo in the near future. Current students who have expressed frustration and feelings of stress with fulfilling GARs can only hope that future students will not experience the same academic pressures. Gabi Levinger-Louie ‘25 says, “I understand the purpose of GARs and I think it’s important for people to learn skills like critical thinking, analyzing primary sources, writing essays, etc., but personally, I know I struggle with math and science a lot. It’s hard because there is no option for me to take those GARs as a pass/fail class. It makes some of the GAR requirements unnecessarily stressful. I had to drop my math GAR because of this.”