‘Columbia Core’ should retain college’s values

By Editorial Board

Unlike many colleges and universities, Columbia encourages students to begin taking classes required for their major during their first semester of attendance. Students also take a 42-hour Liberal Arts & Sciences core to supplement their major’s courses. 

“It was important we establish a strong liberal arts core, and we have done that,” Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden told The Chronicle in an Oct. 26 article.  “Now it is important to take that next step. It is a step that a lot of institutions are taking to rethink the core and make sure the core is sufficiently broad and covers the key aspects of being an educated adult.”

This semester, Columbia convened its Universal Learning Outcomes committee to deliver on the college’s Strategic Plan’s promise of a “21st century curriculum.” The committee was charged with identifying new learning outcomes  and will complete its work on Dec. 15.  These outcomes will be used by the Columbia Core committee to submit a proposal for a new core by May 27, 2016.

Many students are initially attracted to Columbia because the college encourages students to begin their major immediately, rather than enrolling in an abundance of general education courses. Prospective students are told Columbia is a creative oasis in the world of higher education. Any new learning outcomes to be implemented should keep Columbia’s character in mind while expanding educational opportunities for students.  It is essential that a new core does not intrude upon allowing freshmen to take classes in their major.

“Columbia’s intent is to educate students who will communicate creatively and shape the public’s perceptions of issues and events and who will author the culture of their times,” the college’s website states. 

Students should also be able to explore their major and interests through expanded general education offerings. Science courses such as “Physics of Musical Instruments”  and “Science Film Seminar”  allow students to satisfy an LAS requirement through classes that are relevant to their major studies. Offering more classes that tie a liberal arts education into a student’s specific interests will provide a more meaningful education. 

Opportunities for business and entrepreneurial education are also one of the most crucial ways to ensure student success after graduation. The focus group conducted in early November by the college revealed the importance of equipping students with professional demeanor and knowledge. The college’s LAS core currently requires an Oral Communication credit to prepare students with basic public speaking and presentation skills. Offering a similar class to teach students business essentials is just as important.

 In addition, using modern technology and techniques should be a norm in all classes as should an appreciation of diversity and the chance to employ critical and creative thinking.

Creating a Columbia core to make the college more competitive with other colleges and universities is a worthy goal. Tailoring general education course offerings to be relevant to students’ careers, and implementing courses and modules that allow students to learn more about the world around them is necessary to realize it.