General Studies Committee Minutes
September 12, 2002
3:10-5 p.m., Knutti 203


Voting Members Present: Dan DiLella (NS&M, 2004), Elena Ermolaeva (B&SS, 2004), Jerry Thomas (A&H, 2004), Mike Jacobs (PS, 2004), Don Henry (NS&M Chair), Dow Benedict (A&H Chair), Joseph Simplicio (PS Chair), VJ Brown (B&SS Chair), Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, Chair (C&I)

Nonvoting Members Present: Patricia Dwyer (Assessment Coord.), Cindy Stewart (T&CC Gen. St. Coordinator)

Guests: Rachel Schipper (Dean of Lib.), Mark Stern (VPAA)

1) Introductions: Elena Ermolaeva has been elected by B&SS to take the place of Denis Woods. Cindy Stewart represented T&CC in place of Karen Austin.

2) Approval of April 10 Minutes: MSP

3) GS Computer Literacy Requirement: Following the April meeting and the College librarians' offer to assist with instruction of the four GS Computer Competencies (mastery of email, internet use, electronic library research, and word processing) and to serve as another "check-off" point for Computer Literacy Certification required for graduation, Jim Pantle updated the College "General Studies Computer Literacy" certification document.

A motion was made to accept the revised GS Computer Literacy certification document (MVP). Shurbutt will inform C&I of the revision, as well as Dr. Carter (Director of Advisement) and Dr. Eldridge (Registrar). It was suggested that all advisors be informed of the revision and the librarians' offer to help with certification. Advisors still must sign the form and forward to the Registrar. Dow Benedict suggested that prior to advisement this fall a notice be sent to remind faculty of the change.

4) Words from Dr. Stern: Dr. Stern thanked the GSC for its work representing and portraying the GS program during the NCA visit. Stern said that the NCA team were enthusiastic about our program because it was clear that the campus thoroughly understood the traditional values (curriculum), as well as the innovation in the program (diversity strands and learning communities). The GS theme, "Tradition and Diversity in a Community of Learning," appeared to strike a harmonious chord with NCA reviewers.

Dr. Stern also praised innovation in WAC initiatives in Art, History, and Music, and efforts to bolster diversity strands in such departments as Music and History. Stern asked the GSC to continue to do its job "closing the loop" in assessment and fostering campus conversations on those issues that will improve the teaching of GS courses at Shepherd. Stern sees the years following NCA as a challenge for the GS program and for the GSC in dispersing information to the faculty and fostering campus conversations that will encourage innovation in the curriculum.

5) GSC Interview with Candidate for Director of Multicultural Affairs, Wednesday, September 18, 3:00 p.m., Rumsey Room of College Center: The GSC and General Studies faculty have been asked to participate in the interview process for the new Director of Multicultural Affairs. Drs. Thomas, Henry, Brown, and Ermolaeva volunteered to represent the GSC in the interview process with Dr. Tadashi Kato next Wednesday. Any other committee members who wish to join the group in the Rumsey Room, at 3:30 September 18, please do so. Shurbutt, who represents the GSC on the search committee, shared copies of Dr. Kato's vitae and application letter.

6) GSC Membership and Election of Faculty Representatives: At the end of spring semester, 2002, the four divisions (now schools) held elections for GSC membership. Faculty terms are for two years. The current voting membership includes the four academic deans, four faculty representative of schools, and the GSC chair (member of the C&I Committee). Item VIII of the April 10 GSC minutes notes initial discussion of our recommending to C&I a change in the make-up of the committee. The rationale for changing GSC membership has been broached in email discussion and committee discussion. As curricular issues come before the GSC, it is important that a quorum of voting members be present each month. The burden of meeting attendance on the four deans, who have already a plethora of committee and other responsibilities, might be lightened by requiring a single representative among them. Dr. Henry noted that the GS program, in fact, belongs to the faculty, so it would seem logical to increase faculty representation on the committee. Increasing faculty membership would allow greater representation among the different disciplines and a variety of points of view on the GSC. Professor Benedict voiced again the importance of staggering elections to establish continuity in the Committee. Dr. Thomas noted, however, that there were negatives to creating large, unwieldy committees. After the discussion the following proposal was made, which would limit committee membership to eleven: that voting GSC membership be composed of one dean, two faculty representatives from each of the four schools, the Director of Assessment, and the GSC chair (a member of C&I); and that the election of faculty representatives be staggered. Dr. Brown suggested that the dean representative be "floating" in concept. Dr. Shurbutt noted that Dr. Dwyer, Assessment Director, had proven one of our most valuable, dedicated, and useful members, and it seemed both fair and logical that she have a vote. The GSC agreed to take the proposal for changing membership back to constituents for discussion, with our vote occurring at the next meeting .

7) CAAP Report: Dr. Dwyer reported on sophomore CAAP testing in critical reading, math, and composition. Committee members noted that the sampling of Shepherd students falls within the range of national norms for all three testing categories. After some discussion about the scores, Dr. Stern observed that a comparison of sophomore and freshman scores would be useful in gaging the success of the curriculum. The GSC asked Dr. Dwyer to provide the comparison scores, which she said was possible.

8) Update on GS Assessment (Next Report Due November 1, 2003): Dr. Shurbutt noted that the new time-frame for assessment reporting was now in effect. The purpose of the revised timeline is to allow departments time to gather information and to reflect on the data prior to reporting next year, with the collation or assessment summary of two years' data to be sent to Dr. Shurbutt in fall 2003. A reminder about the new process will be sent to all GS assessment coordinators and department chairs.

9) Updated GS Brochure: Shurbutt reminded Committee members that Dr. Eldridge had charged the GSC to update the brochure for curricular changes and the computer competency requirement prior to summer registration, which was done. The revised brochure was forwarded to Admissions, Student Affairs, and Dr. Carter for distribution. Shurbutt apologized for the error in the curriculum summary that listed COMM 202 as "201." She asked that committee members look carefully at the revised brochure for other mistakes or suggested improvements.

10) GS Concerns and Interests for 2002-2003:

a) Learning Communities: Dr. Dwyer spoke about the new emphasis on "freshman" learning communities. It is hoped that initiating cross-disciplinary learning in the freshman year (i.e., English 101 and 102 paired with Political Science, History, or other GS courses) will increase participation. Committee members noted that shifting emphasis to the freshman year would likely involve the "average" college student in addition to more advanced students, who might have already fulfilled their freshman English requirements prior to coming to Shepherd. This consequence was seen as a good thing. The Committee suggested, however, that the sophomore learning communities continue to be offered as well, as these have already proven successful and would attract both "accelerated" and "average" students.

b) Diversity: Drs. Brown and Simplicio shared details about their survey on diversity, which is hoped will prove the most definitive Campus study yet on the subject. The study involved 320 samples and will be shared with faculty the week before Thanksgiving. Some of the questions in the survey are applicable to the GS program. Dr. Shurbutt noted that Karen Vinci's SOWK 312 students will conduct next spring student focus groups that will specifically address issues associated with the GS program.

c) Writing Across the Curriculum: Last spring, the GSC determined to wait until this fall to share with faculty results of the WAC survey. There was some discussion about the "degree" of Writing Across the Curriculum already in the GS curriculum. There was also discussion about the meaning of the term WAC, usually found in the concept of "writing to learn," which means that such disparate disciplines as math and biology, in addition to history and English, etc., might use some form of composition in the "learning" process. It was agreed that many GS faculty do not fully understand the concept or the tools and strategies to utilize WAC in their GS classes. Dr. Shurbutt agreed to develop an email letter to faculty detailing results of the spring WAC survey and eliciting a response. She will share the document with the GSC for their input and suggestions prior to mailing. The email will be something short, simple, and geared to initiate a response from the faculty that will guide us as to how to proceed further with the WAC initiative. It is hoped that the WAC conversation begun by the GSC will be acted upon by the new Center for Teaching and Learning when it is up and running.

The next GSC meeting will be October 9, 3:10-4:00, Knutti 203.

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