Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

Message: Renewal of general education central to KU's future

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

The education provided in our classrooms and through scholarly experiences beyond the classroom plays a crucial role in what students learn at KU. But we should also remember that the structure of the curriculum has a significant effect on what our students learn during their time here.

That's why renewal of our general education requirements is central to improving student success. Much has changed over the past three decades in higher education and the world at large, yet KU's general education requirements have remained largely unchanged.

Additionally, KU students pursuing a B.A. must take 30 percent to 50 percent more general education courses than students at comparable institutions, giving us even more reason to carefully review our curriculum so that we are not erecting unnecessary barriers to graduation.

We must ensure that a KU degree is useful and relevant to our students, and that we are providing the academic experiences that are not only profitable to them in their careers, but valuable to them in their lives.

Renewing general education is a major undertaking, requiring input from the entire university community. It is also a key element of the current strategic planning and implementation effort as Provost Vitter noted in his September 13 message.

The question we need to address is: "What should every undergraduate know and have experienced before graduating?" Although there are many voices at KU, we must come to agreement on the learning goals that will be the basis for curriculum renewal.

We have already collected compelling new ideas from KU faculty, staff, students, and alumni, with some people suggesting broad goals and others offering very specific objectives. The next important step, to take place over the coming eight weeks, is to help us prioritize what has been suggested so far so that we reach consensus.

To that end, Profs. Chris Haufler and Ann Cudd, the co-chairs of the strategic planning work group on energizing the educational environment, are asking departments, interdisciplinary programs, and student focus groups to discuss and help determine that prioritization. And alumni, who bring practical-world perspectives about a KU education, will express their preferences in a special forum next week.

We intend to keep this process moving. The goals and priorities established in discussions this semester will form the framework for renewing KU's general education requirements and guide the structure of the courses and experiences to meet those goals.

Renewal of our general education requirements is critical to ensuring we are fulfilling our mission of preparing students for successful careers and rewarding lives. I want to thank you for your participation in the process thus far and ask that you continue to help us shape the future of this university.

Bernadette Gray-Little

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
Chancellor's Vision

The mission of the University of Kansas is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.

We will do that by raising the expectations we have for ourselves, the aspirations we have for our state, and the hopes we have for our world.