Solutions for Higher Education engages in deeper reflection of critical issues in the world of colleges and universities.
In Episode 7, professors John Taylor and Matt Nickerson join President Scott L Wyatt and Professor Steve Meredith to discuss the approach to Southern Utah University’s Jumpstart General Education Program.
In the last episode about General Education, Wyatt and Meredith discussed the erosion of quality General Education courses in higher education. As a fundamental piece to a student’s curriculum, SUU has already taken steps to enhance these introductory courses by developing an integrated learning experience, allowing for a more synergistic educational environment.
In the Jumpstart GE Program, students take one year to take all their general education classes taught around a single theme. Faculty members come together in this integrated model to teach what looks like one class from the perspective of varying disciplines.
According to John Taylor, assistant dean and associate professor of biology, the idea of Jumpstart began with President Wyatt. He wanted a way to organize the General Education program that would be so engaging that students would actually choose to come to SUU because of it. No one else in higher education approaches General Education differently because a typical university structure doesn’t support this type of program.
Under Wyatt’s direction, SUU has broken molds to build the Jumpstart Program. Matt Nickerson, associate dean and department chair of Library Services, is one of the few teachers who has taught all three years of the program.
“I’ve been in higher education a long time,” said Nickerson. “Jumpstart is the coolest thing, as a faculty member, that I’ve ever been able to participate in.”
The way disciplines integrate together into a cohesive curriculum is exciting and engaging for students. Last semester, students learned about the atomic bomb and the physics behind it as part of their Physics 1010 course. They also learned about ethical reasoning as part of the Philosophy course and were taught the effects of radiation on biological organisms for their Biology course. After the lectures were completed, a series of debates was held with questions from the ethics, physics and biology courses, which was part of their Communication course. After the debates, the students wrote a rhetorical analysis on different works which fit into their English course. This combination of five disciplines is what the Jumpstart GE Program offers and is impossible to accomplish in a traditional General Education program.
The Jumpstart GE Program allows students to make new connections with topics and disciplines that they never would have made otherwise. It helps steer students toward the right career by showing them new paths they never considered.
Many universities see General Education as a checkbox students need to get through and not a bedrock for a stronger degree. SUU is doing just the opposite and investing from the start.
Listen to Episode 7 here: https://www.suu.edu/presidentspodcast/