External Program Review
Shawnee State University's General Education Program
This report is filed by Professors John Hinni, Retired Dean of
University Studies at Southeast Missouri State University, and John
Gottcent, University Core Coordinator at the University of Southern
Indiana. Together with three members of the Shawnee State faculty (Patric
Leedom, Associate Professor of Teacher Education; Janna Gallaher,
Assistant Professor of Industrial and Engineering Technology; and
Nicholas Meriwether, Assistant Professor of Philosophy), we
constitute the Program Review Team charged with evaluating the
General Education Program at Shawnee State University by identifying
its strengths and recommending further improvements.
Prior to visiting the campus, we reviewed the University's catalog
and its thorough Self-Study of the General Education Program (GEP).
On February 11-12, 1999, we spent two days on campus conferring with
faculty, administrators, staff, and students. (Please refer to
Appendix 1 for the self-study report and Appendix 2 for the
itinerary.) This report summarizes our findings; it is divided into
five sections, corresponding to those reflected in the Self-Study:
Role/ Scope/Program Design, Curriculum, Students, Faculty, and
1. Role, Scope, Program Design
Shawnee State University has developed an excellent foundation for
general education. Program goals are related to institutional
mission and they are directed toward students. The Self-Study
document is exceptionally well-developed reflecting considerable
thought as to ways to improve the program. It is particularly
laudable that concern for students is pervasive throughout materials
describing the program.
Shawnee State University should create a campus dialogue
focused on general education with the goal of increasing awareness
of the important role the program should have for the entire
wide range of understanding about general education exists on
campus. Students tend to view the program as a set of unconnected
courses to be overcome and they mentioned a lack of rigor in some
general education courses. They also see little or no relationship
between the program and their intended careers.
Faculty views range widely from general education providing
introductory subject matter in selected disciplines to providing
students with exposure to the salient features of the liberal arts.
Clearly a huge difference of opinion about departmental access to
the teaching of general education courses exists in the University's
We suggest that a range of initiatives be developed to implement
this dialogue. For example, the existing general education web page
could be further developed, a handbook to complement the university
catalog could be published, orientation activities might be expanded
to include closer attention to general education, parents might be
involved in general education orientation as parents are an unused
resource at most institutions, the in-house TV channel might be
used, student government colloquia developed, faculty awareness
CEU's created and a freshman seminar developed.
These and other initiatives will serve to increase awareness of
general education and focus attention on student learning outcomes,
that is, the forms of enhancement of the humanity of Shawnee State
students, that will result from the program.
We recommend that the word "General" not be used in the program
The word "general" implies introductory subject matter, the
information everyone should know. It also may imply a lack of rigor.
In reality, Shawnee State students should understand that every
university strives to provide an academic program that enhances
their humanity, their understanding of themselves, of their lives
and their roles in society and the world.
When students enter Shawnee State they believe a major will result
in a future career. They have little or no understanding of
general/liberal education and they should be made aware of all
academic programs. Special efforts should be made to describe
general/liberal education to them. The term "general" is not
conducive to this goal.
We recommend that the size of the general education program be
increased in terms of hours, with attention being given to the
state's Articulation and Transfer Policy.
General education at Shawnee State comprises slightly over
twenty-five percent of the baccalaureate degree while the national
mean is slightly over thirty-nine percent. In "A Study of General
Education Programs at the University of Memphis and its Peer
Institutions," 4-15-96, a survey found that "In a national sample of
302 general education programs (with emphasis on research, doctoral,
and comprehensive institutions), the average number of semester
hours [for general education] was 49.2, 39.5% of the total hours
required for a degree."
Further, the Ohio Board of Regent's Articulation and Transfer Policy
requires more hours than are currently in the Shawnee State program.
To bring SSU's GEP into compliance with the Transfer Module's
minimum of 54 quarter hours of 100 and 200 level courses, and to
bring the University’s total general education requirement closer to
the national average, SSU would need to add 16 quarter hours of 100
and 200 level courses, thus resulting in a GEP that is 34% of the
total hours required for graduation (assuming a degree of 186
We recommend that where possible the general education goals
and objectives be redefined in measurable terms.
Program goals should be clearly stated in terms of student learning
outcomes as well as conducive to course development, course review,
program review and assessment.
Program goals and objectives also serve to characterize the program.
They provide the connection among courses and they distinguish
general education courses from other courses. As such their
importance cannot be over emphasized.
We find the General Education curriculum to be young and vital, with
potential for good development. It already features several strong
points, including a junior-level ethics requirement, an admirable
Senior Seminar requirement, and a truly interdisciplinary science
course. This foundation can be built upon via the following
We recommend that efforts be made to give the Shawnee State
General Education Program's curriculum a more visible identity,
with clear delineation between the lower and upper levels.
In addition to the new name and additional credit hours recommended
above, we were intrigued by a recommendation from Shawnee State's
president, Dr. James Chapman, that every student who completes the
lower levels of the GEP should receive at that point an Associate's
Degree. While some details need to be worked out (for example, the
fact that the Senior Seminar requirement will delay completion of
the GEP until quite late in students' careers), we believe that some
such recognition--perhaps a certificate, if a degree proves too
difficult to implement--will bring greater recognition of the
program to students and the University community.
We recommend adjustments in several curricular policies related
to the GEP.
It is not a good idea to use the curriculum to solve non-curricular
problems. For example, when students say they want more options in
course selection, a natural response is to tinker with the
curriculum by providing more choices in each GEP category. But
another, perhaps wiser option, might be to educate students (e.g.,
in a Freshman Seminar) to the reasons why limited course lists might
particular case in point involves the Non-Western Perspectives
component of the program. This admirable goal can be met by choosing
from a variety of non-western courses in various departments, or by
completing 12 sequenced credit hours in foreign language. If the
foreign language is Persian, the latter option makes sense, but if
it is Spanish or another western language, it does not.
It is a good idea, however, to broaden the scope of the GEP's Social
Sciences category to include disciplines such as psychology and
economics. This is not to pander to student whims, but to bring the
Shawnee State program more in line with definitions of the social
sciences at comparable institutions.
We recommend a limit on double-dipping: using the same course
toward both the major and the GEP. A maximum of two double-dipped
courses per student might be advisable.
The limit on double-dips is important because few courses can serve
two masters. If they are primarily for the major, they are rarely
general education, and vice versa. Faculty need to realize that not
everything they do in their classes, however valuable, is general
We recommend a review and assessment procedure that includes a
sunset law under which each General Education course will be
re-evaluated for its continued relevancy to the program every
three to five years (discussed later under section 5). To assist
in this review process, we recommend that for ALL GEP courses, the
syllabi include 2-4 pages of "Boiler Plate" or template which will
1) explain the goals and objectives of the GEP; 2) explain the
relationship of the GEP to the students' degree program, ("Why am
I taking...?"); 3) provide explanation for how this particular
course relates to the GEP goals and objectives; and 4) states
student learning outcomes for this particular course.
This meets President Chapman's concerns to show first, what the
purpose is--why student is taking this GEP course; and secondly,
"How you relate to yourself, your world, and society around you."
This is a direct way of informing both students and faculty about
the GEP (few students and some faculty ever read the Catalog or
other available handbooks). By having a type of "Master Syllabus,"
this would support having greater consistency and more rigor both
across sections of the same course and between various courses in
the GEP. Graphics could be used to present relationships among
courses and academic expectations as well. This "Boiler Plate" could
be generated by the General Education Council. The "Boiler Plate"
portions of all GEP courses could be reproduced and made into a
section of the Faculty Advising Handbook (which is currently
We recommend that with the construction of GEP courses that
increased attention be given to targeted intellectual skills--
assisting students to develop information processing and
In this age of information (knowledge) explosion, we can not keep
cramming more subject matter into courses. What we need to do is to
build students' skills to handle and process the subject matter.
Students need to be able to think more deeply and critically about
the knowledge they are receiving.
General/Liberal education programs exist for students and while
students typically enter the university with little or no knowledge
of general education, they very much want what general education
provides for them. Students at Shawnee State are no exception. Our
exposure to students was limited; however, we found them to be
concerned about program quality, open, expressive, but generally
lacking awareness as to the purposes of the program. Clearly
students perceived general education exclusively in terms of
discrete subject matter.
We strongly recommend that multiple initiatives be designed and
implemented that would provide students with an understanding
about the role general education should have in their university
One effective way to introduce students to the purposes of general
education is to develop a freshman seminar and we were pleasantly
surprised that Shawnee State students eagerly accepted this idea.
We recommend that students become involved in program
governance as voting members of all general education program
Students are a valuable resource in general education governance.
They provide a perspective that is often distant in faculty, they
are unencumbered by policy, therefore, a valuable source of ideas,
and they provide an important way to communicate initiatives to
We believe that the university should create a document
highlighting the academic expectations of students and that the
document be appropriately explained to all entering students.
The students we interviewed expressed concern about the absence of
rigor in some general education courses, and, on occasion indicated
that general education was less important than other academic
programs. The university (general education is everyone's business)
should seek ways to ensure that general education is perceived
as no different than other academic programs. One way to
approach this difficult task is to communicate to students ways
general education program goals are related to career opportunities.
We find a typical range of faculty commitment to the General
Education Program that includes a good foundation of strong support.
We admire Shawnee State's attempts to use such means as faculty
seminars and annual retreats to help turn specialists into
generalists. We also appreciate the unusual degree to which work in
the GEP seems to be recognized (as both teaching and service) in the
faculty rewards system, although we caution those involved in peer
review to remember that student evaluations in General Education
courses are consistently lower, nation-wide, than such evaluations
in majors courses.
We found confusion among the faculty regarding connections between
the General Education Program and the Associate's Degree.
We also found a gap between student and faculty perceptions of the
program. For example, students reported spending much less time in
out-of-class preparation for General Education courses than faculty
seem to expect. Several also voiced significant dislike for the "CivLit"
component of the GEP, although many faculty think highly of this
component. Students also reported that they did not often see how
General Education courses connected to either program goals or life
issues of importance to them--a problem faculty can address by
clearly delineating such goals and issues in their syllabi and
Perhaps surprisingly, students spoke quite favorably about the
development of a Freshman Seminar that would introduce new students
to the academic world and the GEP in particular. Attention should be
given to the introduction of such a course.
Finally, faculty awareness of the scope and contents of the State of
Ohio's Transfer Module seemed sketchy. Perhaps a CEU program,
repeated so many faculty can take advantage of it, would be in
Shawnee State needs to build a stronger "Espirit de Core" (pun
intended) among its faculty.
The rapid growth of this University has forced the faculty to
accomplish much without adequate resources. Also, the division of
the institution into two schools--a College of Professional Studies
and a College of Arts and Sciences--has contributed to an "us/them"
mentality that needs to be addressed.
The General Education Advisory Committee (especially if it drops the
word "Advisory" from its title--see below) can help to bridge this
gap, since it contains membership from both Colleges. Another
suggestion is to use available funds to occasionally attend each
other's professional conferences--bring Professional Studies people
to the Association for General and Liberal Studies annual
conference, for example, and bring Arts and Sciences people to a
professional conference in engineering or health professions.
Still another solution is to enhance faculty ownership of the GEP by
actively encouraging proposals for general education courses from
Professional Studies faculty.
Shawnee State needs to improve consistency of rigor among various
sections of the same course and among various courses in the same
Though this is a national problem, and could also be considered a
curricular issue, it is largely up to the faculty to address it.
Students reported too much variability among courses and course
sections. Conversations among the faculty about this matter are a
good place to start.
5.General Education Governance/Resources
An essential element in ensuring success of general education is
strong administrative support. Faculty support is equally important
because faculty members determine program quality. At Shawnee State
University we found evidence for strong administrative and faculty
support. President Chapman has a thoughtful vision for general
education, which he articulates superbly. Deans, chairpersons, the
program coordinator, past coordinators and advisory council members
all expressed concern for the program and support for the review
process. When faculty and administrators voice concern they care
about quality. We were especially impressed with the dedication of
the program coordinator.
- The position of program coordinator should be strengthened.
To provide appropriate leadership and program advocacy the
coordinator should have increased authority to a level above that of
departmental chairperson. Such a change would be in keeping with
Implementing this change will probably necessitate a new title
together with additional resources. A significant increase in the
program budget, a secretary and appropriate equipment are all
essential, as the position is responsible for a significant
component of the university experience of every student. At present
the coordinator is in the unfavorable position of negotiating for
We also suggest that the coordinator, in cooperation with the
General Education Council, participate in the search process of all
candidates for positions that will have responsibility for general
We also believe that the strengthened program coordinator should
report to the Provost.
At present the coordinator reports to the Dean, College of Arts and
Sciences. This places both positions at a disadvantage
administratively. The dean is forced to consider the needs of
college departments and of general education, which may not always
be equivalent. The coordinator in reporting to the dean of one
college is placed in an unenviable position with respect to the
needs of the other college.
We believe that the word "Advisory" should be removed from the
title General Education Advisory Council, and that the Council be
responsible for the approval of all programmatic initiatives, with
the Educational Policies and Curriculum Committee serving as an
The implementation of other recommendations in this review process
together with course review, program review, and assessment
activities that will take place will result in a fairly high level
of sophistication and understanding on the part of the council.
Hence, this body should be responsible for approving programmatic
matters. To ensure appropriate governance an appeal body may be
necessary and the Educational Policies and Curriculum Committee is
ideal for this task.
We recommend that at least one student serve as a voting member of
the General Education Council.
The present council representation is appropriate in terms of
deliverers of the curriculum; however, the recipients are not
represented. Many institutions have experienced positive results
from student members including increased faculty awareness of
changes in the student body. Further, the student representative(s)
may be charged with relating information about the program to the
We believe that procedures should be developed for routine
ongoing review of all courses and that a so-called sunset clause
It is essential that program goals and objectives become an integral
part of course components and teaching strategies of all general
education courses. Periodic review will ensure that goals and
objectives are indeed incorporated in course offerings. A "sunset
clause" provides for removing courses that are no longer