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WSU Vancouver nailing down core curriculum

VANCOUVER – Last month, faculty at WSU Vancouver convened for a General Education Summer Institute to discuss the core courses and selection of course materials for undergraduate studies in fall of 2006.

The campus theme of the general education program at Washington State University Vancouver is “Global Change in a Local Context.” Life, culture, politics, economics, demographics, environment – all aspects of our planet and its inhabitants are characterized by change.

Moreover, change occurs on many scales – from individual behavior to processes affecting worldwide populations.

As part of the general education program, WSU Vancouver undergraduates will study and explore the concept of change across many disciplines and from multiple perspectives using the local environment, culture and society as a context in which to appreciate issues of global concern. The coursework will allow students to understand the impact of their choices in life on global change – from the choice to buy a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop, to their choice of perspectives on historical events.

“It is important that students get a handle on how the world works,” said Paul Thiers, assistant professor of political science. “Students will understand and relate to the examples given in [one of the books on economics that will be included in the coursework], which answers questions such as, ‘Who [really] pays for your coffee?’ We are no longer localized.”

Luz Maria Gordillo, assistant professor of History, added, “[It’s critical that our students] understand the link between their everyday activities and the impact those activities have on both the economy and the environment.”

Pavithra Narayanan, assistant professor of English, emphasized the importance of including literature that would encourage students to examine and consider changing their thinking in terms of history and context.

“Regarding civil conflicts in other countries, people tend only to remember the problem itself, not the reason that the problem started,” Narayanan stated during a discussion of a novel by a Zimbabwe native about an African woman who comes to understand that oppression has many forms, and that life is never simple and solutions are hard to come by.

WSU Vancouver’s goal is to integrate themes that link courses and foster interdisciplinary design among some courses. The faculty is dedicated to employing a student-centered approach to assure student success and retention through advising, academic support and mentoring.

In 1989, WSU Vancouver was formally established as a branch campus within the state’s land-grant institution, Washington State University. At that time, branch campuses in the state of Washington were authorized to offer junior, senior and graduate level courses.

Following a 2004 legislative request of each branch campus to conduct a self-study (see http://www.vancouver.wsu.edu/WSUV_Self_Study.htm), WSU Vancouver recommended that the campus expand to offer four-year programs and continue research university status to meet the educational needs of the region. In 2005, legislation was passed to alter the role of the branch campuses in Washington State. WSU Vancouver is now authorized and funded to offer lower division courses and accept freshman students, in addition to transfer students, and is still accepting applications at this time for fall of 2006.

WSU Vancouver offers 14 bachelor’s and nine master’s degrees in more than
35 fields of study. The campus is located at 14204 N.E. Salmon Creek Ave., east of the 134th Street exit from either I-5 or I-205. WSU Vancouver’s Web site address is: http://www.vancouver.wsu.edu.

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