Do you remember any powerful moments from your general education courses, also known as the “breadth” requirements in a liberal arts education? Odds are you don’t. For most students, past and present, the general education or core curriculum is a series of requirements to be completed as quickly as possible on the way to courses in the major field of study. Like many universities, IC has required every student to take at least one course in each of four areas: sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities—check, check, check, check. The Ithaca College mission calls for us to offer a “rigorous education blending liberal arts and professional programs of study.” But learning suffers when course requirements are perceived as an obstacle to one’s college goals rather than an exciting part of those goals. It was with that realization that we embarked nearly three years ago on a fresh examination of how to make the general education part of the IC experience as rich and valuable as possible in contributing to a student’s professional and personal development.
The result of that study was the Integrative Core Curriculum (ICC), an innovative approach to helping students develop a fuller understanding of the world by connecting thoughts and ideas across disciplines. At the heart of the ICC is a sequence of five courses united by a shared theme chosen by each student. That sequence begins with an Ithaca Seminar designed for first-year students and then continues with courses in each of the four major disciplinary areas of science, social science, arts, and humanities. Because the theme chosen by the student winds through all five courses, there is an opportunity to view the same problems or topics through different ways of thinking. As we say on our website describing the new curriculum, “Each new class you take will expand your point of view, challenge you to think differently, and help you build valuable analytical and problem-solving skills that are critical to future success.”
The new core curriculum will be required of all first year students beginning this fall. Its maturation from a gleam in the eye two and a half years ago during the IC 20/20 planning process to full implementation for this fall’s entering class is a remarkable story, involving the creation or refashioning of literally hundreds of courses. Faculty members are now connecting across disciplinary lines to ensure that themes are smoothly incorporated into the different courses. Staff in the student affairs division are also creating programs for first-year students in the residence halls that will help bring the themes to life. And the professional advisors in our newly created Academic Advising Center are ready to help incoming students take full advantage of the opportunities created through this new curriculum.
Alumni have an important role to play in the success of this curriculum as well. You can encourage our students to take advantage of opportunities created in the ICC by letting students know how important it is to be able to think about a problem or subject from multiple perspectives. The IC Mentoring Network creates a forum for alumni and students to exchange thoughts on the key ingredients for success in various professional fields. We will encourage our first year students to join this online network and from the very beginning of their college careers to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from professionals in their intended future field. I hope to “see” you in the IC Mentoring Network.