The Office of Undergraduate Education plans to present recommendations for changes to Emory College’s general education requirements (GER) for the undergraduate curriculum starting in fall 2021, Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Joanne Brzinski said. Any recommendations must be approved by the College Faculty Senate before implementation. 

The class of 2025 will be the first group of students that would have to fulfill any newly established requirements.

The decision to reevaluate Emory’s GERs is driven by the goal of “minimizing requirements to open room in the curriculum,” Brzinski noted. Students could have more space in their schedule to engage in “experiential learning” like study abroad, research and field internships.

The GER working group is currently producing recommendations to revise the current GER curriculum. These recommendations will be followed by a period of discussion and revision by faculty, which could last as long as a year. The group will then vote the following year. Faculty may decide not to act on the Committee’s recommendations and keep the current GERs. 

Brzinski also noted that the general working group for the GERs, set up by the Emory College Senate two years ago, is working on revising the wording for the shared curriculum.

“We are asking the question, ‘What kind of requirements do we want our students to have?” Brzinski said. “We are concerned that the requirements that we have are not well explained to students.”

The GER curriculum is meant to encourage students to explore different fields of study and skills like writing, quantitative methods and arts. There are currently 10 components of requirements, including a foreign language requirement.

Some professors and students are worried about the potential changes, citing that student enrollment in smaller departments may drop./Courtesy of Hagar Elsayed

In August, University President Gregory L. Fenves announced Emory’s new race and ethnicity GER that “focuses specifically on the histories and experiences of people of color.” This increased the number of requirements and credit hours that students in classes 2025 and later will have to fulfill, though the specific number of credit hours is not yet finalized.

Altering the curriculum is a long process, citing that this new diversity requirement was proposed in 2015 and was approved by the College Senate this May with 73% in favor. 

“Students and faculty and others say that there are too many [general education requirements],” said Director of the Emory College Language Center and Associate Professor of Classics Jonathan Master. “How do we streamline [the curriculum] yet have some effect of getting students exposed to different disciplines and different modes of knowledge?” 

Some professors and students are worried about the changes, citing that student enrollment in smaller departments may drop.

“We are very concerned in our department about how [possible revisions] will affect how we will offer both Greek and Latin,” said Louise Pratt, a professor in the classics department. “A lot of that is driven by the language requirement.” 

“The argument that as many students will take a language if there’s not a requirement … The decrease will be pretty dramatic,” Master said. 

Brzinski has, however, stated that “everything is on the table.” It is possible that some language courses could fulfill the new race and ethnicity requirement and vice versa. The GER working group aims to make the GERs more transparent and straightforward. 

“We have talked about two courses of natural sciences, two courses in humanities and art, and two courses in social science,” Brzinski said. “That is a simpler categorization of two courses in each of those areas called the “2-2-2” recommendation.” 

Correction (12/1/2020 at 5:20 p.m.): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Emory College has already begun a revision of GER’s. They have in fact started to craft recommendations for changes to present to the College Faculty Senate. The headline has also been corrected to reflect this.