Students entering Emory University in fall 2023 will be required to fulfill an experiential learning general education requirement (GER). The new GER, which will be mandatory for students at both Oxford College and the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, is intended to facilitate learning “through reflection or doing” to improve students’ grasp on conceptual material.

Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Joanne Brzinski said the experiential learning requirement will bring significant change to the current GER system. 

Students will be required to engage in one experiential course or experience, Brzinski said. Experiences that would satisfy the GER could include undergraduate research, study abroad, a significant arts performance or presentation, an internship or community-engaged learning experience.  

Oxford previously had an experiential learning GER, but the requirement was waived for students graduating Oxford in fall 2022, spring 2023 and summer 2023 due to the challenges posed by COVID-19, Valerie Molyneaux, Oxford’s associate dean for academic affairs, said. The experiential learning requirement has not been waived for Oxford’s incoming class. 

This fall, Oxford will offer over 45 experiential learning courses with over 550 seats available across these courses. Molyneaux noted that more than 75% of Oxford’s graduating students will have experiential learning on their transcript after this academic year, despite the requirement being waived for them. 

Molyneaux added that Oxford’s experiential coursework will satisfy the new GER.

This will be the first time that the experiential learning GER is required for Emory College students.

Precious Ajiero (24C) believes that one of major highlights of experiential learning is its focus on getting students more involved in the classroom, therefore improving learning retention.

“The experiential learning GER will facilitate student learning and engagement by providing an environment for reflection and doing what is taught,” Ajiero said. “This hands-on approach will help students grasp a better understanding of what is taught and hold onto the knowledge for a longer duration of time.”

Chassidy Arnold (25C), on the other hand, said she supports student learning and engagement, but is worried that the experiential learning GER may pose a barrier to students who hope to finish their major and other GER requirements within four years. 

“If Emory does it right, I think the class will facilitate student learning and engagement, but I also think Emory should rearrange their entire GER requirements if they want to fit this into their curriculum,” Arnold said. “I do feel that adding more GERs would definitely decrease the students’ chances of finishing their degree and taking other classes of interest.”

The University is already shifting the GER framework to encourage students to fulfill their GERs in their first two years instead of over the course of four years, Brzinski noted. She called this “the most significant change to the GERs.” 

“Our new framework takes a targeted developmental approach that uses the GERs to establish a broad foundation in the first two years of an Emory College of Arts and Sciences degree and create more space in the curriculum for students to focus on their chosen academic concentrations in later years,” Brzinski said.

Under the new system, students will continue to fulfill GERs in social sciences, humanities/arts, natural sciences, quantitative reasoning, language study, physical education and health, race and ethnicity and communication – which was formally continued writing. 

The addition of the experiential learning GER comes one year after the University implemented the race and ethnicity GER for incoming students in fall 2021. The race and ethnicity courses prompt students to explore racial, ethinic and cultural dynamics. 

The University is currently reviewing the race and ethnicity requirement to assess whether it is meeting its goals, Brzinski said. 

“A number of departments and programs are working to develop new courses to fulfill the race and ethnicity requirement,” Brzinski said. “It takes some time to develop new courses, so it will likely be a few years before all those new courses are offered to students.”

Some students have criticized the race and ethnicity GER as being performative rather than a way to support underrepresented racial groups. This includes Arnold, who is among the first class of students required to fulfill the requirement.

“I do think it is meaningful to an extent on which it does promote the learning and discussing of the history of races and how their history has impacted or is impacting the world today,” Arnold said. “However, I do believe that Emory uses this, and other things, as a way to showcase how progressive they are.”

Ajiero, who is not required to fulfill the race and ethnicity GER as a member of the Class of 2024, believes the courses are beneficial for students.

“The race and ethnicity GER is integral for the positive progression of the student body and America as a whole,” Ajiero said. “These classes will help provide information to those who previously may have been unaware of certain issues regarding race and ethnicity.”