The General Education Program at Western
Western State Colorado University is an institution dedicated to a quality Liberal Arts and Science education and a key component of the undergraduate educational experience is the General Education program.
How Fit Are You?
Western's natural environment offers its students incredible opportunities to challenge and stretch their athletic skills and adventurous spirits. Our students often embrace the challenges of the natural environment by becoming better skiers or mountain bikers by taking on harder runs and more challenging trails. But why stop there? General Education at Western offers students the opportunity for students to exercise their intellect – think of General Education as a great cross-training fitness program for your brain.
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” - Albert Einstein
General Education courses are not just about developing a broad content knowledge in various subjects. By exploring new fields of study and experimenting with new models of intellectual inquiry, you can develop many of the characteristics of an” intellectually fit” person: flexibility, curiosity, resiliency, enthusiasm, and complexity. General Education courses also provide you with the foundations for analysis so critical for deeper engagement with specific fields of study.
Be an Intellectual Nomad
A nomad moves from place to place usually within a well-defined territory. Think of General Education as your territory and yourself as an intellectual nomad. In each General Education course lays a possible oasis – a place where you might finally want to pitch your tent and settle down.
General Education can be used to explore a wide range of academic disciplines so if you are not sure what you want to major in, begin your exploration of the possibilities though General Education. Students who come to Western without a declared major should check out our first year Exploratory Program.
But even if you have pitched your tent so to speak and chosen a major, General Education can add essential and important tools to your camp.
How Many Tools are in Your Toolbox?
It is difficult to predict what the future holds for us but the one thing we do know is that a solid University education will continue to create opportunities and open doors. The knowledge and skills that General Education courses offer students are often those whose value is not necessarily immediately apparent, especially for students who know what they want to major in or who believe they have a set career path.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
or the most intelligent that survives.
It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
- Charles Darwin
Students sometimes protest “but I know what I want to major in so, why do I have to take classes that are out of my field? “ The reality is that because we do not know what the future holds so there is no way of knowing what aspects of your education are going to serve you the best. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (April 5, 2012) illustrated the importance of a good Liberal Arts and Sciences degree: “Companies say they need flexible thinkers with innovative ideas and a broad knowledge base derived from exposure to multiple disciplines…” and numerous employment recruiters in the article emphasized the importance of students developing enough critical thinking and problem-solving skills through long essays, in-class debates and other hallmarks of liberal-arts courses. So even if you know what you want to study, embracing your General Education courses and broadening your academic background across many disciplines is actually preparing you well for the future. You can never have too many tools in your toolbox.
Take the Polymath Approach
What you get out of General Education is often up to you as a student. Rather than taking a shallow approach, we encourage you to take the polymath approach. The polymath approach is not about knowing a little about a lot – it is about seeking a depth of knowledge in all things. No matter what the class or subject, if you bring an open mind and willingness to learn you will find value in all your classes. You can be strategic in your choices, looking for courses that have some connection to your desired field of study but you can also be adventurous and explore subjects you might just find interesting. Sometimes this can be difficult but to find value is to find meaning and this is the key to developing an active Life of the Mind. At the very least General Education can give you a broad knowledge base that you need to be an intelligent, critically-thinking individual who has a better understanding of how the world, people, and
Advising Advice: Make the Good Stuff Even Better
So when you approach your General Education course be curious, be curious and fearless and be willing to embrace the journey and step outside the box. Be willing to be surprised and be willing to work hard. Do not just think of General Education as something to get through or simply checking off requirements – revel in its challenges and new ideas - be willing to exercise those intellectual muscles and push those academic skills. Remember that these aren't just a bunch of classes you have to take before you get to the “good stuff” of your major – these are courses that can make the “good stuff” even better and lay the foundations for your life-long educational process.