Undergraduate programs provide for degrees in certain fields of specialization. At Oglethorpe, the degrees offered are outlined in Sec. 8., with academic programs explored in much greater detail in Sec. 9. In addition to credentialing specialized learning and achievement in a major, for example, every undergraduate degree program also must possess a significant general education component. According to Oglethorpe’s regional accreditor, SACSCOC (see Sec. 2.5.), the general education component of a collegiate education must:9
- Be substantial. At least 25% of the academic credits earned toward an undergraduate baccalaureate degree must come from an institution’s general education program.
- Ensure breadth of knowledge. Courses must be drawn from the humanities and fine arts, the social and behavioral sciences, and from the natural sciences and mathematics.
- Be based on a coherent rationale.
It would be erroneous to conclude that general education at Oglethorpe exists to satisfy an accreditation requirement. We are intimately concerned with the business of liberal education. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U),
“Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.
The broad goals of liberal education have been enduring even as the courses and requirements that comprise a liberal education have changed over the years. Today, a liberal education usually includes a general education curriculum that provides broad learning in multiple disciplines and ways of knowing, along with more in-depth study in a major.”10
The AAC&U goes on to define general education as “[t]he part of a liberal education curriculum shared by all students. It provides broad learning in liberal arts and science disciplines, and forms the basis for developing important intellectual, civic, and practical capacities. General education can take many forms, and increasingly includes introductory, advanced, and integrative forms of learning.”11
Oglethorpe considers general education to be every bit as crucial to the development of undergraduate students as specialized learning. And when alumni recount their most meaningful experiences at Oglethorpe, it is more often than not their experiences in the general education program—especially the TU Core program—that have had the most profound impact on their ability to “make a life, make a living, and make a difference.”
9 Principles of Accreditation: Foundations of Quality Enhancement (http://www.sacscoc.org/principles.asp)
10 “What is a 21st Century Liberal Education?” (http://www.aacu.org/leap/what_is_liberal_education.cfm)