Getting through gen ed

For new students, deciding which general-education classes to start with might seem like a daunting task. There are so many to choose from, so many to take, and many of them might seem boring or pointless. But, according to Ryan Thomas, associate provost and dean of undergraduate studies, general education is not designed to torment students by forcing them to take classes that they have no interest in; it’s meant to help students gain the knowledge they need to succeed and see the world from a broader perspective.

Thomas said his first piece of advice to students is to take classes that will help them to develop skills they can use to further their education.

“Look at the tools you need for continuing studies, like math and English,” he said.

Having these skills, according to Thomas, will help students to have a better understanding of and achieve better grades in every other class they take afterward.

Many students find themselves dreading the math and English requirements, but Thomas said that the classes often end up being much more enjoyable than they first appeared. He said he found himself enjoying his “tools” classes a great deal.

In the state of Utah, the average number of times a student changes their major is approximately 2.5. Thomas assured that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but warned that changing majors too late can potentially cost students a great deal more time and money to pursue their degrees. Because of this, he suggested that students begin with their breadth classes as early as possible.

“One of the functions of general education is to allow for exploration,” Thomas said. “When I was a freshman, I changed my major from zoology to pre-med to sociology, because I took a gen-ed class in sociology and found it absolutely fascinating.”

Thomas’ son also changed his major, as have many WSU students. Many students might be generally unsure of where they want to go with their education until they’ve seen what it’s like. Students might change their major as drastically as from something like chemistry to theater. But Thomas said students should remain flexible and keep open minds about subjects that they might not have found interesting before.

“If you have a general direction, you can find initial classes in the major that allow you to really determine whether that’s the way you want to go,” Thomas said.

Annette Thueson, a WSU senior in accounting, and Delsie Drake, a sophomore in social work, both said their general-education classes did not change their minds as to their majors.

“But it did give me new insight on classes that I thought I wouldn’t like, but I did,” Drake said.

Thueson said she enjoyed the English 2010 course she took for general education, but could still see the value of less enjoyable courses.

“I did not enjoy my speech class I had to take, but it was good for me. A lot of the general-education courses I didn’t particularly enjoy, but it was good to learn and go through . . . It just kind of rounds you out nicely.”

Drake said she did enjoy her general-education classes, mostly due to the professors.

“I think I pretty much enjoyed all of them. I took most of them at the Davis campus, and I find that the professors there were willing to help you out . . . I didn’t like taking them, but I liked the professors enough that I was more than willing to go.”