UVM to implement more gen ed requirements in the fall


Kodi Brown

Photo Illustration: A student reviewing their degree audit. UVM is implementing a new core curriculum for fall 2023 which will consist of 42 general education credits in liberal arts, core skills and common ground values.

Noah Diedrich, Cynic News Reporter

UVM will implement a new general education curriculum in fall 2023, according to the Catamount Core Assessment webpage

The Catamount Core Curriculum, UVM’s new 42-credit general education program, requires courses to be taken in three main areas: liberal arts, core skills and common ground values. 

Currently, UVM’s 18-credit general education program consists of four main areas: quantitative reasoning, foundational writing and information reasoning, sustainability, and diversity, according to UVM’s General Education website.

All of the current categories will be included in the new curriculum, with the addition of arts and humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics and global citizenship, according to a University infographic. Quantitative & data literacy and two writing and information literacy categories will replace the current quantitative reasoning and foundational writing and information literacy.

“What the new Catamount Core does is it gives the same general education requirements for all students across the entirety of the University, so everybody will have the same general education core,” said Pablo Bose, professor of geology and geosciences.

One of the benefits of the Catamount Core Curriculum is the increased ease of students moving between colleges with a standardized system shared by the entire University, said Jennifer Dickinson, vice provost for academic affairs.

“Students would complete what they had thought was a humanities and literature class, and then they might transfer to the College of Arts and Sciences and realize what they had taken didn’t fit with the requirements,” she said. “One of the places that this will really help internally is students moving between colleges at the University.”

The Catamount Core Curriculum Committee has spent the past year working with the different colleges on incorporation and communication of the new curriculum in a manner that will allow students a pathway to complete their major while also fulfilling the necessary requirements, Dickinson said. 

“We’ve approved almost 700 courses for different designations,” she said. “That process is going to continue. I think next year we’ll probably see at least several hundred more, and the goal is to have a very wide and deep range of different options for students to take.”

The Catamount Core Curriculum will not apply to students who are currently enrolled, but will be required for the incoming class of 2027, Dickinson said. 

“It doesn’t directly affect all the students […] who are already enrolled at UVM,” Bose said. “This does not apply to them. They still have to do the distribution requirements in their own colleges.”

UVM began creating a comprehensive general education curriculum as a result of pressure to do so by the New England Commission for Higher Education in order to maintain its accreditation, according to a Nov. 7, 2019 Vermont Cynic article

“One of the major pieces of feedback was that there needed to be a [substantial] common gen ed curriculum,” he said. “You already have a difference between the majors that different students are taking, but there should be something kind of common that everybody has the same experience.”

There have been efforts to implement a comprehensive general education program since 1978, Dickinson said. Before the 2000s, the only general University requirement was physical education. 

“For many years there were voices that really valued the uniqueness of individual programs and this unique culture of each college and school,” she said. “People felt like they were giving their students a well-rounded and complete education with the program that their faculty at that level had decided.”

Dickinson said UVM is the only college in New England that has yet to implement a general education program of 40 credits. 

“I think also there’s a value for everyone at the University to have a common language about what we consider to be […] the curriculum we have to take,” Dickinson said. “I think it will make it easier for everyone to understand that there won’t be quite as much confusion that students have about requirements.”

Dickinson said she sees value in the Catamount Core Curriculum beyond just the logistical benefits it offers, and that the process of developing the curriculum has created a conversation about what the most important things taught at UVM are. 

“It is part of our values as an institution that these are things we want our students to experience, even if that’s not their passion, even if it doesn’t relate to their future work,” she said. “That’s one of the great things about college, which is you get to learn more than just how to be a professional, you learn how to be an educated person.”

First-year Caroline Brown, a mechanical engineering major, said she worries that students with highly-structured majors will have a hard time fitting more gen eds into their schedules. 

“I don’t really understand what their goal is with the new requirements,” she said. “It makes me kind of wonder, for a major like mechanical engineering where we have so many classes, […] I don’t know where they want the students to fit more gen eds.”

Brown said that while she understands wanting students to take classes outside of their majors, she thinks there are other ways to do so rather than requiring more classes. 

“I would understand wanting everyone to be able to take more classes outside of their major, but I feel like forcing these specific gen eds isn’t the way to do it,” she said. “It’s not going to encourage people to take the classes they enjoy.”

However, Dickinson said that while fulfilling the general education requirements might be more difficult for students with highly structured majors, there are ways for departments to work together to ease that burden. 

Bose said the effects of the new curriculum on highly structured majors has been a consideration. Some classes can count towards multiple gen ed requirements and some requirements may be fulfilled by classes within one’s major without the addition of more credits, he said.