Art by Madeline Duvall
Dear Future Dean of General Education,
At Pepperdine, students are used to more than just an ocean view and sushi in the cafeteria. Pepperdine students are bound together by the common struggle to get through the considerable number of general education courses. At a liberal arts school, this shouldn’t come as a shock. However, what may be surprising to some is that Pepperdine is looking to add another course to its lineup.
Pepperdine is considering adding a “Cultural Competency” class that every student must complete. The class would address issues of race, tolerance and diversity in hopes of creating students better equipped to thrive in a more culturally diverse environment, according to a Graphic article. While this is an important topic, there are already concerns with the large number of general education courses required at this university.
General education courses serve the community by “grounding students in the knowledge, skills and perspectives that will equip them to serve purposefully and become leaders in their chosen fields,” according to the Pepperdine Seaver College website. This ideology is common in colleges across the nation, especially in liberal arts universities.
For example, according to their course website, University of Iowa requires 51 general education units, and Biola University requires 52, both hovering around what seems to be the average for liberal arts colleges. Pepperdine is an outlier in this regard, requiring 71 general education units drawn from a total of 19 required classes, according to the Pepperdine Academic Catalog.
The sheer number of G.E. courses already in existence at Pepperdine make the logistics of adding another required course difficult. Pepperdine only accepts high AP or alternate testing scores to take the place of these education courses, resulting in many students faced with several semesters of basic level classes to complete. Another concern is the difficulty high G.E. levels pose for transfer students.
Many students who transfer to Pepperdine find themselves with a high number of credits to fulfill, as the university is selective in what general education classes it accepts from other colleges. This causes them to have to stay in college longer, racking up more student debt and delaying their post-college plans.
With all these general education requirements, students are struggling to fit these classes into their schedules. Many students struggle to enroll in their required classes due to the number of peers contending for spots. There is an added pressure to complete these courses before freshmen go abroad, as a majority of them do. Freshmen planning to go abroad must take specific classes such as HUM 111, REL 101 and an introductory language class in order to be able to be eligible to study internationally. These classes are very difficult to get into, especially for freshmen who are the last students to register.
While all of these general education concerns pose problems in adding a Cultural Competency class as a general education requirement, the idea behind the course is of the utmost importance. Furthermore, it may be more feasible to foster the ideals of diversity and tolerance in this course by some other method.
The course could be integrated into the Pepperdine curriculum in multiple different aspects rather than one requirement class. In fact, this method of integration may serve the goal of the course better in the end. Cultural awareness and diversity education is quite an extensive topic and would be more beneficial to incorporate through the lens of other classes already required at Pepperdine.
For example, humanities and religion general education classes could include lectures and assignments that promote the ideals of diversity and cultural understanding throughout the subject matter already being discussed in the course.
Another possible approach is to create the class with specific majors in mind. Rather than creating another mass general education course, Pepperdine could create one-unit classes that look at incorporating cultural competency into each specific field of study. This way, the Cultural Competency class would not be a one-size-fits-all G.E., but a valuable and unique addition to major requirements.
Future Dean of General Education, thank you for taking such an important role in the Pepperdine community. We wish you well in your new position and hope to see some positive changes in the future!
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