What sort of classes could a computer science major possibly have in common with an English major? How about a political science major and an art major?
At James Madison, the commonality is found in general-education courses those courses designed to give undergraduates a more well-rounded education than they would otherwise get if they focused solely on their major discipline. And, judging from presenters at the first-ever General Education Student Conference, there's value in the design.
The Oct. 7 conference in Taylor Hall featured about 50 students presenting exemplary work they completed in GenEd courses during the past year. It wasn't uncommon to hear the presenters comment that they likely wouldn't have considered the courses had they not been required, nor to hear students state the courses taught them valuable lessons.
Lisa Taff, for instance, said her "Critical Reading and Writing" course greatly enhanced her analytical skills. At the conference, Taff presented a letter to her mother that she wrote as a course assignment in which she discussed the importance of understanding rhetoric. Taff said the class strengthened her analytical skills and taught her to think in ways she had not been taught before skills that have since proved valuable in other classes.
Kathryn Betz said the same GWRIT 103 course was important to her for learning how to write a paper with well-supported arguments, a skill she has used in other classes. The class also taught her how to see through propaganda and better analyze varying points of view.
Other students presented written essays, photo essays and poems on topics ranging from women's rights to exploring the techniques used to create horror films at the conference, which is to become an annual event.
Gina Harp, a sophomore accounting major, even shared a bit of advice for promoting JMU in university publications by featuring various campus doors to symbolize themes such as friendliness, openness and opportunity.
More information about the General Education program is available at: http://www.jmu.edu/gened/.
Published October 2005 by JMU Media Relations