General Education and the Applied Science Degree – A Value Proposition

What is the value of including general education courses in an Associate in Applied Science degree? Colleges offering this two year degree aim to prepare people for success in professions ranging from accounting to radiography. Generally speaking, employers look for effective communicators who are able to problem solve and work with a diverse group of people. Employers mean “that which results in these skills” when they talk about the value of general education, even though one employer may have different specific needs than the next. Correspondingly, students in an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree program want to graduate with a degree and skills that will lead to a good job in their chosen profession. Students mean “that which helps me get a good job” when they talk about the value of general education, even though one student may be more willing to practice their skills than the next.

I took an acting class in college from a teacher who studied under Constantin Stanislavski and favored method acting. He said that taking a ballet class helps one increase body awareness, and that being present in a wide range of experiences helps one be more “in the moment” on stage. I wasn’t a theatre major, but took his advice anyway. The dancing only lasted one summer but the experience quotient never left and is the linchpin to my personal and professional success.

Is this the value of general education? Is a good general education that which opens doors to new ideas? If so, what if I wasn’t ready to hear what this teacher had to say? What if I had tuned out after hearing ballet?

Does the value of general education within an AAS degree also depend upon the way opportunities for exposure and practice of skills and ideas are included across a curriculum? If so, then we can say that the school which provides such opportunities for student learning is the school which provides a valuable general education component to its AAS degrees. We can say this because we understand that repeat exposure and multiple opportunities to practice communicating, problem solving, and interacting with a diverse range of others in the context of one’s major helps students succeed.

That is the rationale behind Northwestern College’s General Education curriculum and what we try to keep in mind when working to support our mission and goals for student learning.

General Education Department Mission Statement

The General Education Department is committed to empowering students to realize their full potential by providing a solid foundation and the skills necessary to succeed in their chosen course of study at Northwestern College. The General Education Department seeks to help students recognize their abilities and continue their personal and intellectual growth.

The General Education Department works to ensure NC students can do the following upon graduation:

  • Communicate effectively though writing and speaking clearly and accurately in a variety of contexts and forms
  • Use critical thinking skills in a mathematical context by applying formulas and performing computations
  • Apply group theory to a variety of small and large group contexts
  • Effectively use critical thinking skills
  • Show awareness of and respect for individual, social, and cultural differences
  • Practice patterns of behavior contributing to personal and professional success