Summit Program: Upper-Division General Education Learning Communities

Summit Program: Upper-Division General Education Learning Communities

The Summit General Education Program is an important, successful academic initiative that has facilitated student learning and progress toward graduation of undergraduate students. It provides students with an exciting alternative to the traditional upper-division General Education menu. By joining a learning community that emphasizes in-depth exploration of relevant themes, students achieve the goals of general education, are integrated into the intellectual and social life of the university, and experience increased likelihood of persisting in college and graduating. In two years after completing the Summit Program, an average of 90% of the students were either still enrolled or had graduated.
           
The Summit Program consists of two linked classes from two of the three areas of upper-division General Education: Math/Sciences, Arts/Humanities, and Social Sciences. A student cohort enrolls in both classes, which are capped at 40 and are offered over two terms in the academic year. Because the Summit Program requires students to complete the courses over two terms, it is highlighted as a special program in the Schedule of Classes; Summit classes are not listed in the upper-division General Education menu. Consequently, the best visibility that the Summit Program receives is through a presentation at mandatory Transfer New Student Orientations. As a result, over 95% of the students in the Summit Program are transfer students, and the program has become a learning community model for transfer students. 
           
Over the past five years, different learning communities have been available to students (usually five each year): War and Peace (English and Physics); Waking Up to Nature: Ethics, Ecology, and Restoration (Philosophy and Geography); The Real World: A Theatrical Work in Progress (Accounting and Theatre); The Real World (Accounting and Philosophy); Perceptions: How We See the World (History and Humanities); Humans in the Information Age (Cognitive Studies and Philosophy); and Origins of Latin American Identities (Anthropology and Humanities). The communities offer unique experiences for students, such as team-teaching, service learning, and integration into the University Honors Program. 

Through formal assessment of program goals and student learning outcomes, the following highlights of program effectiveness and student learning emerged: increased student-student interaction, increased student-faculty interaction, and in-depth achievement of established learning goals. Summit students reported achievement of other program goals as well: they developed a social network and felt integrated into the campus.  Student participation in an upper-division General Education learning community that spans two terms provides them with the intellectual stimulation and social support that facilitates their academic success and graduation.

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Contact information: Dr. Caroline Mercier, Faculty Director of General Education, (209) 667-3073