There are few things more intimidating than being the lone freshman in a class full of seniors.
However, few things are more discomforting than being the lone senior in a room full of freshmen, a common sight in several general education class rooms.
Being a liberal arts school, it’s a no-brainer that you’ll be spending many of your credit hours on classes that don’t directly apply to your major. For some, such as senior Heidi Hildebrandt, the general education requirement was extremely helpful in determining which field of study she wanted to major in. Now that it’s her final semester she’s not taking any gen ed classes because she “took them all right away because I kept changing my mind on my major.”
Senior David Butler didn’t leave any of his gen ed classes until his senior year either, but he gave some insight as to why some seniors might. “I think one reason that seniors would wait this long is so that they can have an easy last semester and focus on things like getting a job next year instead of having to worry about upper-level classes pertaining to their majors.”
Senior Kristen Neth agrees with Butler. She said, “I waited because I wanted to get all of my credits for my major completed. By taking all of the classes in my major first, I feel more prepared as I start the job search.”
Although these seem like ____ reasons for finishing out your college career sitting in lower-level gen ed classes, some professors who teach the classes think the thought process is a bit backwards. One-fourth of Mitch Kinsinger’s theology students are seniors – and, to him, this is a little “disappointing.”
“I think there is something particularly troubling with the high number of seniors who take Intro to Theology. We want to foster the integration of faith and learning at NWC. In order to do this, you need some content with which to integrate. When a student doesn’t have a basic building block like Intro to Theology until they are on the cusp of graduation, they miss out on the integration they could have done had they had the class sooner in their academic career.”
As the Chair of the Gen Ed Task Force, Kinsinger is hoping to decrease the number of students who leave faith-based gen eds until their final year. But what does a senior theology student have to say about this? Alex Menning is currently taking theology and chose to save the class for his senior year because he wanted “to get more grounded in my faith and what I believe.”
General education classes range from religion to math, science to history, fine arts to philosophy. Philosophy professor Randy Jensen has 11 graduating seniors out of a total of 86 students in his gen ed classes. “Some put off philosophy for as long as possible, to be sure! But a few may have waited for the particular class they wanted to take.”
Kevin Wallace can testify to that. He said, “I’m still taking gen eds: namely my philosophy requirement. I decided to wait because I’d heard great things about the class I’m in (Philosophy and Science Fiction) from some Heemstra guys who’d taken it two years ago. Since it’s only offered every other year I had to wait until my senior year, which has turned out to be a huge blessing. Since gen eds are lower level classes (in general) that means that I can relax a bit more with my school work and focus on hanging out with the guys before I’m gone.”
Some students think waiting is best, others were happy to be done after their sophomore year. Professors acknowledge that although they see the importance in establishing the liberal arts education early on, sometimes waiting for the class you want to take is better than sitting through one you won’t be as interested in.
Information provided about Northwestern’s general education requirement tells prospective students to “start with a foundation,” and perhaps that’s why Kinsinger apologetically states, “it’s not [the students’] fault; the college is the one who has said it is acceptable [to wait].” In order to prepare students early on, “this is something I hope we can change in the future.”