In the summer of 1995, groups of UA faculty met to develop a new university-wide general education curriculum. The Faculty Senate adopted the new University-wide General Education structure in 1997 and students began matriculating under these guidelines the following Fall semester, in 1998. After many years of a menu-driven, individualized format with students choosing from more traditional narrowly focused ‘introductions’ to specific fields, the program was redesigned to provide a more directed exploration of academic breadth, focusing on interdisciplinarity early in a student’s career, common learning outcomes for each of 3 interdisciplinary strands, an appreciation of diversity of thought and culture, and development of essential skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, teamwork and effective use of information technology, all guided by the mantra:
"In short, the goal of the general education program is to prepare students to respond more fully and effectively to an increasingly complex world.”
In 1998-99, an assessment subcommittee of the University-wide General Education Committee (UWGEC) along with Tier 1/Tier 2 instructors designed a process to measure the effectiveness of the curriculum, refining the desired outcomes and measures for the assessment process. The resulting recommendations for assessment protocols were presented to the full Committee in spring 2000. In addition, in early 2003, UWGEC voted to formally incorporate information literacy requirements and learning outcomes skills into the program.
An inaugural review of the first 5 years of the General Education Program was undertaken by the University-wide General Education Committee (UWGEC) in 2003 to review the program’s design, implementation, effectiveness, strengths and weaknesses. The final report was submitted to Vice Provost for Instruction on March 2004. While the issues of program sustainability, funding, assessment and coordination were highlighted as essential elements needing continued focus, this review supported the overall efficacy of the new program in meeting the educational needs of UA students.
A subsequent review was undertaken by a more widely representative review team in 2004. This report reaffirmed the importance of the Gen Ed program and its general objectives, indicating that the existing structure of Foundations, Tier 1/Tier 2 courses was adequately meeting the goals of this program. However, the report highlighted key recommendations requiring attention: increased clarity of the learning outcomes, increased awareness of and communication about the relevance of Gen Ed, need for persistent assessment of courses and program, and dedicated and predictable funding to support the goals of the program. While attempts have been made to address these recommendations with variable success, each of these has been articulated again in the most recent, 20th-year Gen Ed review, as critical for the future success of the General Education program.