Women’s studies remain requirement at TWU

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Multicultural women’s studies will remain a core requirement at Texas Woman’s University, although new state curriculum requirements will mean less flexibility and fewer options for TWU students.

Some unspecified classes will be eliminated from the core curriculum at TWU, but some new options have been added, including a first-year experience class and a wellness class.

The new state regulations, which go into effect fall 2014, were designed to make it easier for students to transfer between public colleges and universities.

The change has prompted universities across the state to revise their core requirements.

Some faculty expressed concern earlier this year that the multicultural women’s studies requirement might be nixed under the state’s more stringent guidelines, but the three-hour course remains an important portion of the university’s mission, said Barbara Lerner, associate provost for undergraduate studies and academic partnerships.

“We thought multicultural women’s studies deserved a place of recognition in our core,” she said. “It speaks to us as an institution and what we value, and the elements of that discipline are important for our students to understand. ... To us, it made a great deal of sense.”

The new core for all universities has been simplified to 42 credit hours, instead of allowing institutions to choose between 42 and 48 hours, according to Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board reports. All public colleges and universities in the state were charged with redeveloping courses to fit into the new model in November 2011, and the final reports are due to the coordinating board by Nov. 30.

State officials will review the proposed classes and offer suggestions by February.

The new core aims to streamline the general education a student traditionally learns in the first two years of college, and makes sure that credits can transfer between all public institutions of higher education in the state, Lerner said. This is important to TWU because transfer students make up more than half of the entire student body, she said.

“We know because of so many of our professional programs that many students are able to begin their career at a community college or other four-year institution, then choose to come to TWU to complete their degree,” she said. “We want to help those students by enabling them to use all of their previous credits.”

The new regulations dictate nine component areas and how many hours are required in each, and then six core objectives. Each class in the new core curriculum can only cover one component area and must meet three to four of the core objectives. There are six credit hours of the 42 required that are labeled “component area option” — where universities customize requirements to fit the university’s needs — and where, at TWU, the three hours of multicultural women’s studies will be required.

The question was never if women’s studies would be included in the curriculum but where it best would fit, said Claire Sahlin, chair of the women’s studies department and the head of the core assessment committee. In the committee’s report, they recommended the course remain part of the common TWU experience.

“I’m very happy that multicultural women’s studies has been reaffirmed as a continuing part of our undergraduate core curriculum,” she said. “This requirement for undergraduate students supports TWU’s unique and distinctive mission for women, and is also appropriate at our unique university, with nearly 50 percent of our student body being classified as minorities.”

The core assessment committee was one of many venues where faculty and staff had an opportunity to voice their opinions on what should be required in the six-hour credit window, Lerner said.

There are options for the other three credit hours within the component area option, said Lerner. Students can take three hours of math, three hours of wellness, or two hours of wellness and one hour of a first-year experience class, which aims to help students transition to college.

The courses that will be offered to fulfill the other 36 credit hours will be finalized by the end of the week, before the final plan is submitted to the state, Lerner said.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.


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