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News from the HBCUGEA

5th Annual Conference

For October 2-3, 2015, the HBCU-General Education Alliance scheduled its fifth annual conference in historic Estey Hall on the campus of Shaw University. Severe weather, including threatening flooding, forced conveners to end the conference a day early, but for one day, in attendance were secondary and higher education faculty and administrators, college leadership in general education, and assessment coordinators who registered from Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina.  The focus of the conference was to engage discussions around the role of General Education in the 21st century, especially at minority serving institutions. Responses and recommendations came first from the Conference's Roundtable panelists:  Dr. Jacqueline A. Washington from Delaware State University;  Dr. Javarro Russell from Educational Testing Services (ETS); Dr. Andrew D. Lloyd (in Assessment) from Delaware State University; Dr. Trela N. Anderson from Fayetteville State University and Dr. Patrena N. Benton from Shaw University. Absent was Dr. Doria K. Stitts from Winston-Salem State University.
During the one day event, a summary of comments and recommendations were captured and are as follows:

  • Students seem to think of General Education as consisting of a set of courses that they need to take and to get out of the way , and not as courses which ensure useful, life-long student learning outcomes.  How does one communicate the latter and change this mindset?
  • Students do not understand the purpose of General Education.  How might administrators and faculty assist with the realization of significant student learning outcomes at minority serving institutions?
  • Why do we still use a cafeteria-style approach to planning and implementing the general education curriculum? 
  • Why not look beyond merely ensuring breadth and depth ( accreditation requirements) in the general education curriculum?
  • Should we not identify today's expected workforce skills and allow these skills to influence the revision of the general education curriculum at minority serving institutions?
  • How might General Education be communicated as a necessity for all graduates, especially as an area fostering life-long skills such as information literacy, quantitative literacy, communications, scientific and analytical reasoning?
  • Why is General Education needed? How might we point to the majors to help them understand the need for general education and its linkages to the majors?
  • How do you communicate to students of color that while they may end up with high debt, they should also leave college being able to demonstrate basic yet life-long skills proficiencies in writing, mathematics, critical reasoning, and global citizenship (basic General Education skills)?
  • What constitutes graduation? How can you claim “student success” if students leave your institution without certain skills sets being developed?
  • Is it “student success” when students graduate from college and are unable to demonstrate writing and mathematical skills proficiencies, which begin in General Education?
  • General Education should be re-centered so that the current focus is not necessarily on degrees but on skills sets, innovative thinking and problem-solving, and working with people.
  • How do we avoid sound bites and make sure that students are ready to demonstrate necessary foundational skills needed for majors and careers?
  • As scientist, historians, educators, etc., we must help students and other faculty to understand the importance of firm foundations gained in General Education and the need for such skills in order for us to become effective students of science, history, education etc.
  • Have we forgotten what General Education means to us at HBCUs?  We may need to stop saying General Education and rethink the term---perhaps core, core competencies, or core curriculum.
  • So much attention is given to how we make students marketable, but we need more than English to teach English. We need to work backwards and understand the role of General Education.  All attention on the major cannot get the student a job.
  • Students still see general education courses as a continuation of high school. Students need to understand General Education is the foundation for majors and careers.
  • We inherit the underprepared from K-12, especially among minorities.  We need to have early interventions to break the cycle early on.  Until we break the cycle, we will continue to inherit underprepared students in higher education. Empowering the student with information on how well they perform compared to their peers is one way to begin early interventions.
  • Minority students must prepare and get better at test taking; they must learn to know, for instance, when they are faced with a content or with a skills question?
  • Minority students must understand how you learn.  It is not just internalizing the need to "do a good job."
  • Do College recruiters talk to parents about the holistic student? Do College recruiters talk about the major and the career but never about General  Education  as the framer of foundations and of pathways?
  • How can we inform students about how well they’ve mastered their General Education skills by the time they graduate?  In most majors, students will not receive any information on how they’ve improved the general study skills by the time they’ve completed their capstone courses.
  • At HBCUs, first generations are very focused on graduation and getting a job. It must be communicated that the College's responsibility is also to help such students understand the reasons that general education is to improve life- long opportunities after graduation.
  • Can we make the case that General Education is more important?
  • Today's students must understand how to learn. It is not just internalizing the need to "do a good job."
  • STEM students must understand how general education prepares them for critical reasoning, which is necessary in the sciences.
  • We must be clear on how majors reinforce general education skills.  Some institutions do this through “mapping” exercises.
  • Students must be taught to learn how to learn. We must teach them how to learn for themselves—and this is a major point of general education.
  • Multiple choice tests can be good, if well written.
  • Start with skills, not with the course.
  • "Thinking" as a skill is most important.
  • General Education curricula presents an opportunity for HBCUs to showcase how, as an institution, they impact student learning.  By demonstrating how students improve on the foundational skills learned through general education, HBCUs can strengthen their value proposition.

Responses and recommendations from the Roundtable panelists were meant to give directions to other Conference participants who agreed to serve in break-out sessions, to advance discussions, and to make suggestions for future projects by the HBCU-General Education Alliance.


Archived News
Fall 2015
Winter 2013
Summer 2012

Letters from the President

More Great Resources

Profiling General Education
Piloted HBCU General Education Yields 86% Graduation Rate for Three Consecutive Years

Strengthening General Education
The changing tasks, roles and responsibilities of instructional faculty

External Resources

Association of General and Liberal Studies -

Harlem Children's Zone -

The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education

The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions -

Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network -

Dr. Steve Perry's Revolutionizing Education in America -

Thurgood Marshall College Fund -

United Negro College Fund -


My Brothers' Keeper Alliance

Thurgood Marshall College Fund & Complete College America are Partnering to Boost Graduation Rates in Nation's HBCUs


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