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Creating a Pathway to Student Success

Pilot Program Puts Focus on General Education Learning

Sept. 3, 2014

Incoming Cal State Fullerton freshmen have an opportunity to follow a "pathway," a focused path in their general education studies.

Rather than taking a variety of different general education courses, students can focus their general education in much the same way they do their major — to an area of specific interest, such as global studies or power and politics.

This fall, 450 freshmen have signed up to take part in "Pathways to Success" — a pilot program that gives students an opportunity to focus some of their general education courses in four specialized areas: global studies; sustainability; food, health and well-being; or power and politics.

"Pathways provides an opportunity for students to focus on an area of study that they may be interested in, but may not necessary want to major in," said Volker Janssen, associate professor of history and a faculty coordinator of the new program. "It's based on the theory that taking a range of courses that tie into a general theme enhances the general learning experience and provides added value to a Cal State Fullerton education."

"Pathways gives students focus but, at the same time, they can still explore a wide range of subjects," said Scott Hewitt, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and faculty leader in the sustainability pathway.

For example, the sustainability pathway includes courses from anthropology, geography, liberal studies and sociology, as well as political science. The food, health and well-being pathway involves courses in chemistry, English, reading and health science.

Participating students take three to five lower-division GE courses associated with the pathway they select. As part of the classes, students engage in high-impact practices, such as research, community service or internships.

In addition to moving ahead in their GE requirements, students also earn a certificate that reflects their increased awareness in a certain subject field, said Janssen.

"The beauty of pathways is that it gives students themes in which to develop critical thinking and communication skills," said Kathryn Angus, lecturer in reading and the faculty leader for food, health and well-being.

The new pathway effort changes how faculty and departments work with others across the campus, and provides leadership opportunities for both tenured/tenure-track faculty and lecturers.

"The pilot is creating links from within and outside of our own colleges," said Angus.

"And we're working closely with student affairs, as well," said Darlene O'Cadiz, faculty leader for the global studies pathway and a lecturer in theatre and dance. "Faculty has been very positive about this opportunity to reach out across disciplines, across colleges. To develop learning communities."

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