Many first-year students do not know what they want to major in, let alone what “theme” should guide their college careers. As participants in Ithaca College’s new Integrative Core Curriculum, incoming students are required to pick one of six themes that will shape their learning experience. It aims to help students develop “intellectual flexibility and adaptability” so they can succeed in changing environments throughout the course of their careers. But the ICC’s current structure can be burdensome.
During registration for Fall 2013, some first-year students selected theme-based seminars because they sounded interesting. Others did not get their first-choice theme, because popular ones were already selected. The unavailability of certain themes has set some students onto a track that they may not be interested in. Though these students can switch themes after completing a seminar, subsequent classes will not transfer over to a new theme.
While the college’s accreditation association is pushing the implementation of a core curriculum, there is nothing in that mandate requiring the rigid structure of mandatory theme selection for freshmen. The college already has a model for a more flexible structure for students to discover their educational direction: the exploratory program. That program gives students two years to sample courses before selecting their majors. The college could take a similar approach to implementing general education requirements — perhaps allowing incoming students a full year to explore seminars before selecting a theme. They could be free to declare a theme after their first semester if they wish, or they can take a second seminar semester to see other options.This would better align with the college’s vision for a curriculum that promotes integrative learning and adaptability after graduation.