This week: a guest post all about the benefits of Gen Ed and how it can help you with the “Cocktail Party Approach.”
What’s the Point of General Education?
Working in the Gen Ed department at EMU, I hear that question a lot, especially when I’m talking to first-year students. I also get a lot of questions when I’m advising new students at Fast Track Orientation about which courses to take from the Gen Ed master list based on their majors. The answers to these questions might surprise you.
The cool thing about a Liberal Arts education—which is what you get at Eastern Michigan University—is that you can use these courses to branch out, take things you’re interested in, even if–and especially if–those courses don’t have anything to do with your major. After all, you’re not a one-sided individual now, right? You have a multitude of interests and opinions, be they in music, movies, or books, social and political issues like women’s rights, social justice, taking back and rebuilding communities, working for the rights of animals, or citizen journalism.
College isn’t about narrowing yourself into a profession or career; it’s about broadening your way of thinking, exposing yourself to new ideas and concepts, and learning about the arts, social issues, and politics of other cultures.
I like to use the “cocktail party” example: say you’re at a party, and the group over in the far corner is talking about an upcoming election. The group in the opposite corner is chatting about traveling to Europe. The group nearest the door is having an energetic discussion about the evolution of the “sci-fi” movie genre.
Now, imagine you’re a business major. Who are you going to talk to?
Well, if you chose a few courses from the Gen Ed master list outside of your primary interest, you might be able to step into any one of the groups and feel like you have something of value to add. Perhaps your experience in “Cultural Anthropology” could apply to the European travelers. Maybe your course in “Film Appreciation” would give you some ideas for the movie fans. Perhaps your class on “International Politics” would give you some insight about how a local election could change the global political scene.
Or maybe you could just hit the snack buffet and then call it a night.