The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Major-specific classes at UMW should fulfill more general education requirements for more enhanced understanding

4 min read
registrar office located in lee hall

The Office of the Registrar is located on the second floor of Lee Hall. | Abbey Magnet, The Weekly Ringer


Staff Writer

At UMW, all majors should offer more classes that fulfill the general education requirements so that students can work toward completing their major while satisfying the necessary credits through courses relating to their area of study. The current system forces students to spend time taking unnecessary classes that detract from the true focus of their studies and will most likely not be applicable to their career in the long run. 

UMW’s general education program contains 13 requirements, some of which—like the writing intensive, methods of investigation and language requirements—involve taking multiple courses. While classes for some majors satisfy general education requirements, many students have to take classes outside of their major to complete all of their gen eds and end up spending multiple semesters just taking gen ed classes. This lengthens their time at UMW with classes that do not relate to their area of study or career path.

When I started my freshman year, I brought in 21 credits from different Advanced Placement and dual enrollment classes I had taken in high school, including English, psychology and American history. These classes fulfilled one of my writing intensive requirements, as well as the human experience and society credit. But without these preliminary credits, even more of my undergraduate time would have been taken by general education classes, thus taking away from the subject matter I came to college to pursue. 

As a biology major, my education should be specifically focused on mastering biology and other science-related fundamentals. Having to take an art appreciation course or learn a second language does not contribute to my success in the biology field. 

In some cases, these general education credits hinder students from being able to graduate in four years. 

Despite completing her major and minor, senior classical history major Shilah Morris has to take an extra semester just because she needs two more classes to fulfill her general education requirements.

“I’ll have had my major and minor requirements already fulfilled this semester,” she said. “Why should I have to take a whole extra semester for two classes?” 

While taking electives can be beneficial, being forced to take math or science classes as an English major should not be required, and vice versa for science or math majors. While there can be some benefits to taking general courses—and some of the classes I’ve taken outside my major have been enjoyable and given me a new outlook on a topic—these shouldn’t be forced upon students. Instead, students should have the option to take them, but there should be classes within each major that cover the general education credits so that students can continue developing their knowledge in the subject matter they’re going to utilize post-graduation. 

In the current system, students have different GPAs: One that pertains to all of the classes they take and others that merely pertain to classes within their majors and/or minors. While some students may enjoy the potential to boost their overall GPA with “easier” classes, having to take classes outside of their major in order to fulfill gen eds can also have the opposite effect, resulting in a lower GPA merely because the student had to take a class to complete a credit. If general education requirements were fulfilled through taking classes solely in one’s major, then there would likely be a higher success rate in students’ GPAs, as they would care more about the subject matter and be able to utilize the knowledge they gained from other classes. 

Furthermore, adding classes in all majors—or modifying classes that already exist—so that they fulfill general education requirements would open new avenues for professors to be creative with the work that they assign students. For example, more classes can be counted as beyond the classroom and writing or speaking intensive if professors assign projects that students have to present both inside and outside of class. UMW offers events such as Research and Creativity Day that are perfect opportunities and could go hand-in-hand with this type of work. With more gen ed requirements satisfied by their major, students could dedicate their time and energy to the classes and projects that pertain to their major rather than waste time trying to understand concepts or develop skills that may not have any use in their chosen career or outside of college.

Additionally, modifying classes within students’ majors to count for general education requirements would better prepare students for their careers after graduation. For example, biology majors have to follow a different style of writing than English majors, so taking a creative writing course just to complete a general education requirement isn’t having the impact on their education that may be intended by these requirements. Instead, there should be multiple writing intensive classes offered in the biology major that focus on writing about biology so that students are better equipped to write in their field. This would also help students become more comfortable with their field’s specific citation style; instead, when students take general education classes outside of their discipline, they have to learn multiple different citation styles and do not gain a full understanding of how they work.

While general education requirements may help students who have not fully decided which major to pursue—as general education classes can help to determine interests or preferred teaching styles—they simply serve as a barrier between students and their diplomas. General education requirements can add stress caused by learning unfamiliar and uninteresting topic matter in many courses, wasting money that is spent on extra credits and diverting time from more relevant classes.