20 August 2005

Dear Colleagues,

     This note is the first of many reports on the work of the BRIDGE (Baccalaureate Reform through Integrate Design of General Education) Committee.

     You will recall that the BRIDGE Committee is itself the result of a series of Faculty Senate initiatives to examine the state of general education at SIUE. Those examinations revealed a keen interest and concern about general education throughout the SIUE community. This concern and interest is a product of two structural determinants. First, the general education program at SIUE has drifted over the last two decades from its original design; this drift has resulted in needless complexity and, at some points, incoherence. Second, recent large turnover in the faculty has resulted in faculty delivering a model of general education that often they did not design. This situation is ripe with both peril and promise.

     The peril is that the lack of ‘ownership' of the general education program and the program's internal complexity and incoherence contributes to a sense of alienation amongst faculty and students; as long as the general education program drifts, we can expect that alienation to grow. Ultimately it will adversely affect our students and our potential students. On the other hand, the arrival of dozens of new faculty members each year for the past several years has contributed to new and seasoned faculty offering a wide variety of innovating, rigorous programs and courses throughout the university. The community members offering these programs and courses can become the driving force for a revision of the general education program as a whole. The BRIDGE committee was established to nurture and enable this revision in light of the values of the University and existing strengths of the institution. Our work this summer in Costa Rica prepared us for the multiple roles we will perform in the process of overseeing general education reform.

     With the help of national scholars in liberal education, we familiarized ourselves with various models of general education that are in place around the country and that can serve as models for us as we move forward. We explored a variety of imaginative general education reforms that respect our values, culture and the diverse needs of our students. We developed a sense of respect for each other as liberally educated individuals. And, finally, we developed the outlines of a concrete plan for the reform of general education.

     Phase One of the plan will formally begin in early October. The BRIDGE committee will issue an open invitation to the community to begin to form design teams that will develop comprehensive and coherent plans for the reform of SIUE's general education program. These design teams will work within a set of guidelines that the BRIDGE Committee is currently finalizing. Through the generous support of the Office of the Provost funding will be provided to all members of design teams that complete fully articulated models for general education at SIUE within the guidelines and time-table established by the BRIDGE Committee.

     In preparation for Phase One of the design process, the BRIDGE Committee will sponsor a series of workshop through the next six weeks around the theme of design. The intention of these workshops is two-fold. First, they are intended to help members of the SIUE community begin to think of themselves not just as inheritors of a system of general education but as designers and builders of general education program. Second, we hope that the workshops become ‘seed-beds' for design teams, facilitating their formation by allowing folk from across the university to meet others interested in participating in the reform process. The first workshop will be on Wednesday, 7 September. It will provide an overview of the process that the BRIDGE Committee is initiating and allow the BRIDGE Committee to hear from the community its passions, interests and ideas about the state of general education at SIUE. Subsequent workshops will be focused on aspects of general education design. A more detailed announcement of the first workshop is forthcoming.

     The BRIDGE Committee believes passionately that the expertise and experience to undertake this reform already exists in the SIUE community. But we cannot rest on the achievements of our predecessors and senior colleagues. To honor their achievements over the past twenty five years we must build on them. We must rise to the challenges of a new century and, in so doing, both honor our past and stake out our relevance in new and complex times. We look forward to working with all members of the SIUE community in the coming year.

     In closing, let me say that the committee is committed to transparency. A website has been established on the Faculty Senate homepage ( http://www.siue.edu/UGOV/FACULTY/ ) and on the homepage for the Office of the Provost  (http://www.siue.edu/PROVOST/ ). The BRIDGE website contains contact information for the members of the BRIDGE Committee as well as the agendas and minutes of our meetings. It will also be an electronic archive of sources and documents relevant to the reform process. In addition, if anyone has any questions or concerns they should not hesitate to contact me either in my office (Peck Hall 1207, ext. x2403), via email or on my cell (618.830.8671).

     I wish you all the best as the semester begins.

 

Cheers!

Eric Ruckh
Associate Professor of Historical Studies
Chair, BRIDGE Committee