When a student is focused on the end goal, getting their degree here at RCC Institute of Technology and starting or advancing their career, they can sometimes question why they have to take general studies courses. But, in fact, General Studies courses are key to the broader goals of an undergraduate education.
In this article, instructors of general studies courses in the Bachelor of Interior Design and the Bachelor of Technology discuss the value of the material they teach and why general studies are important to their students.
General Studies courses offer students interaction with peers who come from a variety of backgrounds and interests. Taking courses with students who do not always share your academic field means that you are inundated with fresh perspectives that are informed by their unique set of experiences. This creates engaged learning opportunities especially in class discussions and DQs and mimics the evolving workplace that values difference. No longer a homogeneous environment, businesses want to learn from multiple and engaged voices, and General Studies courses emulate this dynamic.
General Studies courses can tap into a secret passion or help you develop a new one, all while making the process collaborative. As a student, you bring with you to each course all that you already have learned in your life, and General Studies courses allow you to add to your knowledge base in often surprising ways! I am always amazed by the way students who do not have previous experience in the subject matter dive right into the content, get supported by more experienced peers and tend to have the most dramatic learning experience that opens up their perspective and assessment to the world around them. The insight you gain from branching out in General Studies courses will be taken with you, wherever you head to next.
Part of higher education involves skill development, but there is a second aspect. The second part involves learning to think in broader terms and to enhance creativity and compassion. This should not be thought of as superfluous to the rest of education, but rather, as an important component of it.
The course I teach is Philosophy 300: Leisure and Philosophical Thinking. The word Philosophy comes from the Greek words/ideas of Philo (love) and Sophia (wisdom).
Learning about philosophy and what certain philosophers have said about the world and life and on various topics help us to think outside of our own conditioned habits, helps us look at the big picture and see our work and ideas from other points of view.
In particular, it can really help artists and scientists think about their work and how they approach it with a fresh mindset- and with a new set of intellectual tools to apply to all sorts of problem-solving. This has led students to tell me that studying Philosophy has vastly improved their thinking about how they approach and do their work but also how they approach their leisure. Both of which are essential to a good life.”
Sociology gives students the opportunity to explore the hidden workings behind their familiar everyday world—offering a new “lens” through which to view the world as they develop what is called a sociological imagination. The trajectories of our lives are very much shaped by social forces of which we are sometimes unaware. Sociology provides students with knowledge and skills that enable them to think critically about the interconnectedness between their own lives and social forces and institutions. Topics in Sociology and Culture include issues that are relevant in today’s fast-paced world, including culture, environmental issues, urban sociology, law and criminal activity, social inequalities, human populations (demography), and gender, race and ethnicity. Each week the topic is led by discussion amongst students who bring their own experiences to the question. Learning is enhanced through this online discussion group that offers new perspectives for each participant to consider. A broad knowledge of sociological topics can assist in the development of critical understandings n a wide variety of fields of study. Students in Interior Design have often remarked about how this course has given them new insights relevant to their studies—such as culture, environmental sociology, etc.