Annu Subramanian: Why the board should vote ‘yes’

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Annu Subramanian

When people graduate from GW, they will almost certainly leave having learned a few universal lessons, like the fact that crossing 23rd Street always takes forever, there’s no Thursday night that can’t be cured by a GW Deli sandwich the next morning and campus’ most prolific tweeter is Associate Provost and Dean of Students Peter Konwerski.

But if the Board of Trustees votes to approve the academic strategic plan Friday, students will leave with a few other universal bits of wisdom, too.

The plan, which proposes a one-college model for GW, would change admissions for prospective undergraduate students. Freshmen would be admitted directly into GW without necessarily being tied to specific schools. As a result, students will have the chance to explore classes in a range of schools, complete general curriculum requirements and get a more interdisciplinary taste of academic life at GW.

Most of all, every student will walk at Commencement able to boast that he or she learned a few critical lessons required of every graduate. With a core set of standards, the University will be able to guarantee not only to students but prospective employers that every graduate will be equipped with some crucial – and competitive – skills when they leave Foggy Bottom.

Despite one college being the model at many liberal arts universities nationwide, and common across the Ivy League, this plan has gotten some pushback from faculty in specialized schools on campus. And while it has some setbacks, the board should still give the strategic plan the green light Friday.

Last semester, faculty in the Elliott School of International Affairs expressed concern about whether this would be a deterrent for prospective students hoping to get a jumpstart on their international affairs major. They argue that this change might force more specialized schools – such as the School of Media and Public Affairs and the GW School of Business – to be less selective.

But having a one-college model will make these specialized schools more competitive, more selective and more desirable for students once they get to GW. This could increase the rigor of courses and students’ effort, making the schools achieve even more.

A student interested in a major will be able to explore other courses under the one-college model, and if he or she really wants to be in a specialized school, that person must work even harder to be selected. Students applying to specialized schools have a high incentive to do well their freshman year, as they would be judged alongside their peers for spots.

Indeed, there is a chance that a prospective student might be deterred from attending GW under this process because the risk of not being accepted to a desired major is higher. But that’s where the addition of a “pre-major” comes in. Students can take courses in specialized schools with a pre-major, even when they’re underclassmen, which mitigates concerns about students being deterred by delayed major classes.

Moreover, no one is telling prospective students they won’t be in a school they hope to join just because they won’t be admitted directly. And since a one-college model is common practice across universities nationwide, it won’t seem strange to prospective students, anyway.

What moving to a one-college model does offer is a chance at a liberal arts experience that culminates in attending one of GW’s impressive schools. Students can see what interests them in an environment that encourages falling in love with a field.

And while so much of our college experiences are unique, we’ll all leave with a few basic lessons, in and outside of the classroom, learned.

Annu Subramanian, a senior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet senior columnist.

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