Just planning for a double major can be more difficult than earning A’s in the classes themselves. As a junior double majoring in criminal justice and political science, I have plenty of experience with this dilemma. Every semester, I have to take into account the required courses for my majors on top of the general education curriculum, also known as G-PAC, in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. If I want to graduate in four years, I have to make each class decision count, or else I risk paying for another semester or even more to get my degree.
This problem, however, is not without a solution. Students who double major are already taking on a huge commitment by making the most of their education with more classes. GW should help them by incorporating more upper-level courses that count for major requirements into its G-PAC curriculum.
The political science major consists of 57 credits while the criminal science major is 42 credits, and very few of my courses overlap. On top of these requirements are G-PAC courses, which total 19 credits and do not usually satisfy credits for either of my majors. Budgeting for all these courses that have similar learning outcomes makes it difficult on the student and is ineffective overall. For instance, the classes that count for the oral communication requirement for G-PAC, like interpersonal or public communication, do not have any options that would also go toward a political science major. Instead of limiting it to just these courses, CCAS can also allow more upper-level courses in disciplines like political science to fulfill the oral communication requirement. Speechwriting and delivering speeches is an important aspect of modern politics, so it would be easy to incorporate oral assignments like these into the curriculum. There are already a few upper-level courses in disciplines like anthropology and philosophy that can count toward general requirements, but this should be expanded to every discipline.
Individuals that want to enter politics in any capacity need to be able to speak publicly or write speeches. So while students need to learn how to effectively communicate orally, it doesn’t have to be through only the courses currently listed as fulfilling this G-PAC requirement. That would allow students to fulfill G-PAC requirements like this without needing to take a course out of place from their major. Political science majors already need to take classes in international, comparative and U.S. politics as well as political thought, which are all classes that could easily add or already have an oral presentation requirement on their syllabi. Not taking one of the courses that currently fulfills the oral communication requirement does not mean students’ education will suffer because they will still be learning that skill. This isn’t just a problem for political science double majors, but for most students that take on two majors. In some cases, professors can already sign off on requests for upper-level courses to count for G-PAC requirements. This should be expanded and standardized by adding various upper-level courses to the list of eligible classes to fulfill G-PAC so more students can focus on their majors while learning necessary skills.
Another G-PAC requirement that doesn’t count for either political science or criminal justice majors, and many other majors in the social sciences, is the arts requirement. There is an easier solution to this problem. Courses like Politics and Film could be cross-listed as both a political science and American studies course. This way, both American studies and political science majors and minors could use this course to complete their respective programs, as well as their general education curriculum.
Double majors need to make every class count. Occasionally, students can take courses that fulfill requirements for both fields, but many times double majors don’t have that luxury. That is why it’s important to incorporate as many G-PAC courses as possible in major programs. G-PAC classes that don’t fit into these major requirements can only add more stress to students that need to double count where they can and strategically plan around that.
GW should reassess and revamp its general education curriculum so that students can have more courses count for individual majors while still learning basic necessary skills like oral communication. It’s a shame that GW is still using the current requirements because college curriculum must evolve in a constantly changing world. Double majoring has been on the rise, with some schools reporting that as many as 30 to 40 percent of their undergraduates are double majors. GW, by not changing its general education curriculum, is missing out on an opportunity to find ways to make the education of its students more efficient.
Double majoring is no easy task. GW does not have to make it more difficult by requiring students to take a plethora of G-PAC courses that do not directly tie into certain programs. But there are simple solutions to this problem. GW can allow more flexibility with which courses can be applied to fulfill general education requirements. This small measure has the potential to make navigating course registration easier, allow GW to improve their curriculum and help double majors graduate in four years. Students want to make the most out of their education here, and it shouldn’t be made even more of an uphill battle for double majors.
Diana Wallens, a junior double majoring in criminal justice and political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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This article appeared in the November 13, 2017 issue of the Hatchet.