Paths to Quality: Two-Year/Four-Year Collaboration
for Engaging General Education

By: Dwight L. Smith, Vice President of Academic Affairs, County College of Morris, New Jersey

One session from this year’s Annual Meeting offered an interesting report from an effort to improve articulation of general education between two-year colleges and four-year universities in California.  Using the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes and the Degree Qualifications Profile as directional signs, California State University–Northridge and Pierce College have created three interdisciplinary general education paths for students through social justice, global studies, and sustainability.  Rather than creating new courses, these three paths utilize existing general education courses.  As an added incentive to students, five of the six courses in a path leading to an interdisciplinary minor can be completed at the community college (Pierce) with the sixth completed at CSU–Northridge—a setup which has been met with positive student response.

Contributing to student success is the integration of high-impact practices (HIPs) in the pathway general education courses.  Research at CSU–Northridge has found that low-income, first-generation students who experience at least two HIPs have significantly higher success rates than their fellow students who do not have such experiences.  This result provides additional evidence to support George Kuh’s findings about the importance of HIPs.

Although this project was begun in fall 2012, the collaborating community colleges and universities are reporting positive faculty participation, including among adjunct faculty who teach these general education courses.  Faculty also appreciate collaborating with their colleagues from other academic disciplines and other institutions in addressing these three interdisciplinary themes.  Future AAC&U conferences will benefit from the reporting of the results of this collaboration and the success of students who have this general education experience.


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