By Cristian Reyes, Apr. 12, 2022
On March 9, Cal Poly Pomona’s Academic Senate completed its first reading of a proposed merger of the Interdisciplinarity General Education Department into the Liberal Studies Department.
According to administrators, the merger will be more of a structural change to the Liberal Studies Department and students will continue to be offered the same courses both departments offer. If approved by the Academic Senate and University President Soraya Coley, the merger is expected to take place in the upcoming fall semester.
“The faculty have a lot of shared interests,” said Associate Vice President for Academic Programs Laura Massa. “They will be able to not only support each other in that move but also potentially develop some new and interesting things for students, maybe new classes, maybe a new program who knows.”
IGE has been a department since 1983 at CPP, allowing students to take a different approach to complete their general education. The department provides learning outcomes in effective communication, critical thinking and integrative learning — requiring students complete 18 units and fulfill GE requirements in areas A, C and D.
Dennis Quinn, chair of the IGE Department since 2012, first heard of the merger proposal from the provost’s office in early 2021 and was shocked to hear IGE would no longer be a separate department.
“I checked with colleagues,” recalled Quinn. “I talked with people in the Senate, particularly Academic Programs. ‘Is there precedent for this?’ ‘Is there anything I can do?’ I went to the union… and they weren’t able to help.”
Quinn tried to find a way around the merger, so IGE didn’t lose its department status, to no avail. He also mentioned how the news of this merger started a domino effect as the Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department is currently further along in the process of moving from the College of Education and Integrative Studies to the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences.
Though he wanted to remain an independent department, Quinn accepted the restructuring and wanted to remain in the College of Education and Integrative Studies. He realized liberal studies was the right fit due to ongoing communication and great interactions with the faculty.
“Your cousins lose their house, and they knock on your door and say, ‘I’m going to live with you now,’” Quinn said, explaining that he feels like he is imposing on the department
However, he also has praised the Liberal Studies Department for its collaboration and constant communication.
Beginning July 1, Quinn will no longer be department chair and will now be working as program coordinator in the fall.
The Academic Programs Committee Report provides details on the merger and reasons why IGE should merge into liberal studies. It mentions two groups met in the summer of 2021 to discuss the future of IGE, leading to its discovery of similarities to the Liberal Studies Department.
The report declares the merger to be the least disruptive option for IGE, as the department offers no major, and points out three advantages of the Liberal Studies Department.
“First, a shared commitment to broad liberal education. Second, existing working relationships as peers in CEIS, and third, while many other departments at Cal Poly Pomona devote substantial time and energy to offering humanities and social science GE classes, a merger with such a department would be a merger of competitors; LS and IGE have constructive and collegial relationships but few competitive tensions.”
Despite the merger, students’ educational trajectory should not be affected. Professors also have nothing to worry about, according to Assistant Professor Rebecca K. de Lorenzini, who has been an IGE professor for about three years.
“I am excited to be a part of the Liberal Studies Department,” said de Lorenzini. “It is an opportunity for collaboration and to get to know liberal studies students, faculty and staff better. Though I have never been a part of a Liberal Studies Department in the past, as a cultural historian, my research and teaching interests directly engage with liberal studies and the liberal arts as fields.”
The Liberal Studies Department is active around the CPP campus. It produces several podcasts for students, provides a direct path to becoming an elementary teacher and receives praise for being an impactful program. Liberal Studies offers students opportunities working in sustainability, social responsibility, social justice and creative activities, allowing students to have a wide variety of career options with a degree.
With the merger, liberal studies students will not be forced to take the IGE pathway, and it will still be an option to them and all other students. The report mentions that the Liberal Studies Department chair will have more work than usual as the department expands. IGE plans to continue its own events and activities, so students will be provided with new activities coming from the Liberal Studies Department.
The Academic Senate is set to meet in April where members will vote on the merger. If majority votes, and the proposal is approved by Coley, then the merger will go as planned starting fall semester and IGE will officially be a part of the Liberal Studies Department.
Feature image by Darren Loo
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