The UB Curriculum is a waste of time

UB’s gen. ed. program distracts students, creates unneeded work and stress


I used to be a proponent of the UB Curriculum. 

As a former pre-med student, the chance to take a few English and Music courses while also pursuing psychiatry seemed ideal and a step above what I assumed regular general education programs would be like.

But I misunderstood.

The UB Curriculum is UB’s version of a general education program. Most programs feature 100 or 200-level courses that give an overview of various majors and subjects like math, science and English. UB’s curriculum takes this idea and expands upon it. The curriculum includes a 199-level seminar introducing students to the program, “foundations” that mirror other gen. ed. programs, six pathway courses to “explore another field of study” and a one-credit “capstone” course to wrap up the experience.

But why add roadblocks for students when the courses don’t augment their education?

Most general education programs serve as an introduction to college. 

I, as a senior, am still finishing the program. I’m taking my last pathway course (World Cinema) and my capstone. This means I’ll only have one semester without the pressure of general education over my head.

But according to the official UB Curriculum website, “The UB Curriculum makes general education a purposeful program with a beginning and an end, where every step of the journey builds on the last, readying graduates for everything to come.”

On paper, this sounds fine, but quickly after I started college, the cracks in the program became evident. The UB Curriculum started to feel like every other college’s general education program with extra steps.

The pathways portion of the program is, at the very least, a novel idea. To sum it up, students choose six courses, three in a “thematic pathway” and three in a “global pathway.” There are several different choices in each pathway and several course options to fulfill the requirements.

At first, all seems well, as choosing the six courses is simple and most sound interesting in theory. 

But this process isn’t as smooth for students like myself. I switched my major three times and wasn’t able to truly start taking major-specific credits until my sophomore year. As a result, I had to go back into my pathways and choose classes within my two majors to simultaneously fulfill my pathway requirements and stay on track to graduate on time. 

The pathways section of the website says you can “Take ownership of your education by choosing topics of interest to you and applying them to your major or using them as a platform to explore another field of study.” 

If a student wants to explore courses within their major, these pathways only restrict their options. Not only do students have to choose within the pathways, but they also have to fulfill requirements within their major. 

I wanted to use the pathways to branch out, and now I feel like I’m being punished for changing my major and doing something I have a passion for.

While the pathways at least try to augment students’ education, Capstone is a different story.

I have never taken a course that felt like as much of a waste of time as UBC 399. 

Capstone is a one-credit course where students make an e-portfolio summing up their entire UB Curriculum experience. UB Curriculum’s website describes Capstone as “a holistic reflection of your learning experiences,” and while this is technically true, it’s pointless. 

Reflection should be the job of a student who cares, not a university that forces it on them. 

My experience with Capstone has been nothing but frustrating. Students are required to submit pieces from introductory courses and pathways. But the course does not account well for people like myself who had some of their “foundations” requirements met as early as their junior year of high school. It does not account well for students who do not store their work on a cloud, because no one told me to save these “artifacts” for our e-portfolios. 

It also does not account well for people who started the UB Curriculum its first year.

The first year it was implemented, the 199-seminar course was meant to teach what UB Curriculum classes would roughly be like. We learned how to use the e-portfolio website and were told all of our UB Curriculum classes would use this portfolio.

Only my seminar, my capstone and one other class used the e-portfolio. Then the site was completely redesigned, so accessing it for capstone two years later revealed a completely different interface that we were not taught.

The UB Curriculum was designed by former Vice Provost and Dean Andrew M. Stott. The year after it was implemented, he left UB for the University of Southern California, completely abandoning his project and not sticking around to see a full cycle of it. I can’t fault him for taking a lucrative opportunity, but I can fault him for leaving an already-flawed project in the hands of people who didn’t design it.

There are many more parts of the UB Curriculum that could be highlighted to show its uselessness, but it can all be summed up relatively quickly; the UB Curriculum is a needlessly bloated general education program that does not fulfill any of its promises. 

All it does is create more work, distract students from focusing on their majors and, in some cases, prevent them from branching out. General education doesn’t need to be all-encompassing; it should ease students into college and then see itself out.

Alex Whetham is an asst. arts editor and can be reached at alex.whetham@ubspectrum.com.

ALEX WHETHAM


Alex Whetham is an asst. arts editor for The Spectrum