UCC Cognates

In a memo from the University Curriculum Committee (UCC) to the Executive Committee of the Senate (ECS) dated January 25, 2013, the UCC reports:

The UCC was given three interrelated charges:

1) Please complete the work begun on the university BS cognate requirement.
2) Please consider the role of foreign language instruction in advancing the university's goals with respect to internationalization, globalization, intercultural competency, developing critical thinking and verbal reasoning, and the liberal arts curriculum. What procedures and practices are in place for assessing outcomes within the present Bachelor of Arts Cognate requirement? What principles should inform policy-making in this area?
3) Please develop a framework for core competencies which could potentially replace or improve cognate requirements.

After considerable discussion, examination of data from peer institutions and our own Institutional Analysis office, and consultation with unit heads, UCC makes the following recommendations.

1. Adopt Definitions for BA and BS Degrees
Currently GVSU has no formal definition of either the BA or BS degree. UCC recommends the university adopt the following definitions. In developing these definitions UCC examined definitions from several peer institutions, as well as consulting with many academic units on campus. If approved, these definitions should appear in the glossary of the catalog.

  • The Bachelor of Arts degree is distinguished by its concentration in liberal arts; typically focused on culture, arts, philosophy, and language.
  • The Bachelor of Science degree is grounded in the liberal arts and distinguished by its focus on mathematics, statistics, quantitative reasoning, and scientific analysis.

2. Replace the BS Cognate Requirement with a BS Program Requirement
GVSU is somewhat unique in mandating BS programs include cognate courses. Furthermore, it is unclear whether or not the BS degree cognate sequence makes BS programs stronger. Current policy defines the BS degree cognate as

  • a three-course sequence that emphasizes either natural science or social science methodology; at least one course is a prerequisite to one of the other two in the sequence; at least one course is from outside the major; and at least one course meets the basic requirements of the 1 "Mathematical Sciences" category of the General Education Program)

UCC notes the following.

  1.  “at least one course is a prerequisite to one of the other two” - Most BS degree programs are sequenced already with subsequent courses formally building upon preceding ones, so this particular requirement seems to be unnecessary.
  2.  “at least one course is from outside the major” - The General Education program already ensures that all students are exposed to a wide variety of disciplines. It is unclear how requiring a BS program to include a single course from outside the major ipso facto strengthens the program.
  3. “at least one course meets the basic requirements of the "Mathematical Sciences" category” - Again, the General Education program already ensures that all students fulfill at least one course within the Mathematical Sciences category. This requirement seems superfluous.

Therefore, UCC recommends elimination of the BS cognate requirement. In its place, UCC recommends a “BS Program Requirement”. The BS Program Requirement will help ensure BS programs align with the definition in (1) above. The BS Program Requirement is proposed as:

  • All Bachelor of Science degree programs must include at least three courses that focus on mathematics, statistics, quantitative reasoning, or scientific analysis. At least two courses must be outside of the General Education Foundations category. At least one course must build upon the expertise developed in the General Education Mathematical Sciences category by requiring a General Education Mathematical Science course as a prerequisite.

Replacing the BS cognate requirement with the BS Program Requirement has several advantages:

  1. It will return the word “cognate” to its broader meaning; i.e., a course outside the major. Currently, the word “cognate” has a specific meaning at GVSU (i.e., the BA and BS university cognate requirement). However, many units use the term “cognate” to identify courses outside of the major that are required for that particular program. This dual use of the word can cause confusion for students. Programs will be encouraged to examine all of their cognate courses in a timely manner to determine if they are in the best interest of their students.
  2. The BS Program Requirement will be built into each BS degree program. It is a requirement that all BS degree programs must include, not a student graduation requirement. From the student’s perspective it will be invisible, clearing any confusion that the current BS cognate requirement may cause.
  3. It requires BS degree programs to build up on the Mathematical Sciences category, deepening the quantitative reasoning skills of students.

Most (if not all) BS programs already comply with the proposed BS Program Requirement. For those that don’t, UCC does not expect existing BS degree programs to immediately comply. However, as new programs are developed, or as existing programs are changed, they will be expected to meet the new requirement.

If approved, the online curricular forms will be updated to include the new BS Program Requirement language.

3. Replace the BA Cognate Requirement with a BA Program Requirement
GVSU is aligned with most of our peer institutions by requiring BA degrees to include foreign language proficiency. Therefore, UCC is not proposing to change this requirement. However, UCC recommends changing how that requirement is integrated with programs and fulfilled by students.

UCC recommends elimination of the BA cognate requirement. In its place, UCC recommends a “BA Program Requirement”. The BA Program Requirement will help ensure BA programs align with the definition in (1) above. The BA Program Requirement is proposed as:

  • All Bachelor of Arts degree programs must include at least three courses that focus on culture, arts, philosophy, or language. At least two courses must be outside of the General Education Foundations category. All Bachelor of Arts programs must require third-semester proficiency in a classical or modern language.

Replacing the BA cognate requirement with the BA Program Requirement has several advantages:

  1. It will return the word “cognate” to its broader meaning; i.e., a course outside the major.
  2. The BA Program Requirement will be integrated into each BA degree program. It is a requirement that all BA degree programs must include, not a student graduation requirement. This should help clear any confusion that the current BA cognate requirement may cause.
  3. It will align the BA requirements with the proposed BS requirement.
     

Most (if not all) BA programs already comply with the proposed BA Program Requirement. For those that don’t, UCC does not expect existing BA degree programs to immediately comply. However, as new programs are developed, or as existing programs are changed, they will be expected to meet the new requirement.

If approved, the online curricular forms will be updated to include the new BA Program Requirement language.

4. Effect on the Catalog (esp. Programs Offering Both a BA and BS Degree)
Because the BA and BS Program Requirements are integrated into each degree, each degree program must update its catalog copy to explicitly list the requirements of its degree(s). The catalog copy should not distinguish the ‘B.S. or B.A. cognate requirements’ from the remainder of the program plan of study. For programs that only offer a BS degree, very little needs to be changed except for elimination of references to the “BS Cognate”. BS-granting programs should incorporate the existing BS Cognate courses into their major as either “requirements” (if inside the major) or “cognates” (if outside the major).

For programs that only offer a BA degree, their catalog copy needs to be updated to remove reference to the “BA Cognate”. Foreign language proficiency should be included as either a program requirement (for language majors, e.g., Spanish) or cognate (for non-language majors, e.g., Philosophy)

Some programs offer students a choice of either a BA or BS degree. For these programs, the requirements for each degree must be absolutely clear to students. In some programs the distinction between the BA and BS is already clear: students in the BA degree program take the foreign language, while students in the BS program take three science courses. UCC expects the catalog copy for such programs to be clear, and points to History as a good example of such clarity.

In other programs, BS students take the three BS Cognate courses, while BA students are required to take the BS Cognate courses in addition to the foreign language requirement. UCC expects the catalog copy for such programs to be clear, and points to Biology as a good example of such clarity.