AAC&U General Education, March 2011 – Proposal Description

General Education Conference, March 5, 2011

David Potash

Chief Academic Officer, Curry College


A Special Sort of Project Management: Academic Administrative Leadership and Effective General Education Reform


General education, once described by the City University of New York (CUNY) Dean of Undergraduate Education Judith Summerfield as the academy’s “vacant lot,” is today a site of ongoing urban planning and renewal from the highest levels; every regional accrediting association spells out requirements for an institution’s general education program.  Middle States seeks general education that “expresses the educational philosophy of the institution,” WASC demands general education that is “integrated throughout the curriculum, including at the upper division level,” and the Northwest Commission wants general education that “introduces students to the content and methodology of the major areas of knowledge – the humanities and fine arts, the natural sciences, mathematics, and the social sciences – and helps them develop the mental skills that will make them more effective learners.”  Successful general education reform is an essential component of the reaccreditation process and a priority of the institution’s academic administrative leadership.  This focused discussion will employ basic principles from project management, informed by hands-on experience with three general education reforms at three different institutions, to propose principles, mechanisms, practical advice to increase knowledge of general education reform and the likelihood that an institution, along with its academic leader, will successfully navigate the process.

Currently I am the Chief Academic Officer at Curry College, where I have tasked the faculty with general education reform.  From 2005 to 2008, I was Associate Provost/AVP for Academic Affairs at Hunter College, CUNY, where I participated in the Mellon Project, a general education reform effort.  From 1998 to 2005 I worked at Baruch College, CUNY, as Associate Provost for the Teaching and Learning Environment, playing a key role in reforming the college’s common core.  At all three institutions general education reform was tied up in issues of identity, enrollment, student learning, and most importantly, self-studies and a larger reaccreditation effort.  In partnership with Wendy Katkin, Director of the Reinvention Center, I presented “Redefining Undergraduate Education: Issues and Challenges in General Education” at an AAC&U conference in 2007.



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