North Texas Daily

UNT joins national liberal education program

UNT joins national liberal education program

April 04
08:44 2014

Steven James // Staff Writer

Some curriculum changes could be coming for undergraduate students within the next couple of years thanks to UNT’s recent joining of the Texas branch of Liberal Education and America’s Promise.

LEAP is a signature project of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, created in 2005 as a result of concerned higher education officials who were trying to figure out how to improve education for undergraduate students across the nation.

In January, UNT was one of the first schools that brought it to the state. LEAP came to Texas as a result of meetings that began in the fall of 2010 between Texas higher education officers and members of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The focuses of LEAP Texas include using the new Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education to improve undergraduate education. It also aims to create partnerships between institutions and apply high-impact practices in undergraduate courses.

Lorraine Phillips, assistant vice provost at the University of Texas-Arlington and LEAP Texas chairperson, said one of the things she hopes undergraduate students at both UNT and other Texas schools will do is reconsider what they want their outcomes to be while in college.

“We knew we needed to reconsider what we expect undergrads to know in the 21st century,” Phillips said. “One of the most important things students can do in this vast information state is expand what they think of education and how to learn.”

She hopes LEAP Texas will also motivate students to become more driven in their studies.

“We are very excited that Texas schools have chosen to participate,” Phillips said.

Celia Williamson, vice provost for transfer articulation and LEAP Texas board member, said UNT students could benefit from being a member of LEAP Texas by working with other campuses on educational practices and common challenges.

“Collaboration toward a common goal of enhancing undergraduate education is really the point,” Williamson said. “Students also benefit as the institutions learn from each other about what works best to support student learning.”

She also said getting LEAP introduced to Texas was challenging because the state has many more school systems compared to other states.

“The size and diversity in Texas made it a bit more difficult to get started, but it also provides a rich array of perspectives with the capacity to employ different strategies in accomplishing the goals of the collaboration,” Williamson said.

More than 60 institutions are currently members of LEAP Texas, including 34 two-year schools, 23 universities, 5 flagship universities and one private institution.

Most member schools are part of one of the major Texas systems – Texas A&M, the University of Texas, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas and Texas Tech, affecting nearly 900,000 students.

Associate dean of undergraduate studies Julie Glass, who helps develop the core curriculum for different departments at UNT, said that even though no official changes have been made yet, efforts to revise curriculums in more diverse ways are in progress.

“We are trying to get students more grounded in research politics in the classroom,” Glass said. “We are using a classical way of thinking to value education so that students will learn the importance of thinking beyond the confines of a classroom.”

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