Ashley Winters, photographer
Minneapolis College President Sharon Pierce has been in the process of reviewing the Associates of Arts [AA] degree. For the AA degree, the school is looking at the current requirements of physical education [PHED], health [HLTH], and information studies [INFS 1000]. This semester the school is looking at the Associate of Arts [AA] degree. Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Gail O’Kane says the college is asking several questions. Among them, “How many students were not getting an AA because of these additional requirements? What are the benefits of these requirements? What are the costs?”
All administrative staff were asked to weigh the evidence and propose changes, if any, to the current policy. Minneapolis College Policy 3.03 defines the AA award. Director of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness Fernando Furquim reviewed Policy 3.03 and published the results. Data collected for twenty-four Minnesota State colleges showed that two have no additional requirements, eighteen require health and/or physical education. Only one additional college requires information studies. That college is Alexandria Technical and Community College in Alexandria, Minnesota. According to the report, HLTH, PHED, and INFS 1000 typically transfer as elective credits.
Dean of Professional Nursing and Health and Physical Education Traci Krause has a unique perspective. “Not only am I the Dean of Health and Physical Education, which is affected, I’m [also] in the unique position that I’ve actually completed the yoga training teacher certificate, so I innately know the value of those classes,” said Krause. “That said, I’m all about student success and supporting student success and student completion, so you know I look at the AS degree, Associate of Science, which is what nursing students get when they finish the program. They don’t have those requirements, right. I think additional local requirements can be barriers for students to get where they want to go. So although I see the value in those classes. I think removing them from the AA degree requirement is a good thing for students.” Krause added,
“The classes will continue to be offered. There will be students who will continue to have an interest [in] those classes, so I don’t think that’s going to change. Again, it’s the big picture of student success [and] student completion so I think that’s just what you have to keep your eye on.”
When asked about the INFS 1000 requirement, Krause responded, “INFS is interesting. Nursing students don’t have that requirement,” said Krause. “I would say nursing students write as many scholarly papers as anybody in the place! Although again that’s a valuable class particularly for students that feel they need it. They can still take that class, but why require it of everyone where there are students that don’t need it, right?”
Krause further reflected on INFS 1000. “When you review the PowerPoint, students who took INFS didn’t necessarily do better in English. When I saw that I thought, that’s really curious, right? And you know, data’s data,” said Krause. “It has its use, but I recognize that the students I work with, you know, they have complex lives, and so it’s hard to say A equals B. If we ate a hamburger and got really sick. We don’t actually know if we have the flu or [if it is] because we ate a hamburger. Do you know what I mean? Sometimes cause and effect is just really hard to link. Does INFS equal improved outcomes in English 1111 and English 1110? The answer appears to be no, but again does A lead to B? I don’t know.”
Dean Krause supports health and physical education but not in a way that interferes with students getting their associates degrees. “So, health and physical education are kind of interesting because when you think about burden of disease and health inequities,” said Krause. “In some ways, I find health and Phy Ed more important [than INFS], but again, I have a yoga teacher training lens and the nursing lens so that I really value mindfulness, you know, meditation and all of those components that go along with yoga practice.”
Krause notes that advisors can help students decide what courses they need to take in order to succeed in school. “I think our advisors really play a strong role here as far as individual students working with advisors to look at, okay, what coursework have I done? That can include high school coursework right, so what areas do I need to strengthen?”
Generally, the idea with the Associate of Science degree is that you can get a job out of it, but with the Associate of Arts, the idea is that you’re going to go on to a four-year college. Krause responded to the question of whether students will be prepared, without current Minneapolis College AA degree requirements, for the amount of work and research they will have to do when they move on to a bachelors program. “Interestingly, my journey to being a nurse is a long one and I started with an AA degree and I did not take a research based course and I went on,” said Krause. “My first bachelors degree is a BA in elementary education, and so I never took a research class, and then I went back for an AS in nursing and then went on from there.” Krause added, “And I’ve done the yoga teacher training certificate here and I’ve done doctoral work, so I’ve written an entire thesis, hundreds of pages of research. I was never required to take a research course nor was I required to take a health and [physical education]. Clearly, I chose that because I value mindfulness, meditation [and] all those pieces that go with yoga.”
Minnesota State system policies govern minimum graduation requirements, and each college determines any additional requirements necessary for their students to receive awards, such as certificates, diplomas, and degrees. Diplomas and certificates have already been through the review process. According to Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Gail O’Kane, there were students who were not completing certificate programs because while they were completing all their technical courses, they would not complete requisite general education courses to receive their awards. It was decided that required general education courses would be left at the discretion of the academic department.
The school is concerned about students getting their AA degrees. “Students who complete an AA degree are more likely to complete a bachelor’s, and if they don’t get that bachelor’s degree at least they’ll have the benefits of having an associate degree,” said O’Kane. “Based on the research, we propose that [Minneapolis College] eliminate these programs. We don’t think all students need to take these subjects if they’re bachelor’s degree [transfer program] doesn’t require it.”
O’Kane said that the school wants to provide students and faculty with options. Without the additional general education requirements, students will have five additional credits to work with. “We just think the AA is important. We don’t want these three local requirements to stand between them and an AA degree,” explained O’Kane.
Anya Savvy is a pen name for a Minneapolis College student who works as a reporter for City College News. To contact Anya, please email them at [email protected]