GERs get a bad rap. Students should cherish the opportunity to explore new subjects.
While these requirements often seem like mandatory check-offs, GERs are actually necessary in obtaining a well-rounded college experience.
General Education Requirements (GERs)— these simple three words have the power to elicit groans and grumblings from almost any Furman student on command. The specifics of GERs are somewhat hazy: students must keep count of their requirements to ensure they can graduate, certain classes count for multiple GERs and some count for none. These opaque technicalities complicate registering for classes, as students must balance their major requirements with an often contradictory schedule dictated by GERs. Often the reasoning I hear for not wanting to take a GER is “I will never use it again….” or “my major is….. This isn’t important to me.” Despite these negative comments, I believe that GERs at Furman are beneficial to leaving college with a well-rounded base of knowledge.
The nature of liberal arts institutions dictates that they provide a range of classes to satisfy the variety of majors they offer. Furman, therefore, boasts a catalog teeming with interesting classes across a spectrum of topics. Given that every student here elected to attend a university with such a wide curriculum, it seems logical that they take advantage of the differing classes offered in each subject area. Not only does student participation in diverse GERs satisfy Furman’s larger mission as a liberal institution, but it maximizes students' experience at school in a flexible manner by exposing them to a variety of subjects.
Unlike other universities with similar requirements, Furman’s GERs can be fulfilled by a variety of classes. Students may need two science classes, but no two students must fulfill that requirement in the same way. If a student chooses, they can avoid dreaded areas and elect to take a more enjoyable, though still equitable, substitute. For example, Human Behavior credits can be satisfied by courses under the broader categories of education, economics and psychology.
Most importantly, stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to take an unknown class is critical to developing valuable experiences. In fact, it was a result of Furman’s GER requirements that I found my major. I came to Furman with a predetermined idea that I was going to major in education. Freshman year, I took sustainability science purely to satisfy my Natural World GER. Yet what I thought would be a “throw-away” class actually inspired a new passion and redirected my choice of major. If not for the GER requirement, I likely would have never explored the field or changed my mind.
GERs can also help undecided majors become decided. Requirements often guide freshman year course selections, and therefore allow for a period of exploration without the worry that classes are being “wasted” in a time of limbo. In fact, GERs are practically never wasted. Even those requirements that seemingly connect to few majors, like the Visual Arts (VA) GER, can actually provide benefits for all majors. For example, a VA credit can help increase creativity and hone one’s eye for design, skills that can be of service in career fields ranging from marketing to accounting.
Though GERs can prove annoying and cumbersome to some Furman schedules, these requirements are ultimately beneficial to the student body. They allow students to graduate with experience in a field beyond their major, and fulfilling such requirements ensures students receive the full and true liberal arts experience they elected into.