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New GER requirements meet with diverse reactions

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As students started classes last week, the Class of 2017 freshmen did so with a new set of general education requirements (GERs) on their to-do lists.

The Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing (WAYS) GERs, under which at least 390 courses qualify for credit, is intended to confer students greater flexibility by letting them fulfill requirements with classes from a variety of departments.

The new GERs will require students to take 11 total classes and at least one in each WAYS category: Aesthetic and Interpretive Inquiry, Social Inquiry, Scientific Method and Analysis, Formal Reasoning, Applied Quantitative Reasoning, Engaging Diversity, Ethical Reasoning and Creative Expression.

A variety of current classes can qualify for each category.

For example, PHYSICS 113: Computational Physics is certified to fulfill the Applied Quantitative Reasoning (WAY-AQR) requirement as is EARTHSYS 185: Feeding Nine Billion.

“I like the perspective it gives,” said MacArthur grant recipient David Lobell Ph.D. ’05, instructor for Feeding Nine Billion, of the new GERs. Before his class was certified, he made sure it fit the criteria of the AQR requirement.

“I’m making certain homework assignments and a lot of the in-class activities much more calculation based as opposed to reading and writing essays,” Lobell said. “I think that this will make me feel justified in doing it quite a bit more.”

Lobell’s class will focus on using numbers to reason through arguments, not just the qualitative nature of arguments.

“My expectations are that students will come in with a better understanding of why the calculations might be a useful way of looking at things,” he said.

Other instructors are working on adjusting their class to adapt to changes the requirement may pose, including Daniel Klein AB ’91, the instructor for TAPS 103: Beginning Improvising, which fulfills the Creative Expression requirement.

“The only challenge is really capacity and figuring out how to meet the need,” Klein said. “If my class is also meeting a requirement in the university then I’m anticipating having to turn away some students.”

In response to any capacity issues, Klein anticipates scaling his class by breaking it up into small groups. Despite these strains on capacity, however, he said he is excited for the new WAYS requirements.

“I like that the University is expanding the offerings to meet the needs of the entire student body,” Klein said. “I’ve seen a number of different attempts at these various graduation requirements, and I like this one.”

But not all freshman in the Class of 2017 were as excited for the new set of GERs.

“You have all the classes you have to do for your major, and you have to cram all of your WAYS in by the time you graduate,” said Grace Tam ’17.

However, Tam also said she liked that the requirements give students more room to explore and become a more well-rounded person.

Other students didn’t find the new GERs quite as daunting.

“I think that they intimidate us with it in the beginning, but once we start researching it, it’s actually easy to fulfill the requirements,” said Sharon Kam ’17, a potential biology major.

Brandon Schow ’15 said that, even though he isn’t required to fulfill the requirements as an upperclassman, he liked the range of classes the WAYS requirements allow students to take.

“I know that you’re able to use dance classes, and that could be really cool,” Schow said.

Contact Brittany Torrez at btorrez@stanford.edu.