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Why do I need this class? I’m never going to need math!

Tina Shanahan
February 12, 2016

English composition.  College Algebra.  Psychology. 

When these courses appear on a student’s schedule, he or she may think, “Why do I need this class?  This isn’t something I’ll use every day.” 

Regardless of a student’s major, general education (Gen Ed) classes are beneficial for three key reasons:

#1 – Academic preparation

General education courses cover basic academic skills such as communication, abstract problem solving, and analysis.  These skills are necessary to complete their major’s courses.  At first one might think that a career in IT doesn’t require extensive writing (which we can debate in a future blog) but for school, an instructor might ask IT students to demonstrate their knowledge of current issues in network security by writing an essay.  Another example, perhaps a career in criminal justice won’t require solving algebraic equations, but the quantitiative reasoning skills gained from an introductory algebra course will be necessary when reading and discussing the results of research studies about the impact of community policing.  Learning these skills in Gen Ed classes prepares students for the coursework ahead. 

#2 – Career preparation

Potential employees set themselves apart from other applicants by demonstrating their “soft skills.”  In Gen Ed classes, students learn to write well, think critically and thrive in a diverse community, which are soft skills necessary for success in any profession.  A report from business research consultant Hay Group reveals a disconnect between what recent graduates and employers value most.  Researchers found that 70 percent of recent graduates believe technical skills are more important than people skills, but 90 percent of HR directors and business leaders believe employees with excellent soft skills have a stronger impact on the organization.  Classes that address communication, critical thinking and diversity will set up students for success when they look for an internship and job.

#3 – Community participation and leadership

The impact of Herzing University graduates extend far beyond the workplace and into the community.  In Gen Ed courses, students are empowered to make a difference.  In social science courses, students see how they both shape and are shaped by the world we live in.  In English classes, students practice leadership skills by using their voices effectively to advocate for important issues.  Being engaged in Gen Ed courses helps students see how they can become leaders in their communities.

The good news is that Herzing University prepares students to excel in their careers after graduation by providing job-related knowledge.  The great news is that’s not all.  The reason Herzing University graduates are so successful is that they are well-prepared for anything they encounter in their academic, professional and civic lives.  And it all starts with general education.  

Tina Shanahan is Associate Professor of English at Herzing University and a doctoral student in the Language and Literacy program at Cardinal Stritch University.  She feels grateful every day for the opportunity to work hard at a job she loves, fuel her passion for literacy through her doctoral studies, and raise two young boys.  


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