Focal Studies: Good in theory, not in application

posted in: Opinion | 0

Focal studies are an asset to Pacific, whether some students value them or despise them. They’re a requirement for graduation and could be useful for our future endeavors.

Many students have voiced their despise for focal studies; the amounts of classes that are required, the selection of courses and how they apply to the requirements of math and science major.

Sophomore biology major Janae Rasmussen said that it would be easier to complete focal studies if there was an option to “double dip,” as in choose classes from more than two sections.

Rasmussen mentioned that she has been mapping out her courses in order to graduate in the four years, worrying those focal studies will hold her back from her hopes of graduating in 2016. Rasmussen said, “as a science major, there’s so many required labs for each class that take up so much time,” making it difficult for her to find time in her schedule for her focal study courses.

“Maybe if labs were shorter, I could fit in time for other courses that are required.”

Even with taking 18 credits per semester, Rasmussen feels like she can’t keep up with the university’s requirements, along with participating in speech and debate and being a resident assistant.

Rasmussen also brought up the point that Pacific requires humanities courses in the core requirements and believes that those courses already help create that “well-rounded” liberal arts education.

Dave Boersema said that the goal a few years ago was to enhance a liberal arts education to give students a broader experience.

“The value of a liberal arts education in enhancing all different areas is great,” he said.

Boersema also said that focal studies can really make us better people, with the variety of courses ranging from science to gender studies to political science to philosophy.

He added that focal studies were designed to implement what you wanted to take with core requirement.

Boersema said too many students see the focal studies as a chore, rather than an opportunity to expand their horizons and really take their knowledge to the next step. Part of the blame also falls on advisors for treating them as a chore.

The Advising Center Director, Gretchen Potter, said that she feels for the students when it comes to focal studies. “This year’s seniors were the first class under the focal study requirement since they were first implemented, so they have been there since the beginning,” Potter said.

Gretchen also mentioned that there is confusion among students on what focal studies are intended to be. Before focal studies, there were additional requirements from the university as part of the core requirements, and focal studies replaced a few of those requirements.

“It’s still the same amount of requirements to graduate,” said Potter. “I think students wonder why they’re having to do additional courses, when really there isn’t anything extra. Focal studies are part of the core requirements.”

Focal studies, Potter also mentions, are intended to be interdisciplinary, and not part of students’ majors. The point is to get a broad liberal arts education, given that this is a liberal arts college.

She also mentioned, that faculty can create focal studies and add courses for students to take. There is possibility in the future for additional science and math courses for students who are interested in those subjects.

She also aknowledged the rumors of students not graduating on time due to unfulfilled focal studies requirements and mentioned that she has yet to have seen it since the focal studies have been a requirement for graduation.

“The more common reasons for students having to come back for an extra semester is for not having the required 40 upper-division credits, as well as the 52 credit rule stating that only 52 credits can be in courses in a student’s major discipline,” Potter said.

One thing that Potter suggests is for students to plan their focal studies as far in advance as possible, to leave that room for planning the courses and mapping out when you will take which courses for graduation.

A great tool Gretchen mentions as well is keeping track on Boxer Online. Under the student tab there is a link for Program Evaluation.

She also mentioned to keep in mind that just because you “declare” your focal studies doesn’t mean they are set in stone; you are able to change your courses for focal studies at any time.


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