Focal Studies

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Love them or hate them, focal studies are a requirement for Pacific University students.

While there are 59 different focal studies to choose from, picking two to complete over a four-year span is not easy.

The main idea of focal studies is for students to obtain a diverse education. The university encourages students to take classes outside their major.

However, after speaking with alumni and current students, many students choose focal studies that seem to be the quickest and easiest ones without creating extra work for themselves.

Lisa Carstens, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences said there has been a constant review of the focal studies program and core requirements.

After reviewing the results from the review board, the general consensus from the faculty is to not rush into a change that Band-Aids the problem.

“Things move slow in curriculum change,” Carstens said.

There have been rumors circling about changes to the focal studies programs but Carstens said they are strictly rumors at this point and no change will be made in the near future.

After speaking with a diverse number of students, focal studies are a good idea but the way they are executed could be the problem.

Being required to complete focal studies as a core requirement can limit the opportunities students have to take classes they want to take.

“This summer there was a core task force that studied the best practices in general education with what we were doing right with core and what we can improve on,” Carstens said.

There is a faculty meeting this week to vote on a motion to assemble a board that will continue the focal studies review this year.

An idea that Carstens shared that could count as a focal study is a minor that is out of the student’s discipline.

Another idea is that there could be a junior level course that can provide students with the connections that interdisciplinary study is supposed to do.

Carstens said these changes should be about a three-year process.

The review board will be reaching out to a vast number of students to find a consensus among students about focal studies and how they could be changed to better outfit the core requirements and the curriculum students will have.

While a change is not in the near future, focal studies are being continually looked at and Carstens is glad to get current students more involved in the process.

There is talk of a possible open forum for the student body, faculty and staff to share opinions about focal studies and possible solutions.

“What we haven’t done is a larger forum and I think that would be fantastic and it would be really timely to do that this semester so the feedback could go into the process,” Carstens said.


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