September 21, 2023

College of Arts and Sciences serves as gateway to CSU

College of Arts and ScienceYou gotta start somewhere, as they say.

And the majority of CSU students typically start their educational journey via the “gateway college” or the College of Arts and Sciences.

“The ultimate purpose of the college is to provide an academic foundation students will take with them throughout their academic and professional careers,” according to Traci Frees, Department Chair of the General Studies for the College of Arts and Sciences.

General Studies (also known as general education) courses are tailored to meet the needs of the students and elective courses of the online degree programs offered at CSU. As a student progresses through the college, in their freshman and sophomore years, he/she learns basic skills that build a foundation for future academic and professional success.  These include reading comprehension, critical thinking, communication skills (oral and written), information literacy, and quantitative reasoning.

General education courses in the College of Arts and Sciences provide students the tools they need to apply and evaluate concepts they will encounter in their upper-level degree courses. The faculty work with students to build a foundation that will ensure academic success at CSU.  Students may not realize it, but general studies classes provide an opportunity for student to develop skills and knowledge that will be applied later and contribute to their efforts in completing their degree program.

“The instruction that I have received in the general studies at CSU has been above reproach,” said Mary Ann Gomes. ” It has been many years since I have been in an educational setting as a student, and CSU has proven to me that online learning is as challenging as it is rewarding.”

“The instructors and professors are so willing to lend a helping hand to answer questions, be sounding boards, and give constructive and positive feedback when necessary,” added Gomes, who is a seeking a bachelor’s degree in health care administration.

Jon Parker, who is pursing an online fire science degree, said his general studies courses, American History and Student Learning Successes, “were both challenging and achievable and the instruction and feedback that professor [Jennifer] Powell and professor [Brian] Collier gave were excellent.”

“I was not expecting to actually have that much interaction with the professors. What I enjoyed most about the courses is that I could work at my own pace and on my own schedule and still learn things that I had forgotten or failed to retain from my younger school years,” said Parker.

The college currently offers two degree programs, an Associate of Arts in General Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. There are more than 90 faculty members within the college with a Lead Faculty aligned to each discipline. These individuals serve as subject matter experts and mentors for various issues their faculty members encounter.

The college’s first degree program, Associate of Arts in General Studies, features approximately 1,000 enrollees who want an academic preparation for a professional career and/or basis to pursue baccalaureate study.

“Essentially, this degree provides a solid foundation based in composition, mathematics, sciences, humanities, social science and technology. In the degree program, the student’s scholarly skills (e.g., reading comprehension, critical thinking, etc.) are developed and refined as the student matriculates,” said Frees.

Perhaps the most popular course in the College of Arts and Sciences is American Military History I.  A recent survey attested to this with comments such as “I love military history and this was one of the course that grabbed my attention. American Military History is how our country came to be; to me this is where America began and continues to evolve” or “I chose this course because I recently got out of the United States Marine Corps. Military history has always been something that that intrigued me. Everyone needs to have a thorough understanding of how military history has played a part in development of today’s society.”

The latter comment is reveals a common opinion of why American Military History I is a hot topic. One of the class’s instructors and lead faculty, Robert Finger, who has taught at CSU for two years, explained.

“I can imagine that CSU’s large military population has a lot to do with those populations, but also believe that much of that success is due to the courses being very effectively written and well taught by multiple professors across the department,” Finger said. “It also serves as an effective introduction into a side of American history that can sometimes be limited in more traditional survey courses.”

As a professor of other CSU history courses, Finger stressed the value of learning about the past. “History is a fundamental element of a well-rounded education; one that can attract students from multiple disciplines. History can also be an excellent complement to most other educational fields and allow perspective into varied subjects,” he said.

Courses in Civil War and World War II are being explored  as are remedial classes in math, English, reading comprehension, introduction to computers and English as a Second Language. “We are examining the remedial courses to improve retention rates and help our students who may have forgotten these skills. We want students to succeed and we are working to make sure they can reach their goals,” Frees said.

The second degree program is a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  Dr. Bethany Lohr, a licensed clinical psychologist who has been an educator for more than 13 years serves as the lead faculty for psychology She teaches courses in general, social and health psychology and research methods in psychology.

“I have always loved teaching and passing on my love for psychology to students,” Lohr said. “I love working with CSU students and teaching in online education. CSU students bring a diverse background into the online classroom for lively and interactive discussion and critical thinking from many perspectives.”

For those seeking a psychology degree, Lohr suggests taking at least two courses, i.e. general psychology and an elective in any area of particular interest, to see if it fits your interests and expectations. “Psychology is a broad field of studying behavior. CSU offers a wide range of courses covering this breadth, ranging from abnormal psychology to industrial-organizational psychology,” she added.

Lohr points out that the degree helps students develop good critical thinking skills, good basic research skills, APA writing skills and the ability to apply these to studying and understanding human behavior. In fact, Frees added that the psychology degree program marries well with criminology as both delve into the human condition. Currently, more than 600 students are enrolled in the psychology degree program.

“The benefits of a CSU psychology degree are the opportunity to take a variety of courses spanning the diverse field of psychology, the flexibility of choosing your offerings within the psychology courses, as well as the flexibility of term versus open-enrollment sections,” she explained, adding that CSU has wide variety of psychology professors who are practicing psychologists and experts in their fields.

Frees also said the college is examining and investigating possible degree programs to add as well as reviewing the current courses in an effort “to make sure all our classes provide a strong educational foundation for CSU students.”