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A Common Experience for All Undergraduates

General Education History at UC Merced


In response to the 2014-2015 academic program review of UC Merced’s General Education Program, the General Education Subcommittee (GESC) of Undergraduate Council (UGC) began redesigning General Education (GE) at UC Merced. The process was guided by the outcomes of the program review and a parallel process that has engaged community members in discussions related to the mission, outcomes, and curriculum for GE at UC Merced. 

A brief description of activities related to the redesign follow immediately below. Please visit "Key Steps" in the Table of Contents to see a more detailed account.

The General Education Program Redesign Proposal engaged both campus stakeholders and external reviewers in a two-year process including:

· A GE Campus Retreat 2014 that engaged faculty and staff in establishing expectations for a baccalaureate degree at UC Merced and the role of general education in serving those expectations. This work served as the basis for the Program Review Self-Study as well as the Hallmarks of the UCM Baccalaureate Degree;

· An Academic Program Review including a GE Self-Study and an External Review. The Academic Program Review provided the GESC with recommendations and guidelines for creating a GE Program at UCM;

· Consultation and adoption of the Hallmarks of the UCM Baccalaureate Degree as a representation of the goals, purposes, and intended outcomes of a UC Merced undergraduate degree; and

· A second GE Campus Retreat 2015 that developed a mission and program learning outcomes for UC Merced General Education.

In the 2015-2016 academic year, the GESC used this information to take steps towards finalizing a framework for a new GE curriculum by creating:

· A GE Program Proposal and Action Plan -- circulated for feedback to the Undergraduate Council (UGC) and the Periodic Review Oversight Committee (PROC); and

· A draft GE Curriculum Proposal -- circulated for feedback in summer 2016 to UGC, faculty, staff participants in the 2014 and 2015 GE retreats, and the Dean’s Council.

​In the fall of 2016, the penultimate draft of the GE program was created.  It was then circulated to campus faculty for another round of commentary during the following March and April 2017.  The GESC took careful consideration of the faculty comments and amended the plan accordingly (see Final GE Proposal 04-27-17).  In late spring 2017, the new GE Program Proposal was submitted to the Senate faculty for a vote, and it was affirmed.  After the vote, the proposal proceeded through the Senate approval process in May 2017.  

In the 2017- 2018 academic year, the GESC will engage campus stakeholders in the implementation of the new program, which is scheduled to receive its first cohort of students in the fall of 2018.  


I. GE Program Review

According to Assessment at UC Merced: “Program review at UC Merced is intended to ensure students are learning what the faculty intends to teach, that a program's educational efforts are appropriate to a diverse student body, and that the benefits of scholarly inquiry inform educational processes and outcomes. In design, program review is intended to be both formative, in that it shapes the actions of a program in its ongoing development, and summative, in that it identifies particular issues and problems that may need to be addressed and identifies actions required to address such issues and problems.” The review of General Education (GE) was designed to achieve these purposes.

(a) GE Self-Study

Academic program review of General Education was launched in spring 2014 as the General Education Subcommittee (GESC) began a self-study. UC Merced’s policy on review of undergraduate academic programs states that the purpose of a program self-study is “to facilitate the program’s development of a shared understanding of its present circumstances and direction and communicate that understanding to PROC, to the external review team, and to campus stakeholders and leadership. The self-study also initiates the program’s strategic planning in regards to the review, connecting the program’s long term planning to its institutional context (Undergraduate Program Review, page 11).”

The GESC conducted an analysis of the GE Program that included information gathered from the 2014 GE Retreat, student and faculty surveys, and other forms of assessment. Interviews with school curriculum committees and by-law units provided valuable information about faculty perceptions and expectations of GE at UC Merced. The GE Self-Study was completed in January 2015 in advance of the site visit of the External Review Team.

(b) GE External Review

In February 2015, an external team visited campus.

The review team was composed of national experts on General Education and their task was to conduct an independent evidence-based assessment of GE at UCM, including areas of strength, challenges, areas for improvement, and future plans and directions. To make this assessment, the review team drew upon the self-study, as well as interviews during the site visit and their knowledge of research, scholarship, and national trends regarding general education. The external review team spent two days on campus and interviewed faculty (Senate and non-Senate from all three schools), staff members (e.g., academic advisors, assessment coordinators), and students about their experiences with, assessment of, and recommendations for GE at UC Merced.

Responding to UC Merced’s self-study and information gathered from the site visit, the review team produced its report, “UC Merced General Education Academic Program Review: Report of the Review Team,” in March 2015 (see External Review). 

Key recommendations in the review team’s report were:

(1) Significant reconsideration of content and delivery for a new GE Program. This program would be comprehensive, providing a curriculum and experiences for all UCM undergraduates, regardless of major, across all four years of enrollment. Therefore, GE at UC Merced would be a broadly inclusive and coherent academic program, rather than a collection of course requirements that differ by major and by school;

(2) A GE Program that is reflective of our campus context as a small research university located in the Central Valley with an undergraduate student body unique in the UC;

(3) Structures for allocating appropriate resources and incentives to engage Senate faculty in the oversight and delivery of the GE Program;

(4) Creation of a clear mission and goals for GE at UC Merced, program learning outcomes to achieve those goals, and a plan for assessment of student learning in the GE Program.

II. GE Program Redesign

(a) Faculty-Staff Retreats ​

(i) Retreat May 2014

As part of the process of developing the GE self-study and preparing for the GE Program review, the GESC organized a campus retreat to envision the framework of a revised general education program, including defining the hallmarks of baccalaureate degrees from UC Merced. Creating a GE Program appropriate for UC Merced undergraduates requires having a clear, shared understanding of campus expectations for our baccalaureate degrees in general. In August 2014, a summary of the GE Retreat 2014 was provided to participating faculty and staff members.

(ii) Retreat June 2015

To begin the process of responding to, and acting on, the recommendations of the external review team, the GESC conducted a second faculty-staff retreat, summarized in GE Retreat 2015. This retreat was devoted to developing (1) guiding principles and a mission for a GE Program at UC Merced and (2) program learning outcomes aligned with that mission.

(b) Hallmarks of the UCM Baccalaureate Degree

During AY 2014-2015, the GESC distributed a draft copy of the Hallmarks of the UCM Baccalaureate Degree to faculty members in all three schools for the purposes of obtaining feedback about the draft. Faculty were asked to consider the extent to which the Hallmarks, as proposed, were consistent with their understandings of the goals, purposes, and intended outcomes of baccalaureate degrees at UC Merced. After this process, a final version of the Hallmarks was shared with, and endorsed by, Undergraduate Council.

At the conclusion of these activities, the creation and adoption of the Hallmarks of the Baccalaureate Degree served as a foundation for the proposal of a new General Education Program at UC Merced, including a GE Mission Statement and GE Program Learning Outcomes, including a GE Mission Statement and GE Program Learning Outcomes.

(c) General Education Mission and Outcomes

The GESC completed a draft of the mission and outcomes in fall 2015, and in February 2016 these documents were provided to faculty and staff for commentary and feedback. A final version of the Mission and Program Learning Outcomes, based on the feedback received, was completed in March 2016.

(d) Proposal Development

The Hallmarks, the GE Mission Statement, and the GE Program Learning Outcomes served as the framework for drafting a new curriculum for GE at UC Merced. In the fall of 2015, the GESC formulated an action plan for GE redesign, including a program proposal template. The Template and Action Plan were submitted to Undergraduate Council and the Periodic Review Oversight Committee via memo November 19, 2015. Both PROC and UGC approved plan.

Throughout AY 2015-2016, the GESC worked on multiple drafts of a proposed redesign of the UCM GE Program. In addition, a subcommittee of the GESC worked on a plan for resources for the new program. Although the draft redesign was not to be determined by resources, resources would be essential to implementing the final program.

(e) Proposal Review

On June 24, 2016, the GESC’s draft curriculum proposal was circulated to UGC, Deans Council, and all participants from the May 2014 and June 2015 GE retreats. The recipients of the draft were asked to consider the proposal in light of the Hallmarks, the mission of GE at UC Merced, and the GE Program Learning Outcomes, and they were asked to comment on the alignment of the draft with these important documents.

During the AY 2016-2017, the GESC continued the process of obtaining feedback about the draft proposal for the redesigned GE Program. Extensive opportunities, both in-person and electronic, for comments and suggestions were offered to the campus community, including faculty, staff, and students.

The GESC incorporated the feedback it received into a final proposal for a new GE Program for UC Merced, which can be viewed at Final GE Proposal 04-27-17.

(f) The New GE Program

In the spring of 2017, the new GE Program Proposal was submitted to the Senate faculty for a vote, and it was affirmed.  After the vote, the proposal successfully proceeded throughout the Senate approval process in May 2017. 

(h) Program Update

The new GE curriculum was offered to the first cohort of students in the fall of 2018 and the Inaugural Chair of the GE Program was hired, Valerie Leppert. An interim GE Executive Committee was appointed and the implementation of the GE program began.

Permanent bylaws were adopted in fall of 2019. 


The General Education Subcommittee can be contacted at