Case Western Reserve University students are all too aware of the struggle of Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship classes, or SAGES, as it’s known to most students. Whether it is finding a topic that interests us, that one specific class we were told about that requires the least amount of work or the act of registering for the class when competing with hundreds of students for 15 spots, SAGES is often negatively thought of as just another obligatory thing we must complete in order to fulfill our graduation requirements.
However, SAGES classes are, in theory, a good and important thing—especially at a research and STEM heavy school such as CWRU. Our SAGES curriculum is meant to replace the standard general education requirements of most other universities. As such, it offers students the opportunity to reach across disciplines and participate in a small, discussion-based class meant to bolster writing, analytical and communication skills.
As many students are pursuing STEM degrees, it is critical these students still be exposed to skills that are otherwise concentrated in the soft sciences and humanities. However, as many students quickly learn upon taking their first seminar, there seems to be a disconnect between the goals of SAGES and the execution. Primarily, these hiccups come in the form of bulky administrative structures. So, in good news, the university has begun the process of dismantling the SAGES program and replacing it with the CWRU (Undergraduate) General Education Requirements, or CWRUGER.
Setting the name aside (which is in dire need of some TLC), the new program will seek to remedy some administrative problems with the SAGES program for the betterment of both students and faculty. While on the surface level, many of the changes seem insignificant, such as changing the name of the program and courses, the notable proposed changes appear promising.
The first-year seminar in SAGES, traditionally a 4-credit class to account for events during 4th hour, will be replaced with the Academic Inquiry Seminar, a 3-credit class that will be offered on a variety of topics, still emphasizing reading and writing. One additional proposal for the new first semester seminar will include courses focused on research or community engagement. As a student body that is often criticized—justifiably so—for living in a bubble, incorporating community-oriented classes and opportunities may be an excellent way to encourage students to better engage with people and organizations within the Cleveland community.
The administrative change that is certainly most exciting in CWRUGER will be the ability of current university seminars to translate into credit for other degrees or requirements. The university seminars, to be replaced with “writing/communication-intensive courses,” will be coded by the department in which they fall. While this may count little for STEM students, it will make a significant difference for those in the social sciences and humanities. That is, a current university seminar that is a philosophy class taught by professors within that department is currently coded only as a SAGES class. Once the new system is in place, this course will be able to count for philosophy credit.
In addition, different departments will not be forced into offering a certain number of writing seminars. Instead, the available classes will be a result of willingness on behalf of the department from which they are taught. This seemingly minor, but significant, change will hopefully produce only captivating seminars, rather than dull classes in which the professor is clearly distracted or otherwise uninterested in teaching the class.
Based on the proposed timeline, as of December, the CWRUGER program will be first implemented for the 2021-2022 school year. The program will only be for the incoming class, while all non-first year students will still be required to finish their SAGES requirements. What remains to be clarified is how the transition period, while two different general education requirement programs are running, will work.
The desired transition away from the SAGES program towards CWRUGER seems promising, at least as it stands in its December proposed phase. The program will be reorganized to help ensure students are actively learning soft skills that can be translated out of the class and into applicable academic, networking and additional real-life scenarios.