Making General Ed Cool Again

Oh, general education classes.

You know, those mandatory non-major courses everyone begrudgingly signs up for as freshmen and sometimes—okay, usually—puts off until the last semester? While many may view these classes as a tedious check-list, Patti Freeman, former chair of the Department of Recreational Management and newly appointed associate dean for Undergraduate Studies, hopes to rekindle the excitement.

Looking back on her own BYU education, Freeman admits there were courses, like humanities and literature, that, if given the option, she probably would have never taken. However, her new position has reminded her of the value that GE courses have to offer. “We get so caught up in being career ready that we tend to think a liberal arts education is unnecessary,” Freeman says. “But in my life, some of the most valuable things I learned were taught in my GE courses.”

Freeman explains that GE courses can cultivate a newfound appreciation for culture, history, and art. “When I walk into an art museum or visit a monument like the Parthenon in Greece—which I had the opportunity to do this summer—I have this appreciation and understanding because I was provided with a liberal arts education,” Freeman says.

GE courses can heighten life experience and Freeman is a firm believer that experiences help shape us into the people we ultimately become. After all, her inspiration and motivation in becoming a recreational management professor was an accumulation of her life experiences.

Spending summers at her parents’ cabin in Christmas Meadows, Utah, cultivated her love for the outdoors. Serving a full-time LDS mission in Albuquerque, New Mexico, made her realize she enjoyed interacting with people, specifically in a teaching environment; and after testing out a wide spectrum of majors and receiving some mentorship from a beloved professor, Freeman came to understand that while accounting and elementary education were interesting, recreational management was what she was truly passionate about.

Freeman was chair of the Department of Recreational Management for nine years and hopes to take some of what she learned and apply it to her new position. “Being the department chair taught me to think globally,” Freeman says. “As associate dean I have the opportunity to think even broader, beyond a specific department, and focus on accomplishing university initiatives; specifically around Undergraduate Studies and general education.”

She hopes that faculty teaching general education courses realize that contributions made to a holistic education can truly benefit every student’s life. “Probably the most rewarding thing as department chair is to see different faculty contributions and to recognize the positive differences that faculty members can make in a student’s life,” Freeman says. “Faculty who teach general education courses have the ability to impact students all across campus,” Freeman says. “That’s pretty cool.”