First generation Pathways problems

The Pathways curriculum is not as straightforward as the name suggests. As a junior, I’ve been attempting to navigate this curriculum with little success since its implementation in the fall of 2015. Only a few of the requirements — fitness education, quantitative reasoning, natural sciences, digital literacy and the ever-notorious First Year Experience (FYE) — have been one-stop shops to fulfill. My peers and I have spent countless hours during each registration season discussing the multitudes of grievances regarding almost every facet of the curriculum’s requirements and how they make us feel powerless. I am not here to argue against the merits of a liberal arts education, of which there are many, but rather to moan about the sloppiness in which it has been implemented recently at Trinity.

Compared to the simple Common Curriculum, which includes comprehensive requirements and a large list of classes that fulfill each, Pathways is stressfully convoluted. This includes the six main requirements — all of which I had to research in order to write this: the First Year Experience (FYE), Approaches to Creation and Analysis, the Core Capacities, the Interdisciplinary Cluster, the Major and Fitness Education. Of these six, four have around six sub-categories that require one or two classes each.

I’d liken Pathways to an obstacle course, one that has to be navigated while treading water with a blindfold on. Every time I felt like I was beginning to head in the right direction and complete a requirement, I’d fumble backwards at the realization that both classes for a single requirement have two prerequisites and aren’t offered until three semesters later.

These complications and frustrations seem to stem from the fact that most classes Trinity offers are not yet under Pathways. From what I understand, it is a lengthy, paperwork-heavy process for professors to get just a single course approved under Pathways, and I sympathize with those who have been doing so for the past two years. But, according to the information I’ve gleaned from my advisors and professors, the requirements for approval are very restrictive and discount otherwise strong classes.

For example, take the description for oral and visual communication (OVC) requirement, part of the Core Capacities: “Two designated courses that require significant oral presentation supported by visual products and provide substantial instruction in oral and visual communication.”

As an art minor, I have taken one lower-level and three upper-level studio classes, all of which have encompassed the research, creation and in-class critique of personal work. But I won’t be done with the first of the two-class OVC requirements until the end of this semester. This is because the lower-level sculpture class I am taking this fall is the first of my art classes to fulfill the basic guideline of having a power point presentation assignment, of all things. Who knew that students could communicate in ways other than reading off slides?

This restrictive approval process also hurts students who plan on spending a semester abroad. Most courses offered at foreign universities are not approved by the registrar’s office, ultimately making it hard to take classes for anything other than a major during that time.

Because professors are still just starting this course approval process, many classes are being added into the curriculum every semester in a hodge-podge manner, which is less than ideal for students on an eight-semester-long time crunch. Just imagine the vast course options next year’s incoming first years will have upon registration compared to what my confused peers and I experienced two years ago. This is what really set me back because, as an undeclared first-year, there were plenty of introductory-level courses I wanted to sample, but I felt bound to the demanding Pathways curriculum. Many of the classes offered are narrowly focused with limiting prerequisites.

Even the university’s example schedule for a student taking pathways for eight semesters — typically four years — includes a disclaimer saying that it doesn’t necessarily account for pre- or co-requisites. It would be an understatement to say that I would’ve appreciated it if the university had waited until most classes had undergone the vetting process for Pathways before they put it into action.

I regret that I’ve realized my predicament and constructed my argument against Pathways too late in the game. I’ve done a lot of complaining, but at least I’ve gotten through the thick of it with my lovely advisors Kate Ritson and Shana McDermott. Who knows, I may become a super senior — keep an eye out for some more of my complaints in the fall of 2019!