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Pathways: KCAD’s New Model for General Education

Posted October 20, 2017 in StudentFaculty

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Portfolio magazine. Read the complete issue here

The surrealism of Salvador Dalí owes much to his study of Freudian psychology. The novels and comics of Neil Gaiman reflect his intense interest in mythology. And fashion designer Iris van Herpen incorporates ideas from fields as varied as philosophy, classical ballet, and particle physics. 
Our creative thoughts and expressions don’t simply materialize from thin air. They’re born from personal experience, for sure. And studying the work of experts in our specific field is a must. But as we consider the great artists and designers— of both today and the past—we find countless examples of individuals drawing inspiration from a deep well of knowledge: in anthropology, religion, sociology, and literature. And we see them responding—whether directly or implicitly—to the wider world around them: to politics, the environment, the media, and pop culture.
At Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD), our General Education program aims to spark curiosity and stimulate creativity, all with the understanding that knowledge gleaned from various fields provides fertile ground for innovative thought. And in the approaching academic year, we’re rolling out a new curriculum, one designed to spark students’ curiosity and stimulate their critical and creative thought.
The curriculum is called Pathways. 
Beginning this fall, all new KCAD students will embark on the Pathways model of general education. It provides three distinct benefits for students:
  1. A broad base of common knowledge
  2. A deeper dive into one area of study
  3. Choice

It works like this: First, students earn 15 credits with the following five courses: Writing, Intro to Narrative Studies, Intro to Cultural Studies, Intro to Philosophy, and a science or math elective.
After gaining exposure to this wide spectrum of knowledge, each student then chooses one of the following pathways:
  • Narrative Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Philosophical Studies
Within their pathway, students take up to four courses (12 credits) related to their area of choice. Those who choose Narrative Studies, for example, might further explore subjects like literature, creative writing, and film. Those in Cultural Studies might pursue psychology, religion, and gender studies. The experience culminates in a 3-credit capstone experience for which each student, in conjunction with a professor, develops a distinct project that builds on what that student has learned thus far.
Put simply, the Pathways model of general education provides structure, choice, and opportunity. It encourages students to pursue passions from outside of their particular disciplines that will no doubt provide further insight, perspective, and inspiration for that same work.
Photography Assistant Professor Leah Gose sees direct benefits of a well-rounded education on her student artists. “Studying liberal arts and sciences in conjunction with studio arts teaches students to understand art from a global perspective and how visual communication can effect change. It’s the difference between making and creating.”
Graphic Design Professor Angela Dow notes a similar effect on her design students, explaining that the Graphic Design program wants its graduates to be equal parts thinkers and creators. Professor Dow helped develop the Pathways curriculum and recognizes the critical role it plays, even within the studio courses. “The practice of graphic design is centered on communication and storytelling, fueled by a deep understanding of people and culture and the level of inquiry it takes to solve complex problems and be resourceful in an industry and world that are constantly evolving. General education is the foundation of these competencies, and without that foundation, a graphic design student would be working with a limited toolbox.”
Because many KCAD students transfer general education credits from other institutions, the college strives to transfer in as many of those credits as possible while still helping these students reap the benefits of KCAD’s unique Pathways experience.
The college and its faculty are excited for new students to experience Pathways and chart new, creative paths forward.
Visit kcad.edu/programs/undergraduate/general-education to learn more about Pathways at KCAD.