College joins national initiative that stresses well-rounded education

05.27.2014 | By Rob Vanya

San Jacinto College has joined a national research initiative of the Association of American Colleges and Universities that stresses the importance of a diverse, well-rounded education for today’s college students.

Known as LEAP Texas (Liberal Education and America’s Promise), the initiative focuses on the importance of comprehensive liberal education for individuals and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality.

Dr. Catherine O’Brien, San Jacinto College associate vice chancellor of learning and assessment, says there is a need to remind the public that technical and workforce training is vital, but academic areas of studies are equally important. “While there is a lot of hype in the media about the need to replace an aging workforce, which is the reason for the emphasis on technical and occupational certificates, the world will still need doctors, lawyers, teachers, research scientists, social workers, bankers, mathematicians – which are all people who earn academic degrees,” O’Brien commented. “Actually, it is all workforce training. One would expect a four-year bachelor’s degree to get you a job, just as an occupational certificate in cosmetology would.”

According to San Jacinto College’s most recent available Graduate Characteristics Report (2012-2013), the College is generally well balanced in regards to granting academic degrees compared to technical degrees and certificates – 1,971 academic transfer degrees, 2,171 occupational or technical certificates, and 925 technical associate degrees. “Some students who received technical associate degrees may have also received occupational or technical certificates, so you cannot add them together,” O’Brien pointed out. “Therefore, we were fairly equally distributed between academic and technical awards.”

With more than 60 institutions involved, LEAP Texas includes 34 two-year colleges, 23 universities, four research flagships, and a private institution with the potential to reach nearly 900,000 students.

According to the LEAP Texas website, as the initiative continues to expand, it will focus on three key areas: leveraging the newly designed Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education for improvement in undergraduate education; creating a capacity for large-scale, inter-institutional collaboration in student assessment; and embedding high-impact practices in undergraduate curriculum.

O’Brien says such collaboration in higher education should help improve learning outcomes. “The focus is on how well students perform on the general education outcomes that are provided in the core curriculum courses: communication, critical thinking, teamwork, social responsibility, personal responsibility, and empirical and quantitative skills,” she commented. “As an institution, San Jacinto College has set a benchmark for achievement of these outcomes, and we’ve adopted the LEAP value rubrics, against which faculty will assess student work. I predict that the results will lead to rich discussions among educators on how to improve student learning.”



About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

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