What Are Your General Education Requirements?

by UMaineCLASAdvisingCenter

Every undergraduate student on campus, regardless of college or major, is required to fulfill specific General Education requirements. Interestingly, many students have a very limited understanding as to what these requirements are. So today we’ll go over the purpose of your Gen-Eds and what they are. For easy reference, you can also watch our video on General Education Requirements.

Students often wonder what the purpose of General Education courses are. Why should a student majoring in Chemistry have to take an art course? Or why should a History major have to take a math course? After all, these General Education courses often seem far removed from the courses for one’s major or minor. In a very real sense, though, that is the point. According to the Undergraduate Catalog, “every University of Maine academic program is based upon a strong foundation in the liberal arts and sciences. The University’s goal is to ensure that all of its graduates, regardless of the academic major they pursued, are broadly educated persons who can appreciate the achievements of civilization, understand the tensions within it, and contribute to resolving them.” To put it more simply, the point of an education is not to give you a vocation, it is to give you a broader world view, to help you understand the world around you and show you how interconnected everything is. This broader perspective will allow you to become a much more critical thinker and to become much more analytical, something very different from any vocational training.

So, what are the General Education requirements? There are six categories of Gen-Eds, and though there is some overlap, they are each different aspects of a liberal arts & sciences education. A full list of courses that fulfill each category can be found in the Undergraduate Catalog. The categories are:

1) Ethics. Students must take a minimum of one class that explores ethical issues, discussing society’s conceptions of right and wrong on a moral continuum.

2) Human Values and Social Context. This particular category requires 18 credits and has five subcategories, each of which much be satisfied. While some classes can fulfill multiple subcategories, they only count towards the 18 credit requirement once. The subcategories are:

  • Western Cultural Tradition – These classes explore western thought and ideology from its earliest foundations through its evolution into our present culture.

  • Social Context & Institutions – These courses explore societies on a larger, more global scale, allowing them and their constituent parts to be viewed in context with and/or in juxtaposition of other societies.

  • Cultural Diversity & International Perspectives – These classes expose students to cultures and ideas beyond our own.

  • Population & The Environment – These courses explore the interplay between man and the environment, his influence on the environment and how it influences him.

  • Artistic & Creative Expression – These are classes that require artistic or creative output of some sort, and they range from traditional art courses to writing to theatre or dance.

3) Mathematics. Students must take two courses that are grounded in mathematics, which can include statistics or computer science. Though there are multiple Computer Science courses that fulfill the math requirement, only one may be used for that purpose.

4) Sciences. Students are required to take two biological or physical science courses. One of these classes must have a laboratory component. The other can have a lab component, but it is not required.

5) Writing Competency. It is commonly accepted that good writing is the hallmark of an educated individual. The University of Maine thus requires extensive writing throughout most of its undergraduate programs. As such, all students must take ENG 101, College Composition, plus two writing intensive courses. One of these writing intensive courses must be within your major, and as such, each major has at least one writing intensive course. The second writing intensive course can be chosen from any field.

6) Capstone Experience. Every program contains a capstone experience. The output of this experience is a project that draws together all that the student has learned in their major and would be representative of the work that a professional in that field would do. It is the culmination of the student’s undergraduate career and is typically done during the senior year.

The Office of Student Records website provides a worksheet that lists the different requirements and gives you a place to fill in the courses that you’ve taken. We strongly recommend that you keep up-to-date on where you are in terms of fulfilling each of these requirements. There is little worse than finding on the eve of graduation that you are one Gen-Ed shy of actually being finished.