As spring semester reaches midterm week, the seniors of LaGrange College prepare to don their caps and gowns and walk across the stage for their diplomas. High school seniors are doing the same thing, and those that are choosing LaGrange for their next four years are getting ready to enter under the Ethos system. This will be the first freshman class that will solely consist of Ethos students.
The Core curriculum, the previous general education system in place, is prepping to be fully replaced by the Ethos system. Dr. Jon Ernstberger, Director of General Education, helps new students and faculty to understand Ethos and how it helped evolve from its predecessor. To understand Ethos, one must go to the mission statement at the basis of the curriculum. In ancient Greek, “ethos” was the word for an informed citizen’s character. The goal was to become an individual of courageous aspiration and sound moral judgement. The Ethos program is the soul of LaGrange College’s commitment to the liberal arts tradition. It is a promise to prepare students to be curious and creative global citizens.
The Ethos curriculum is not a random assortment of classes that some might think. Dr. Ernstberger discussed that the foundation of Ethos was carefully researched before it was presented before the faculty in the summer of 2016. “Over that fall,” Ernstberger stated, “the faculty ratified the new curriculum. We intentionally chose to get it into practice and functional as soon as possible. We have been putting the plane together in the air, so to speak.” While the process of getting Ethos off the ground might have been rocky, it was carefully done and methodically planned. Faculty used 2017 to put structures in place within the faculty council in order to manage the new system, and in the spring of 2018, the full Ethos council began to meet.
Of course, the change from Core to Ethos was not immediate. The Bridge Plan Program was designed for those students in the unique situation of attending LaGrange College during this transition. It served as a link between the two curriculums and, in a way, it was a hybridization of both. It serves mainly as a way to show the improvements and strengths of Ethos while it was getting off the ground. “We are still in a benchmarking phase [with Ethos]. We are learning in our new metrics, and we are also training faculty and staff in the general understanding of what this new curriculum is about,” Dr. Ernstberger explained.
While Ethos may be the new curriculum, it was largely inspired by the successes of the Core system. Dr. Ernstberger notes that a lot of good work was completed under the Core system, and it was a strong platform to improve upon. But with every good foundation, there is always room for ways to make things better. Ernstberger commented, “I would say that the Ethos was built with recognized high impact practices in mind. We were already using some of those in the Core curriculum.”
Part of a way that Ethos was an improvement involves class choices, both for faculty and students. The intent was to allow faculty more choices in what to offer as part of the liberal arts education. “It gave programs the opportunity to choose what they wanted to put forward rather than always looking the same,” Ernstberger said. “It also allowed some departments to take ownership, rather than just contribute to the discussion.”
Students are now offered more choices with what courses they take for general education. There is more flexibility so that students can take courses that may appeal to them. Ernstberger pointed out that this flexibility gives students the greatest opportunity to grow. With more variety in Ethos classes as general education requirements, students are encouraged to study classes outside of their majors to expand their horizons.
Dr. Ernstberger explained the difference in choice for classes by comparing Ethos and Core in terms of math courses. Previously, only one class would stand to fulfill the applied mathematics requirement: problem solving. Under Ethos, more courses can fill for this requirement. This branching out for choices applies to departments college wide.
Another key part of Ethos includes the Ethos portfolio. This new requirement of students is a compilation of skills from all departments. “It is an underrated component, but it is a real opportunity for people. With the portfolio, after college, students can show employers how they have grown and how well they can do in a variety of areas,” Ernstberger explained. He also commented on the growth of students from their first year to fourth year, and explained that the portfolio is a key part of this. It is a way to show the student’s individual skill growth in areas outside of their major that may still be attractive to employers. Ethos also aims to help students become more well-rounded, both for the workforce and globally. The Cornerstone classes offer a chance to study the pillars of LaGrange College and to incorporate our school’s themes into the general education. Part of the focus is on globalization for students. With the rapid electronic expansion during the twenty-first century, students are more connected from country to country than ever before. This is a way to prepare students not only for their major courses, but also as a way to ready themselves for the workforce.
Gabriel Griffith is a junior history major with a minor in military history. He is from Newnan, GA and is a frequent contributor to The Hilltop News.