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Introducing Integratus — Saint Mary’s approach to integrated education

January 12, 2021

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Saint Mary’s has renamed its general education program as Integratus, a word with Latin roots associated with Catholic intellectual tradition. Integratus, previously known as the Integrated General Education Program (IGEP), is a form of the verb meaning to renew or make whole, which is what the general education program does.

With Integratus, each student completes one of four interdisciplinary minors to accompany their major field of study just by completing the general education requirements. This minor would be an addition to a minor or second major the student might choose; it doesn’t replace anything. The renaming comes as an effort to help the program stand out.

“The thought was not necessarily to discount the old justification for gen ed, which is to give breadth that complements depth, but to work on making that breadth meaningful and connect all the elements together — including majors, activities, and student life — rather than leaving it up to the students to make those connections on their own,” said Carolyn Ayers, Ph.D., associate dean of general education and professor of English and world languages.

Under a traditional general education model, courses are basic and do not explicitly integrate with other courses students may be taking as part of their chosen field of study. Integratus expands across all four years of a student’s undergraduate experience, integrates learning at each stage, and prompts students to reflect on their learning.

“The program is very up-to-date with current best practices in pedagogy and in the field of higher ed,” said Dr. Ayers, who copresented on this program in its early stages with Adam Potthast, interim director of Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT), twice at the Association for General and Liberal Studies and once at the Association for Assessment of Learning in Higher Education.

Created over several years of faculty work through a collaborative process, the program is in its third year; the first full class to have gone through this integrated educational experience will graduate in 2021-22.

“We’ve seen really good retention rates, particularly from the first-year experience. Students are seeing it as more meaningful and integrated,” said Dr. Ayers. “We’ve gotten really good feedback. The program is very much cutting edge.”

Dr. Ayers says some schools are doing similar things but Saint Mary’s may be the only institution with an additional minor built in, which is the most innovative and unique piece of the program. Regionally, most other schools are in the old model of general education.

“As a new dean, when researching Saint Mary’s as part of the interview process, one of the things I looked at was the general education program,” said Susan Cosby Ronnenberg, Ph.D.
dean of the College. “I was very impressed by the innovation used to put this integrated program together. It’s unusual, complex, and highly beneficial for the student in terms of interdisciplinary study and adding a minor just by completing the general education requirements. It certainly has lived up to what I researched.”