OREM — As Utah Valley State College transitions to university status — and also examines its general education program — school officials are lending an ear to the advice of an expert.

Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, based in Washington, D.C., spoke at UVSC Monday night as part of a two-day visit that ended Tuesday. She is giving input to UVSC leaders, faculty and staff, as they move forward with progressive plans for the school, said Janice Gygi.

Gygi, a UVSC marketing professor, is chairwoman of the college's general education committee. UVSC is ending its second year of a five-year examination of its general, or liberal, education program.

"We are reviewing the general education program to ensure that we are meeting the outcomes that are important for our students," Gygi said.

ACCU is devoted to advancing and strengthening undergraduate liberal education. It has a membership of 1,100 institutions, including colleges and universities of all types and sizes, according to the ACCU Web site www.aacu.org

A liberal education empowers individuals with core knowledge and transferable skills and cultivates social responsibility and a strong sense of ethics and values, according to ACCU.

Schneider said she is frustrated at the "self-defeating" attitude some students have in wanting to get their general, or liberal education, classes over with quickly, as if they are something painful.

Schneider shared the results of several different ACCU surveys, including some from the business community and students.

One ACCU survey measured the percentage of employers who want colleges to place more emphasis on essential learning outcomes. A total of 82 percent want science and technology; 76 percent want teamwork skills in diverse groups; and 73 percent want applied knowledge in real-world settings.

In another survey by ACCU, students listed what they believe are the top three most important outcomes of a liberal education: maturity and ability to succeed on one's own; time-management skills; and strong work habits. Students ranked their bottom three outcomes as: competency in computer skills; expanded cultural and global awareness and sensitivity; and dead last, civic responsibility and orientation to public service.

"They don't see the point," Schneider said. "They don't see how it's helping them prepare for their lives."

UVSC leaders and faculty attending Schneider's speech shook their heads at the student data. "It's actually kind of scary how self-centered it is. They don't understand what a big part of their life the community needs to be," said Elaine Englehardt, UVSC philosophy professor.

Kathie Debenham, UVSC interim dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, pointed out that with today's hovering "helicopter parents," it is no wonder students list "do it on their own" as the most important thing they think they need to learn. She is also on the college's general education committee.

Schneider said engaged learning, in conjunction with a liberal education, is meant to connect the school with the community and get the students out of their "mental cubicles." Some examples include service learning, internships and capstone, in which students work with faculty and community members on a senior project.

Schneider earned a doctorate in early modern history from Harvard University. She has been president of ACCU since 1998.

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