Trustees Success Story

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A Student Perspective: Zach Ulrich

As part of my experience at American University I had the privilege of assisting in two General Education courses, Astronomy and Western Legal Traditions. In many ways, these two classes' curricula are exemplary of the wide variety of thinking that General Education brings to students' lives. Astronomy taught me to think "not only out of the box, but out of this world"; I was able to place myself within the amazing scientific discoveries that researchers have come upon over history -- and truly get in touch with what it meant for me to be a human amidst the world around me. In contrast, Western Legal Tradition taught me to take otherwise abstracted concepts and use argumentative structures to analyze, synthesize, and then present my thoughts on precise rhetorical points.

General Education is not about having a bunch of different courses, it's about being able to think a bunch of different ways. A well-rounded adult/citizen/parent/worker/contributor to society needs to be able to hold many different types of ideas, sometimes contrasting, in their minds at once and use their own experience and skills to form independent conclusions. Indeed, many philosophers have remarked that the true mark of intellectual development is the ability to understand and grapple with competing ideas at the same time. General Education, for me, was not about getting in front of a classroom as an assistant and having students memorize facts -- it was about exploring and understanding such vastly different ways of interpreting the world that I had no choice but to grow, to mature, and to see life and indeed myself in whole new ways, ways otherwise impossible.

So, the next time you stop to choose your next General Education courses, I sincerely encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone -- take the opportunity to enter realms of thought you never would experience otherwise; you never just might learn something you'll never forget.