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Book, The General College Vision, with a maroon and gold cover that includes a photo of a crowd of General College students sitting on the steps of Appleby Hall wearing U of M shirts.

A vision for the future

Book distills General College's teaching legacy

By Dana Lundell and Laura Weber

Brief, June 28, 2006

The future of education is shaped by past experiments, innovations, and lessons. That's the premise of a 578-page book published by the University of Minnesota's General College, The General College Vision: Integrating Intellectual Growth, Multicultural Perspectives, and Student Development.

Two years in the making, The General College Vision came off the presses in 2005 as the college was beginning to plan its transition to a new department within the College of Education and Human Development, effective July 1--the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning. The wisdom distilled within the 25 chapters written by General College faculty and staff offers a way for the work of the college to move forward and honor a vibrant past. It offers insights useful to high school and college teachers who want to transform their programs for ensuring success for first-year college students, especially students who can use the most support for developing new skills and perspectives about how to succeed in school.

"We can offer ideas about how people across disciplines can collaborate," said Jeanne Higbee, lead editor on the project and professor of developmental education in General College. "This book is relevant to all of higher education."

Higbee, along with coeditors Dana Lundell and David Arendale, had the idea for writing the book more than two years ago as a way for General College to share its legacy of teaching and research at the University of Minnesota. The college has had a national reputation in the field of college learning and developmental education for its model, which provides access and support for students--many of whom are first-generation, low-income, or ethnic minorities--who are underprepared for higher education but motivated to attend the University.

The predominant visual images of students throughout the book epitomize the focus of The General College Vision. First-person student accounts of their experiences in General College lead off the book.

Perhaps its biggest contribution, however, is a section on embedding multiculturalism across the higher education curriculum. How would you teach multicultural issues in a math class, or how can an art teacher get students to develop critical thinking skills? These are some of the unique strategies and foundations for learning that are the legacy of the college, whose hallmark has been serving students from diverse backgrounds.

"The book shows how we embed multiculturalism in all that we do," Higbee said.

In the words of student-author Khong Xiong, "It is such a remarkable and welcome feeling to see students, staff, and faculty from all cultural backgrounds engaging with one another and making an effort to accomplish academic and life goals."

More than 3,000 hard cover copies of The General College Vision are being distributed to members of the National Association of Developmental Education (NADE), College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA), MnSCU teachers and administrators, K-12 educators, and elected officials. It has also been distributed at national conferences and workshops for teachers of college reading, math, skill development, and multicultural issues.

PDF files of the entire book may be downloaded free online, and the book can be purchased through the Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy's Web site.

Dana Lundell is the director of the Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy. Laura Weber is the communications director in General College and will become the communications director for the new College of Design effective July 1.