Illinois State University’s Academic Senate voted to approve the recommendation for a new graduation requirement. Known as IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in U.S. Society), the requirement is designed to generate dialogue around the benefits and challenges of living in a diverse society.
“IDEAS courses center the experiences of all people in the United States, including groups of people that have traditionally been excluded from curriculum,” said Dr. Rocío Rivadeneyra, who chaired the task force which sculpted the recommendation. “It is intended to support our students to understand the diversity and structures that exist in our society while preparing them to live and work in an increasingly diverse world.”
Set to begin in fall of 2023 for incoming first year and transfer students, the graduation requirement can be completed with one of the following: an IDEAS-approved course at Illinois State, an approved course in the Illinois Articulation Initiative General Education Core Curriculum, or a baccalaureate-oriented associates degree at an Illinois community college.
Potential IDEAS courses will be proposed and reviewed by expert faculty over the next year. “We do not anticipate this graduation change will slow students on their path to graduation, as there are courses across fields of study that fit the requirement,” said Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Education Dr. Amy Hurd. “We expect many students will take courses that count toward their general education or major requirements that will satisfy IDEAS at the same time.”
The requirement is the direct outcome of the Campus Climate Assessment Task Force, which began work in 2016. The group released recommendations in 2017 that included pursuing a diversity requirement for graduation. That same year, the vice president for academic affairs and provost appointed a U.S. Diversity Ad Hoc Committee that explored the idea of creating a requirement and wrote the proposal and learning outcomes in a 2018 report. The requirement was debated by the University Curriculum Committee, which approved the recommendation and submitted the proposed requirement to the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) of the Academic Senate in 2019. The AAC voted to approve the recommendation in March of 2021. The Executive Committee of Academic Senate moved the requirement discussion and voting to the Fall 2021.
“Passage of the IDEAS proposal has been a long time coming and advocated by many faculty, student, and staff groups over the years,” said Rivadeneyra.
The University is relatively unique in that students concentrate on a domestic diversity course, noted Interim Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Doris Houston, who was the co-chair of the task force steering committee for the 2016 Climate Task Force and served with Rivadeneyra on the U.S. Diversity Task Force. She noted the requirement is in line with University’s strategic plan, Educate Connect Elevate: Illinois State – The Strategic Plan for Illinois’ First Public University 2018-2023, which encourages the infusion of diverse perspectives into the curriculum. “We would not expect anything less from a university that celebrates innovation,” said Houston.