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Aloha from President Wright
with Chatt G. Wright

Undergraduates new to our University often ask why they have to take so many courses outside their majors. This is an excellent question that deserves a thoughtful answer. The most important thing to realize is that these required courses are not just hoops everyone has to jump through before they can focus on what most interests them. In fact, without courses like these, a graduate can’t really claim to be a university-educated person.

These courses constitute our General Education program. Combining general education and the major is what allows HPU to fulfill its mission to provide students with an American education built on a liberal arts foundation.

A major provides the in-depth learning of an undergraduate education. It allows students to acquire the tools of a particular discipline, often with the intention of using those tools in a specific career field. It’s what enables graduating students to say, “I know a lot about that!”

And yet, as central as majors are, to be a well-rounded and educated person in the world today, it’s not enough to have depth of knowledge about one area. Knowing a particular discipline does not necessarily prepare you to evaluate every issue that arises, either on the job or in daily life.

What’s needed, in addition to the in-depth learning of a major, is a broader awareness of the world and its people and the many different ways of making sense of life on earth. What’s needed is a flexibility of mind, and that’s exactly what a good General Education program can foster. Some people call general education a student’s first major!

HPU’s Five Themes are the organizing principle behind our General Education program: communication skills, global systems, world cultures, values and choices, research, and epistemology. These themes are most frequently seen on undergraduate course syllabi, which explain how the course relates to one or more of the themes. One way to think about the Five Themes is that they help each student become what he or she believes is a good global citizen.

Hawai‘i Pacific University is always working to make things even better, and that’s true for general education as well. We hope that our General Education Program will be one that students remember long after they have immersed themselves in their majors, and long after they have graduated from HPU.

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