By: Liliana López
Ever since 2006, PACS (Pacific seminar) courses have been a graduation requirement for all Pacific undergraduate students. That’s about to change.
PACS is a part of the GE, or, general education system. The purpose of the GE system is to expand students’ knowledge, and to allow them to connect their major to other areas of study. At Pacific, 3 PACS courses are a part of that requirement. Generally speaking, students take PACS 1 and 2 during their freshman year, and PACS 3 during their senior year. These classes explore the broad philosophical and ethical questions of “what is a good society?” and “what is an ethical life?” They are taught by faculty members in various departments, mostly from the College. These courses are not uniform, as faculty usually tailor them to their own departmental and research interests.
However, the university has decided to discontinue the PACS program, starting in Fall 2021. This comes along with a redesigning of the GE program as a whole. Dr. Christopher Goff, professor of mathematics and Director of General Education, explains some of these changes.
“The new program consists of two seminars, CORE 1 and CORE 2, seven breadth areas, and the diversity requirement,” he says. Unlike in the current GE program, there is no CORE 3 to replace PACS 3, and the GE breadth requirements have been reduced from nine to seven.
The new program will take effect in the fall, with the class of 2025 being the first students to take CORE 1. Sophomore, juniors, and seniors, who are caught in between the two GE programs, may either opt for the new program, or, if they stay in the old one, may take an additional class that fulfills GE 2A or 2B instead of PACS.
The CORE classes will still be somewhat similar in content to the PACS classes. According to Dr. Goff, CORE 1 will focus on exploring a “wicked” problem, which “cuts across multiple disciplines, and has unclear, often contested pathways towards a solution.” CORE 1 will also be “writing intensive,” and teach students oral and written communications skills, as well as information literacy. CORE 2 will focus on critical thinking. As with PACS, there will not be a set curriculum for the CORE courses, and professors will be able to design the courses as they like.
For seniors such as Mackenzie Wieland, Graphic Design, ‘21, the new CORE classes (and reduced) set of requirements is something that they won’t be able to benefit from. For her, the CORE program sounds very much like the PACS program, which she says “had no influence in my major or person. I see the PACS program as another set of hurdles to jump over in the collective group of requirements to graduate.” Wieland sees the PACS courses more as general overviews of a topic or a question, without much room for the reflection that the classes are said to offer.
Some students such as Namorrah Ward, English, ‘24, however, see the focus of PACS in a very different way. For Ward, PACS serves as an “introduction to how college works. The first class will introduce you to the modes of writing and thinking that will be required going forward and the second one gives you a chance to practice that on a chosen topic.” She sees such a class as a good starting point for incoming freshmen, as it exposes them to some of the academic expectations that they will encounter at Pacific. Additionally, Ward says, PACS courses have helped her explore ethics and “improve my writing skills and critical thinking.”
Wieland is correct in thinking that the new CORE curriculum is intended to be an “alternative to the [PACS] program that may act in the same way just under another name.” Nevertheless we remain curious to see how this new program plays out for both students and instructors.