Interdisciplinary General Education

A Short History of IGE

Each human community is defined partly by its history.  The IGE Program has its origins in the dreams of a number of Cal Poly Pomona faculty members who, in the late 1970s, envisioned an integrated approach to general education.  For two years they gathered in faculty meetings, over lunches, in living rooms, and in campus forums where they discussed and debated different models.  Executive Order 338 and an Academic Program Improvement Grant from the CSU Chancellor's office provided the support to pilot an experimental interdisciplinary general education program.

What courses would make up this new experimental curriculum, and what learning goals would it try to achieve?  Faculty from more than twelve academic disciplines shared ideas about the possibilities and practicalities of interdisciplinary study.  Administrators and instructors from Engineering and Environmental Design contributed their notions about the general education needs of polytechnic students.  Finally, after almost three years of curriculum development, in 1983, the Cal Poly Pomona Academic Senate approved the Interdisciplinary General Education Program.

IGE offered its first classes in the fall quarter of 1983. Eight faculty members and about 150 students participated.  The two-year curriculum consisted of five and six-unit courses focused on the humanities in the freshman year, and on the social sciences in the sophomore year. In 1985, the IGE Program revised its curriculum to integrate the humanities and the social sciences, resulting in a team-taught program of eight four-unit classes.  Each class met three times per week, sometimes as a whole and sometimes in small seminar discussion groups.  The program has continued to evolve through regular discussions, retreats, and assessment into its current form: a sequence of eight thematic courses where learning is discussion and community oriented, and participants develop close relationships with one another as they grow intellectually and personally.  In 1998, Dr. Nancy Ware accepted the first tenure-track appointment in IGE and Dr. Kenneth Stahl became a full-time IGE lecturer. In Fall 2023, IGE celebrated its 40th birthday, making the program one of the longest active interdisciplinary innovations in the California State University system. Dr. Hend Gilli-Elewy and Dr. Dennis Quinn joined the faculty in 2005, Dr. Hilary Haakenson joined in 2015 and Dr. Hyeryung Hwang joined in 2020. IGE’s community also includes our accomplished lecturers: Dr. Peg Lamphier, Dr. Andy Davis, Mr. Howard Jian, Mr. Stephen Rudicel, Dr. Brian Foster, Dr. James Rietveld, and Dr. Patrick Polk. Today over 700 students and a dozen faculty members from a range of disciplines participate in IGE each year.

IGE has achieved a significant record of success at its ambitious and challenging mission.  Nationally, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) has recognized IGE as one of the top ten interdisciplinary programs. In 1987, IGE received the AASCU’s prestigious Mitau Award.  In 1993, IGE hosted the national meeting of the Association for Integrative Studies. IGE’s integrated approach to general education received accolades in the 1995 WASC accreditation report and served as a model for GE reform on the Cal Poly campus.  Dr. Mary Allen’s Assessing General Education Programs (2006) describes IGE as an example of best practice in program assessment.  Today the IGE program serves as a model for learning communities, general education, integrative pedagogy, and assessment in higher education.