In the spring of 2006, Noah McKechnie, a junior mechanical
engineering major, will be graduating in four years.
McKechnie is an exception to the common belief that engineering
students cannot graduate in four years. He did it with the help of
an average of 17 credits each semester and the 26 Advanced
Placement credits he took while still in high school.
“I don’t think I could have graduated in four years without
taking AP classes,” he said.
Graduating after the traditional eight semesters has not come
without some sacrifices.
“I pretty much only have time to take classes for my major,”
McKechnie said, who said he would also like to study Italian and
McKechnie is not alone. While graduating in four years remains a
possibility for many students, others are finding that if they
follow that plan, they do not have time to take courses that are
not required for their particular field of study.
Gaye DiGregorio, assistant director of the Center for Advising
and Student Achievement, said that the number of free electives a
student may take varies by major. Engineering and teacher
certification programs have fewer free electives, while the liberal
arts often have more, she said.
DiGregorio said the All University Core Curriculum is designed
to give students in any major a well-rounded education by requiring
various classes across colleges and departments.
“That’s what separates a college degree from just getting
certified in a trade,” she said.
However, DiGregorio said that any student is able take courses
that interest them, even if they do not fulfill the student’s major
or AUCC requirements. DiGregorio recently advised a student who was
interested in studying both science and philosophy.
“The fact that he’s interested in both is really a gift, and
something that’s going to be an asset in the future,” she said.
DiGregorio suggests that students think carefully about what
kinds of electives they want to study and plan accordingly, so that
the electives support their education, rather than just being a
random conglomeration of courses.
Jenny Dayton, a fifth-year speech communication major, will be
graduating in December. She changed her major from university open
option in her junior year and said there were not enough sections
of her speech courses available each semester to enable her to
graduate in four years.
Dayton said she has not considered taking any courses that do
not count toward her major, but that because she is in the liberal
arts, she is required to take courses in a variety of subjects.
Dayton has taken a few history classes that she really
“If I had more time I might go for a minor in history,” she
What if it doesn’t count?
Nathan Citino, assistant professor of history, will be teaching
the Modern Middle East course next spring. The course is not
specifically required for the history major but does count as an
upper-division elective. For non-history majors, the course is a
free elective that does not fulfill any AUCC requirements.
There is one section of the course, which is capped at 40
students. Citino said he gets many requests from students of all
majors for overrides into the class, and the section usually ends
up having between 43 and 45 students in it.
“It’s difficult for me to let everyone who would like to be in,
into that class, but I always override a few,” Citino said.
Citino said the course is popular with students in all majors,
especially political science, and ROTC members, in light of current
“The course is the history of the Middle East since 1800,”
Citino said. “It’s not primarily a current events course; it’s
designed to give students a historical context of antecedents to
Citino wishes that more sections and smaller classes could be
offered, both to let more non-history majors take the course and to
better facilitate discussion in the classroom.
“I think it’s inherently valuable to study cultures different
from your own,” he said.
With the university’s inability to offer more class sections and
students’ desire to graduate sooner rather than later, if a student
wants to take courses not required for his/her major, he/she may
have to consider some other options, DiGregorio said.
“If a student says, ‘I absolutely want to graduate in four years
and I really want to learn Spanish,’ it may mean taking 18 credits
every semester or doing summer school,” she said.
However, both McKechnie and Dayton said that this really is not
an option for them.
McKechnie said he would be interested in taking summer school or
staying at CSU for another semester to take foreign language
courses. However, with tuition increases and cuts in scholarship
funds, he said he cannot afford it.
Dayton agreed, and said that she’s also just ready to
“It’s more of a money issue, and senioritis.”