Dr. Nicole Nathan has worn many hats at Temple University since arriving in 2011, from master's and doctoral degree student in Anthropology to teaching assistant, adjunct and instructor of Spanish to General Education Area Coordinator for U.S. Society and World Society in Temple's General Education program.
She can now add another hat to her collection. As Assistant Professor and inaugural Faculty Director of the Bachelor of General Studies program, Nathan will be focused on ensuring the success of adult students returning to the classroom.
"Supporting adult students, returning adults and adult education in general is something I've always had a passion for," said Nathan, who has also taught courses in Temple's Department of Spanish and Portuguese in the College of Liberal Arts. "As a teacher I have witnessed the resilience of adult students who have persevered through the challenges of returning to the classroom. It's one of the things I particularly enjoyed when I was working as a TA in the Writing Center."
In higher education, Nathan said, "students traditionally learn how to put theory into practice, but for adult students, this process is often the reverse, learning the theories behind what they have already practiced."
"Writing is often one place where adults feel less confident about their skills because they have been away from academic writing for some time," she said. "I want students to regain their confidence in their writing skills, starting with recognizing their valuable contributions to the classroom based on their real-world experiences."
Temple's new Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) degree was officially launched during the fall 2021 semester. The first Bachelor of General Studies graduates crossed the finish line in May 2022.
The BGS program offered by University College was developed specifically for adult learners, giving them the perfect opportunity to complete their degree. The BGS program gives working adults the flexibility to customize the program to suit their needs and goals. From the arts to engineering, students may choose an area of study and combine that with minors and certificate programs from a broad spectrum of Temple schools and colleges to help them prepare for the next step in their career.
"I'm very excited about stepping into this role. There are so many programs, departments and university staff and faculty that have had a hand in making this program a reality — it's been a lot of hard work," Nathan said. "It's impressive to me what they've been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. The enrollment, the programs that are offered, the services that are available to help ensure that the students succeed — it's all in place."
Nathan said she is "grateful to be stepping into something that is fully formed, but I'm also excited to provide the more faculty-focused side of things."
"I want to provide a vision for the coursework specifically for the BGS capstone course, which I will be teaching, in addition to developing credit options that recognize the value of the rich and diverse learning experiences of adult students that take place outside of the traditional classroom," she said. "It's our hope that these additions can advance equity and access of a college degree."
The goal of the BGS program, Nathan said, is to "help students successfully graduate, be they returning adult students or students who are changing their program from within the university."
"I believe that education is something that should be accessible to everyone. We should remove barriers to make that as painless as possible, making sure that if students are putting in the work necessary that we will see them through and support them all the way to graduation and beyond," she said. "I think the BGS program makes Temple's offerings more well-rounded — this type of program represents a real and growing need as more adults return to the classroom."
Temple overall offers a variety of services aimed at diversity, equity, and inclusion for different student populations, Nathan said, such as programs for ESL students or international students.
"This is a program that specifically targets the unique needs of adult students" she said. "This is a program to ensure that we're providing the support that these students require to complete their degree."
Approaching this new role, "I see myself drawing a lot from teaching in the social sciences as well as teaching a language and teaching interdisciplinary general education courses, which really gave me experience with a diverse subset of students," Nathan said.
"I think that level of diversity is true of the BGS program in many ways, diversity in educational backgrounds in particular. We have adult students who have been away from education for a long time while we also have students who are changing their program from different majors," she said. "Each student is unique, with a wide array of backgrounds and goals. The challenge is making the coursework interesting and relevant to all of our students."
The capstone course, for example, focuses on "interdisciplinary methods in research and writing that should have wide-reaching applicability after college," she said.
"I like to think of teaching writing as almost like teaching a language. There is sometimes a mindset where students have convinced themselves they are bad at learning a language and the same thing happens related to writing," she said. "I don't think that's true. I want students to think of good writing as the result of a process rather than an inherent talent."
As the BGS faculty director, Nathan said, her short-term goals are focused on "solidifying the capstone course so that our students are gaining the writing and research skills that they need to propel them forward to whatever their next steps might be after Temple."
"Long-term, I'm focused on ensuring quality and consistency to the coursework that students are engaged in. I want them to be reassured in their choice of the Bachelor of General Studies program and cognizant of how this degree will be very helpful to them in the long run," she said. "Ultimately, I hope that students get out of the BGS program the skills that they need to go confidently toward their next steps after graduation — strong critical thinking, analytic skills, strong writing and communication skills. These are skills that are critical across the board, no matter what type of career our students are pursuing."
For more information about the Bachelor of General Studies program and how to apply for admission or reenroll, contact the University College Academic and Student Services team at 215-204-6565 or BGSadmissions@temple.edu.