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The Curriculum Review Committee has drafted a proposal that is currently under review. Review the proposed A&S Curriculum here.

Principles of a Liberal Arts & Sciences Education

Submitted by the Department Liaison Group, 11-10-16

College of Arts & Sciences: Principles of a Liberal Arts & Sciences Education

Students who enter Cornell’s College of Arts & Science should be ready to engage with the breadth of inquiry characteristic of a liberal education. The Arts & Sciences curriculum should be transformative: students who enter as consumers of information should leave as producers of knowledge. Graduates should be critical and inquisitive readers; capable writers; thinkers who can examine and reason from evidence and embark on challenging paths of inquiry.

Students should claim their education. A broad and deep education should encourage creativity, open-mindedness, intellectual agility, and engagement with the wider world. The curriculum should encourage students to remain curious and learn to be skeptical. Students should expect education to be challenging. They should stretch themselves intellectually and engage with new and startling ideas. What they learn may be unsettling: it may change what they know and think they should know. Students may change their minds about what they believe is important, and what they want to do with their lives. 

While the Arts & Sciences curriculum should provide students with skills and experiences that will be valuable in future careers, the curriculum should encourage students to think beyond one field of study, mode of inquiry, or career path. Their studies should help them embrace the liberal arts and sciences as a path towards becoming lifelong learners, capable of reflecting about their own education; their place in the world; and the place of others, including people whose life histories and experiences may be very different from their own. These habits of mind should help graduates engage with the communities, local and global, they will be part of.

Curricular Expectations that Support these Principles

  • Students should become literate in multiple modes of inquiry: scientific, quantitative, social scientific, humanistic, and expressive. Students should take courses that practice each of these modes, separately or in combination.
  • Specialization should not come at the expense of breadth. Arts & Sciences students should gain knowledge and expertise in a range of fields and disciplines.
  • Students should gain significant understanding about the past and the wider world.
  • Students at a research university should have direct experience with research and/or scholarly inquiry.
  • Students should become proficient in at least one foreign language. Students’ engagement with the world will be limited if they can only engage in English.
  • Students should write their way through the Arts & Sciences curriculum. Writing should help students learn about course material and demonstrate what they have learned.
  • Students should engage with local communities beyond the boundaries of the university.
  • Students should have educational experiences distinctive to Cornell, Ithaca, and the region. Resources specific to Cornell include: artifacts in libraries, galleries, the museum, and other collections; opportunities to engage with the performing arts; academic opportunities connected to Cornell’s land grant mission; work in labs or field sites; and experiences that introduce students to the history and landscape of Ithaca and the Finger Lakes.

CIVIC report - curriculum excerpt

(Excerpt from the CIVIC draft report of December 19, 2016) 

V. Curriculum Innovation and Teaching

As mentioned above with the ColLabs, this research initiative for the Humanities and Arts faculty is designed to have an impact on the curriculum and educating Cornell students for the 21st century. To this end, we propose the following:

a) Creating a set of undergraduate courses that offer a unique humanistic perspective on 1) the challenges facing the world and 2) cultural techniques ‘thinking through doing.’ These courses will offer truly interdisciplinary, introductory courses (beyond a particular specialization, designed for 1st and 2nd year students) and should be part of a revised curriculum as currently being discussed in the college (e.g., the Humanities Chair proposal). If the A&S curriculum reform were not to include this component, we propose these courses be developed under the seldom-used (and ripe for re-invigoration) college-wide arts & sciences rubric.

b) Whether in conjunction with curriculum reform or independent thereof, we propose a set of honors seminars on the sophomore/ junior level that provide in depth exploration of the interface of humanities, public life, and / or media; these courses would be advertised and open to the entire university community, perhaps with some GPA restrictions.

In general we believe that curriculum reform in a broader sense needs to include a much more ambitious honors track, with special seminars and a greater emphasis on capstone projects, for gifted, motivated students in the humanities or students who are simply interested in the unique value of humanistic inquiry. These sophomore/junior honors seminars would originate in departments and be cross listed-crossed-advertised with the additional arts& sciences rubric.

A great university must update the concept of the global citizen for the future and provide an undergraduate experience that prepares its students for a rapidly changing world.

ARCHIVED - Humanities Chairs: Curriculum Scenarios

This document resulted from informal conversations among the chairs of the humanities and qualitative social sciences departments. It does not in all points represent the collective views of these chairs. This document was also not formally vetted and approved by the faculty of these departments, and should not be taken as expressing their views.

(Presented to the College of Arts & Sciences Chairs, December 12, 2016)

A New Foundational Curriculum

The Humanities Chairs have been discussing the suggestion to the faculty, expressed by President Hunter Rawlings and Dean Gretchen Ritter, that we refashion the curricular requirements in a way that is consonant with Cornell’s history and mission, and that coheres with how higher education is evolving in our time.

Correcting for shortfalls in existing models. The twentieth century has produced two models for core curricula, the general education and the distribution requirement models. Each model aims to satisfy the liberal arts ideal of a broad education for every student. The general education model, with Columbia University supplying its paradigm case, features an array of courses distinct from the regular curriculum, designed to provide students with a general familiarity with cultural and disciplinary information and skills. The distribution model aims to achieve educational breadth by requiring students to take courses in groups of disciplines such as the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities, and to select from among regular courses within these groups. One concern raised about the distribution model is that students may choose courses that will not acquaint them with the foundations, general purview, and the range of actual and potential achievements of a field of study.  Another is that courses need not be taken early enough to shape a student’s intellectual development at Cornell. Finally, the constant growth of disciplinary subfields often does not allow students to explore a given issue from a broad cross-disciplinary perspective.

We believe the current requirements should be refashioned in ways that take the best from existing models but correct for the ways in which they fall short. We agree that the distribution requirements should be retained, but revised. We also agree that the current language requirement should not be weakened. Though the world is increasingly adopting English as its lingua franca, a window onto another culture is first truly opened via fluency, or at least competency, in its language. These are invaluable skills for the sort of engaged, globally aware students we wish to continue to produce. Finally, we think that as part of curriculum reform the current role of the First-Year Writing Seminars (FWS) should be re-examined.

New foundational, multidisciplinary courses. The innovative part of our proposal features additional courses that are foundational and multidisciplinary in structure and content. More specifically, these courses should:

  • be team-taught by faculty from different disciplines, and strive to provide a broad-based, liberal education rather than an introduction to specific disciplines or sub-fields;
  • be foundational in the sense that they introduce students to core methodologies and central works and ideas;
  • historicize and/or provide a critical genealogy for the domains and problems they explore;
  • stress “big ideas” through engagement with primary materials;
  • include a range of courses that enable students to become proficient in basic skills and methodologies from the three basic subject areas (humanities and arts, social sciences, science and math);
  • address the history of ideas and the contributions and achievements of cultures from around the world.

In calling this curriculum “foundational,” we do not mean to advocate for traditional courses of the “Western Civilization” variety. The point of a foundational course is not to transmit a specific tradition or canonize a restricted set of major authors or thinkers, but rather to expose students to fundamental problems, both old and new, whose scope and complexity demand a multidisciplinary, multi-faceted approach, and where the intellectual engagement at Cornell will form the basis for involvement and evaluation for our student-citizens throughout their lives.

We suggest a new classification and enrollment code for such courses: Liberal Education (LIBED). The new enrollment rubric is crucial to assure the visibility of Liberal Education courses and identify them as excellent choices for first-year students, or for those seeking a general education and not specialized disciplinary expertise.

We think these new, specially designed Liberal Education courses 1) are crucial for fostering a cohesive, intellectually dynamic first-year experience for the students; 2) will provide the students with broad-based, historically grounded methods of inquiry; 3) should be “time stamped” to have a timely impact on the development of students’ interests and modes of questioning; 4) will provide orientation and pathways for further studies in the college, regardless of major.

Faculty often want to teach Liberal Education courses that are not discipline-specific, but are currently hindered from doing so by several obstacles. Currently, each course taught at Cornell must be parented by an individual department. If it is of interest to students in more than one field, the instructor may request cross-listing; however, these requests are rarely approved for courses that are not directly relevant to a departmental major. The current system therefore strongly favors discipline-specific courses. Moreover, it is very difficult for faculty members from different departments to co-teach a course. Currently, all course enrollments are attributed to the department that parents the course, even when it is team-taught. At a time when departments are under pressure to increase enrollments, this structure impedes collaboration and sometimes pits the needs of departments against the needs of students—especially first-year students.

More importantly, the current system makes it very difficult for a course with the envisioned liberal education potential to find a student audience: students must comb through the websites of individual departments, and pore over hundreds or even thousands of descriptions, to find courses of interest—without knowing whether those courses are appropriate for general education students or not. (The same limitation applies to the current “University Courses,” which are parented by individual departments and not broadly advertised.)

Where the STEM fields in particular are at issue, existing courses conceived for STEM specialists, for which there is often heavy demand, are often inappropriate for general education students. Liberal Education courses in science and math would better address the needs of non-specialists, and at the same time help to alleviate demand in first-year math and science courses. Currently, however, it is challenging for the faculty within a single department to develop and staff such courses.[1]

Two Proposals

We have drafted two proposals for curricula that feature such foundational, multidisciplinary courses.

Curriculum Proposal A

The first proposal features two specific models for the kinds of courses envisioned. One model would focus on pressing issues of our day, and the other on human cultural products and the ideas that animate them. Courses in these categories 1) would engage with leading ideas through the study of primary materials; 2) would address contributions and achievements from around the world and throughout history; 3) would historicize and provide a critical genealogy for the domains they explore; 4) would be required in the first two years of study.

Two categories for interdisciplinary foundational courses:

Challenges Confronting Our World. Humanity faces large-scale problems that are best approached from an interdisciplinary perspective, and academia has an important role in seeking out and proposing solutions to these problems. Courses in this category would provide an interdisciplinary assessment of pressing issues we face. Sample topics for such courses include: the environment; climate change; race; gender; inequality; mental health; the ethics of genetic engineering; problems and prospects for democracy; and the ethics and politics of computation.

Faculty teaching these courses could be from various departments in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. For example, a course on the ethics of genetic engineering might be taught by a geneticist from Molecular Biology and Genetics and a bioethicist from Science and Technology Studies or Philosophy. A course on the problems and prospects for democracy might be taught by a colleague from Government and one from Sociology, or one from Economics and one from History.

Works, Ideas, and Methods. Humanity has produced cities, monuments, art objects, literary and philosophical works, archives, performances, rites, and cosmologies that reflect our condition from the dawn of the species through the present moment. Courses in the Works, Ideas, and Methods aim to illuminate these human products and the ideas they reflect from different disciplinary perspectives and using various cultural frameworks. These courses would teach students the skills that are key to understanding human diversity, the human past, and the challenges we face in the future.

Works, Ideas, and Methods courses would typically be taught by faculty from the humanities and arts and from the qualitative social sciences. (We expect that faculty from STEM fields and the quantitative social sciences would propose additional courses of this kind to address topics and methods not covered in this proposal.)

Pathways to more specialized courses: We also suggest that a "funnel" or "pathway" structure should be considered, leading from the foundational, interdisciplinary courses to more advanced study in the departments and across the curriculum. Courses currently in the curriculum could serve this purpose.

Timing of courses:

One suggestion features a two-course sequence for each of the student’s first two years.

1A: An interdisciplinary course, team-taught by two faculty from different disciplines, in the Challenges Confronting Humanity category.

1B: A regular course to which the interdisciplinary Challenges Confronting Humanity course is a pathway, potentially in a discipline featured in the first course.

2A: An interdisciplinary course, team-taught by two faculty from different disciplines, in the Works, Ideas, and Methods category.

2B: A regular course to which the interdisciplinary Works, Ideas, and Methods course is a pathway, potentially in a discipline featured in the first course.

A suggestion for how to structure such a course:

Instructors: Two faculty members from different disciplines.

Each faculty member would take charge of half the students in the class. The course might feature a weekly 75 minute-lecture and question period, a weekly 75-minute student discussion led by the individual faculty member in charge of them, and a 50-minute section led by a teaching assistant. Outside faculty might be brought in to conduct several of the lectures.

The sections led by TAs might focus specifically on writing (not to the exclusion of faculty focus). The sections might thus also be integrated with (one of) the students’ FWS requirements and include, for the TA, training by the faculty members in consultation with the Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines. Clear, coherent and effective writing skills, as a part of a person's overall ability to communicate effectively, are integral to any career path a student might eventually take.

Curriculum Proposal B

I. The second proposal provides a varied menu of new, required Liberal Education courses addressed to first and second year students in particular, which will lay the foundations for future learning and prepare students to take advantage of the wide array of offerings that await them at Cornell. In general, Liberal Education courses should emphasize exploration and discovery over early specialization, while at the same time developing the literacies and competencies students will need to succeed in their chosen majors.

II. Applications for Liberal Education courses would be solicited from College faculty. These courses would meet the criteria outlined above; specifically, they would be foundational, multidisciplinary, and focused on “big ideas” or core skills or methodologies rather than highly specialized or niche topics.

Successful applications might involve large lecture courses with multiple discussion sections, but could also include smaller courses. A committee would vet the proposals and decide which courses merit LIBED designation. Some courses might tilt more heavily toward the humanities, the social sciences, or the STEM fields, while others would draw substantially upon two or more of these areas. All courses approved for LIBED designation, however, would be explicitly conceived as general education courses addressed to a multidisciplinary audience, which presume no specialized training or expertise in the subject area. Accordingly, these courses would not be the existing introductions to individual fields, but conceived specifically as Liberal Education curricula.

LIBED courses might fall into several different categories:

a. Courses conceived specifically for first- and second-year students and designed to provide a foundation for liberal education. These courses could be divided into several different categories, with students required to take a certain number (from each category or overall). Some of these might also fulfill the writing seminar requirement (see #3 below); others might fulfill quantitative reasoning or science requirements, and so on.

b. Methodology courses that are relevant to more than one discipline: for example, a course on statistics and quantitative analysis, or courses in theory that would be of interest to students in multiple fields (compare to the “Works, Ideas, and Methods” courses in Curriculum Proposal A). These courses could be introductory (in which case they might also fall into group (a), or advanced. They could also be generated by departments or count toward fulfillment of department majors. Their listing as LIBED courses, however, would identify them as of interest to multiple fields. LIBED listing could help to coordinate and in some cases streamline curricular offerings across different fields.

c. Courses on more specialized or current-interest topics that appeal to a wide range of students, both in the college and across the university (compare to the “Challenges Confronting our World” rubric in Curriculum Proposal A).

III. Some of the LIBED courses conceived specifically for new students could also be designed to fulfill the writing seminar requirement. This could be done in several different ways. The following examples suggest three possible approaches:

Scenario A: A lecture course on “Cultures of the Renaissance” that meets for three hours each week is team-taught by two-three faculty members (e.g., from Art History, Comparative Literature, and/or Philosophy). The students are divided into smaller sections, also meeting 3 hours per week, that function at once as sections for the lecture course and as writing seminars. The lectures and sections are closely articulated, with the faculty responsible for the course working closely with the section leaders to discuss the teaching of course materials, conceive weekly exercises and writing prompts, and supervise graduate student TAs. The course is worth 7 credits: 3 credits for the lecture course with quizzes, midterm, and final exam or project; 4 for the intensive writing section. (The University of California campuses offer different versions of such courses, and in almost every case they are the most popular courses on campus.)

Scenario B: A lecture course on inequality includes lectures by two-three faculty members from Africana, FGSS, Latino Studies, and/or Sociology. It is attached to a number of semi-autonomous writing seminars that are all linked to the main course topic, but that might differ considerably from one another. Some readings and assignments are common to all sections, while others are section-specific. One section, for example, focuses on gender inequality; another concentrates on the history of enslavement, while a third considers inequality in relation to urban planning. This model allows the faculty or graduate students teaching the individual writing seminars a relatively high degree of autonomy in making up a large part of their syllabi, but would also expose students to lectures by prominent faculty in different fields who would provide a broad, interdisciplinary framework (conceptual, historical and methodological) for the study of an important “big idea” that is a core concern of many different disciplines and sub-fields. In this model, the writing seminar component would carry 4 credits, the lecture course 3-4 (depending on how often it meets, how much additional reading is involved, etc.)

Scenario C: Some such courses might give the students the option of enrolling in the 4-credit FWS component or not. For example, a student could take “Cultures of the Renaissance” as a 3-or 4-credit lecture course with a faculty-lead discussion section, or could enroll in a writing seminar section for a total of 7-8 credits. (This dual option would be practical only in the case of larger courses attracting considerable student interest. The potential advantage is that it allows students who have already satisfied the writing requirement to take a course of interest.)

Scenario D: A two-semester hybrid – in one term, the students take a new LIBED foundational course that includes a writing-intensive section led by a graduate student TA who is mentored by both the faculty instructors and the Knight Institute; in the other term, the student takes a regular FWS as they are currently conceived and implemented. As part of an enhanced mentoring model, however, graduate students would only be able to teach a stand-alone FWS after they have TAed one of the new LIBED courses.

The advantage of III is that it would be relatively easy to implement, essentially involving an overhaul of the writing seminars that would allow them to function at the same time as Liberal Education courses, without sacrificing one component to the other (hence the 7-8 course credits, to reflect the greatly increased workload). The course faculty would work closely with faculty in the Knight Institute to come up with effective assignment sequences and teaching assistant training and supervision protocols. This model has the potential to dramatically improve the training and supervision of graduate student TAs, especially in fields where writing seminars represent the primary form of teaching support for graduate students. It would also address faculty concerns about burdensome new service teaching obligations, especially in departments that already struggle to staff core courses for the major. Faculty already teach writing seminars, so the new courses would build upon the current FWS service commitment.

IV. Finally, Curriculum Proposal B features the creation of a two-semester honors sequence for interested first-year students that would offer a more intensive version of the courses outlined in II and III. This could be a real draw for prospective students.

Appendix: Foundational Courses on Cultural Techniques

A further type of foundational course, conceived as Thinking through Doing, focuses on the most elemental ways in which we interact with the world (by contrast with, for instance, mastery of specific content). These modes of interaction include listening, looking, touching, identifying, empathizing, writing, imagining, expressing, measuring, and calculating. Courses in such interactive techniques would identify the practices that make us human, and explore how we navigate between nature and culture, embodiment and technology. Such courses would feature active, engaged, and constructive practice, which would be facilitated by Cornell’s material holdings.

Thinking through Doing has strong links with initiatives already under way at Cornell, including Engaged Cornell and the Active Learning Initiative. It is in tune with the articulation of the relationship between theory and practice promoted by recent grants from the Mellon Foundation (e.g., for courses linking the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning and the Johnson Museum, and for the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies.)

Practice-based/Immersive Learning in Foundational Courses:

These courses would suture theory and practice on the model of the science laboratory (familiar from the 19th-century model of the university on which Cornell was founded).

They would be collaborative in nature, bridging not only theory and practice, but also linking A&S and AAP, and other colleges at Cornell. They would explicitly bring the past into dialogue with the present – for instance, the analog and the digital would count equally as objects of inquiry. They would emphasize experience beyond the text, while at the same time understanding texts as material objects or technologies. These courses could embrace a historical, media-archaeological approach, investigating changes in theory and practice across space and time, exploring cultural and historical diversity, and cultivating links with historic preservation.

There already exist introductory courses in some departments that could be easily be adapted into foundational courses that could fit the Thinking through Doing model. They include

“Introduction to Music Theory through Keyboard Practice” taught by Roger Moseley, and “Fundamentals of Music,” taught by Andrew Hicks. History of Art has recently introduced a series of practical courses based on specific Cornell collections; they are designed for small classes, but with the right support could be developed into broader foundational courses focused on collecting, museology, and curating, combining lectures with smaller group projects focused on objects. Likewise, “Introduction to Visual Studies” provides a foundation in seeing and making, applied not only to visual media such as photography, film, and the fine arts, but also to scientific imaging and advertising. This course teaches students how knowledge can visually displayed, and how research and criticism might be enhanced through innovative and persuasive visualizations. It has the potential to provide various departments at Cornell with students who are proficient in producing and critiquing visual media in their disciplines.

Here are several possibilities for new courses on the Thinking through Doing model:

  • Touching History: A foundational course associated with the media research initiative, focused on material objects, including historical documents, musical instruments, archaeological and anthropological collections, making full use of Cornell’s holdings.
  • Hieroglyphs to HTML: A course in the history of writing (from a media-archaeological perspective), including workshops in printing and digital technologies, taught in conjunction with the Johnson Museum and Library Special Collections.
  • Hearing and the Natural World: A course on listening, hearing, ecologies of sound, which would tap into work in Arts, Humanities and Sciences on soundscapes, the environment etc., taught in conjunction with the music department, STS and the Lab of Ornithology.
  • The Arts and Public Life: Such a course might encompass theatre, politics, public art, art interventions, etc., around issues of civil disobedience/conflict/racism. Resources could include the Punk and Hip Hop collections. It might also include a focus on community development through the arts, and study of the ethics of the arts, and it might be linked with Engaged Cornell.
  • Visual Anthropology: This course would provide a foundational understanding of ethnographic film-making, together with a set of critical concepts for thinking through artistic visual representation.

[1] Our proposal is close in some respects to the curriculum committee’s original third scenario (“University Courses” or “Thinking Matters”). However, it departs from that scenario in arguing for a more foundational curriculum (in terms of both intellectual aims as well as subject matter) that will engage and enable first-year students in particular. The current University Courses make valuable additions to the undergraduate curriculum by addressing topics that fall outside of traditional disciplinary boundaries or address emerging problems or areas of inquiry. However, few if any of these courses could claim to provide a broad foundation for liberal education, or to function as true “gateway” courses for entering first-year students. The “Thinking Matters” model is perhaps closer to what we imagine, although the range of courses envisioned there seems once again to be offered as a sampling of team-taught courses on a variety of topics, without explicit consideration of what those courses should prepare undergraduates to do. 

ARCHIVED - Evolving Frameworks

These evolving frameworks reflect the need to simplify earlier proposed scenarios for distribution requirements and accurately reflect the ideas and feedback that emerged in meetings and discussions held with with faculty, students and other stakeholders throughout the fall semester.  Framework A: Core Learning Goals emerged from feedback on the first and second scenarios, Framework B: Foundational Choices evolved from the second and third scenarios, and Framework C: Knowledge & Connection also evolved from the second and third scenarios. The new titles reflect the primary motivations for each framework.

Submitted by the Curriculum Committee on 11-30-16

A: Core Learning Goals 

Core principle: Foundational knowledge structured through a curriculum that represents the disciplinary fields in the College of Arts and Sciences and that is designed to reflect those fields' core learning goals.

This approach to liberal arts education parallels the college’s current system of distribution categories. It simplifies and organizes those categories by reflecting their core learning goals, in particular those emphasizing scientific literacy, persuasive expression, ethical values, and cross-cultural competency. It depends upon the departments for the definition of the foundational courses that comprise these categories. And it limits the number of courses that each department can contribute to their respective category to two courses.

It comprises the following six distributional categories.

  • Mathematical and quantitative reasoning
  • Physical and biological sciences
  • Social and behavioral analysis
  • Global inquiry
  • Historical inquiry
  • Literature, ethics, and the arts

Students take at least one course in each of the six distribution categories, and at least two in three of the six, for a total of nine required courses to fulfill the distribution requirement.

In addition to these nine required courses, this framework maintains two additional components of the existing College graduation requirements. Students are required to take:

  • Completion of one course taught in any language at the nonintroductory level or above, or at least 11 credits in one language. (corrected 2/6/16)
  • Two semesters of First-Year Writing Seminars

The results is a system that draws on established strengths of the college’s existing requirements and grounds the college’s educational mission in a coherent vision of breadth based on foundational knowledge across the fields of inquiry of the liberal arts and sciences.

If this framework evolves further, some management topics will have to be addressed:

  1. How will “foundational” courses be defined and designated by category?
  2. Can one course be designated in more than one category?
  3. What is the credit limit or designation for “foundational” courses?
  4. How much should the curriculum of courses change over time?
  5. What will the relationship be between “foundational” courses and those that may already serve as introductions to disciplines, programs, or fields? Will the creation of “foundational” courses displace certain introductory courses?
  6. Can a “foundational” course that fulfills the major requirement also be used to fulfill the distribution requirement in that category?

B: Foundational Choices 

Core principle: Foundational knowledge across the three broad disciplinary areas of inquiry in the College of Arts & Sciences. Students are required to fulfill some distribution requirements early in their college career. 

This approach provides for a basic distribution whose categories reflect the primary areas of knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences. It depends upon the departments and programs for the definition of the “foundational” courses for non-majors for these categories.

This framework also requires students to fulfill half of the distribution requirements in their first two years.

Framework B comprises the following three distribution categories:

  • Natural Sciences
  • Social Sciences
  • Humanities

Students are required to take a total of eight courses, at least two courses in each of these three distribution areas, to fulfill the distribution requirement. Students must take at least four of these courses in their first two years.

In addition to the eight required courses students are required to take:

  • Completion of one course taught in any language at the nonintroductory level or above, or at least 11 credits in one language. (corrected 2/6/16)
  • Two semesters of First-Year Writing Seminars

The result is a straightforward distribution based on the major areas of knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences. The simplicity of this structure creates the opportunity for student choice, autonomy, and exploration. The designation of the courses in the distribution categories by departments and programs engages the faculty directly and actively in the college’s definition of the mission of general education. And the time-stamping requirement supports the coherence of the foundational courses and provides an opportunity to create a college-wide experience or identity for first and second-year students gathered in foundational courses, if the total number of those courses is limited (to 10-12).

If this framework evolves further, some management topics will have to be addressed:

  • How many total courses will be included in each of the distribution areas?

C: Knowledge & Connection

Core principle: Foundational knowledge across the three broad disciplinary areas of inquiry in the College of Arts and Sciences, with the introduction of a cross-disciplinary component. Students are required to fulfill some distribution requirements early in their college career. 

This approach provides for a basic distribution whose categories reflect the primary areas of knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences and adds cross-disciplinary learning to these categories. It depends upon the departments and programs for the definition of the “foundational” courses for non-majors, for these categories. The definition of the cross-disciplinary curriculum and the designation of courses to be included also emerges from discussion within and across departments and programs, as well as from a designation of key current topics and problems and the creation of shared or collaborative teaching opportunities. University Courses can be a source of cross-disciplinary training and curriculum options. 

This framework also requires students to fulfill half of the distribution requirements in their first two years.

Framework C comprises the following four distribution categories:

  • Natural Sciences
  • Social Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Cross-disciplinary

Students are required to take a total of eight courses, at least one course in each of these four distribution areas. Students are also required to fulfill half of the distribution requirements in their first two years.

In addition to the eight required courses, in both options students are required to take:

  • Completion of one course taught in any language at the nonintroductory level or above, or at least 11 credits in one language. (corrected 2/6/16)
  • Two semesters of First-Year Writing Seminars

The result is a straightforward distribution based on the major areas of knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences. The simplicity of this structure creates the opportunity for student choice, autonomy, and exploration. The designation of the courses in the distribution categories by departments and programs engages the faculty directly and actively in the college’s definition of the mission of general education. And the time-stamping requirement supports the coherence of the foundational courses and provides an opportunity to create a college-wide experience or identity for first and second-year students gathered in foundational courses, if the total number of those courses is limited (to 10-12). The cross-disciplinary category highlights problem-solving, and encourages students to reflect on disciplines and disciplinary study, and to understand differences as well as connections among modes of thinking. It acknowledges and teaches the relevance of the cross-disciplinary nature of current research, and it models contemporary approaches to the complex problems of our times.

If this framework evolves further, some management topics will have to be addressed:

  • How will the designation of the cross-disciplinary component be created and managed?
  • How many total courses will be included in each of the distribution areas?
  • How will the relationship between/across cross-disciplinary and “foundational” teaching and learning be defined?

ARCHIVED - Original Curriculum Scenarios

The following scenarios were first introduced to initiate this college-wide discussion.  After soliciting feedback and holding several meetings and discussions with faculty and students throughout the fall 2016 semester, the curriculum committee revised the scenarios to simplify the frameworks and incorporate key elements that emerged from these discussions.

Archived Scenario 1 - Learning Goals Menu--Foundational Competencies

Archived Scenario 2 - Time-Stamped and Focused Menu

Archived Scenario 3 - Inquiry—Cross-disciplinary Breadth Plan

Essential Components

Draft submitted by the Curriculum Committee, 11-30-16

The topics below reflect specific, focused educational components that have consistently emerged in discussions across all proposed curriculum scenarios. They may involve particular pragmatic dimensions or consequences, or require specific organizational planning within or beyond the college. Many of these components parallel curricular expectations that support the "Principles of a Liberal Arts & Sciences Education" drafted by the department liaison group.

  1. A&S common course (variously defined) - Options include an overview of the college/curriculum, an introduction to careers and professional training opportunities, a topics course or a cross-disciplinary/inquiry course that models liberal educational learning goals, etc. Size options include large seriatim lectures or small seminars.
  2. Capstone or “culminating experience” (variously defined) - E.g. encourage capstones within majors, or create a set of “common experiences” options where students can apply their liberal arts education in a variety of ways. 
  3. Community engaged learning and/or research - See the “civic awareness/engagement” learning goal (Liberal Education Learning Goals). 
  4. Diversity and inclusion - See the “intercultural knowledge/multicultural competency” learning goal (Liberal Education Learning Goals). 
  5. Experiential learning - Options include: undergraduate research, capstone projects, community-engaged experience, study abroad experience, field work.
  6. Global education or study abroad - See the “intercultural knowledge” learning goal (Liberal Education Learning Goals). 
  7. Language learning - See principles of a liberal education above.
  8. Writing/communications skills - See principles of a liberal education above.

Student Learning Outcomes summary

The categories below reflect an imputed, general consensus across ongoing discussions and national projects that have sought to conceptualize student learning outcomes for liberal education. The liberal educational mission reaches across these categories; in particular contexts, emphasis and some specificity might vary, but the broad shape and main components are reflective of a common foundation.  (See Liberal Education Learning Goals)

  • Critical thinking
  • Integrative and synthetic thinking
  • Ethical values
  • Intercultural knowledge/”Multicultural Competency”
  • Civic Awareness/Engagement
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Scientific Literacy
  • Epistemology or “Meta-learning”
  • Persuasive Expression
  • Discovery