Core values

New general education requirements to take effect in fall term 2003

By Chuck Luce

After years of work, university faculty have recommended and the Board of Trustees have approved a new set of general education requirements designed to better prepare students for the challenges of contemporary society. Core requirements are the courses all students must take–regardless of their major–and form the backbone of their liberal arts education.

The current core curriculum was established in 1976 and supplemented in 1991 but was not substantially re-engineered in its 25-year history. The faculty first started looking at it in 1995, primarily because many thought the freshman experience was not sufficiently challenging. "That mushroomed into a larger discussion about the core," said Associate Dean Bill Barry, who worked with faculty through the process. "There was solid faculty and student support to re-examine it, so an ad hoc committee was formed to make recommendations."

A survey, several proposals and counter proposals, eight task forces, and many, many long debates later, the faculty finally agreed on the new requirements. Primary among them are a pair of first-year seminars ("Scholarly and Creative Inquiry," and "Writing and Rhetoric"), five "Approaches to Knowing" distributed among the fine arts, humanities, mathematics and the natural and social sciences, and a junior- or senior-year integrative experience called "Connections." Foreign language and upper-division requirements were added, while the number of units in the core was reduced from 13 to eight.

The core defines the identity of the institution, and designing it was emotional, said Barry. "The faculty care deeply, and this was one of the reasons why the process was so lengthy."

It’s not quite over yet. Faculty must now create new courses and retool others. Implementation is scheduled for the fall term 2003.