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Philosophy & Goals of General Education

General education is the component of the undergraduate curriculum devoted to those areas of knowledge, methods of inquiry, and ideas that the University and scholarly community believe are common to well-educated persons. General education provides a foundation for future learning.

The generally well-educated student will demonstrate:

  1. broad knowledge and understanding of the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities;
  2. an ability to analyze, think critically, and form reasoned conclusions;
  3. competence in communicating his or her views and ideas clearly and cogently;
  4. an understanding of the methods by which people pursue knowledge;
  5. an understanding of differences and relative power among peoples, both in the United States and across the globe;
  6. knowledge of the principles of wellness for living a healthy and fit life, both physically and mentally.

I. Communication Skills

Communication is the art of expressing and exchanging meaning among people. At the University, meaning or knowledge is developed as teachers and students share insights, exchange ideas, and debate positions. Reading, speaking, research, and writing all play important roles in this construction and extension of knowledge.

College Writing

The writing course sequence enables students to use language actively in diverse ways and settings to gain and share knowledge about their experiences and concepts. They also reflect on that language use by examining their processes of writing and reading in order to understand both the texts they create and the texts they encounter.

Courses in the writing sequence will teach students to:

  1. make writing choices within the rhetorical contexts of academic writing, with attention to the particular audiences, subjects, and purposes of writing;
  2. understand and incorporate into their own writing each stage of the writing process: exploration, invention, drafting, revising, editing;
  3. improve their ability to analyze on multiple levels the texts that they read, and to recognize and synthesize connections among texts;
  4. discover a variety of argumentative strategies in academic writing and incorporate those strategies in the development of several essays;
  5. explore in depth at least one significant subject of academic interest by extensive reading, peer discussion, and the use and citation of research materials; and
  6. demonstrate control over the conventions of edited American English.
Public Speaking

The oral communication course develops students’ awareness of the communication process; focuses on the skills of invention, organization, and expression; promotes understanding of, and adaptation to, a variety of communication contexts; and emphasizes critical skills in listening, reading, thinking, and speaking.

The communication course will teach students to:

  1. create effective speeches through careful selection of topics and analysis of audience needs, situational factors, and speaker purposes;
  2. gather, evaluate, organize, and outline supportive materials into persuasive and informative messages that reflect an understanding of the appropriate use of evidence, reasoning, and language;
  3. deliver effective speeches that demonstrate proficiency in articulation, nonverbal behaviors, and visual aids that reinforce the message and promote clarity and interest; and
  4. become more discriminating consumers of messages through critical listening.

II. Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Part A—Mathematics Competency

Competency in baccalaureate level mathematics enables students to successfully engage in the mathematical thinking encountered in undergraduate studies and in daily living. Central to this competency is the ability to solve problems, to use mathematical modeling, and to evaluate mathematical calculations and reasoning. Students are expected to express and interpret mathematical information in written and oral forms and to use technology (calculators, computers, etc.) appropriately.

Mathematics competency courses will teach students to:

  1. use basic mathematics in problem solving and modeling strategies as needed for college coursework and for living in today’s and tomorrow’s world;
  2. clearly express mathematical ideas and calculations in writing; and
  3. make valid inferences from mathematical formulas, graphs, tables, and data.
Part B—General Education

Studying the natural sciences and mathematics enables students to understand the physical and natural world and the scientific and mathematical concepts, theories, and principles that explain that world. That is, students broaden and deepen their understanding of the diversity and interrelatedness of human knowledge in the sciences and mathematics and are better able to explain the similarities and differences that exist among the sciences. By studying the methods of inquiry practiced by scientists in the search for answers to yesterday’s and today’s issues and problems, they experience both the power and limitations of this knowledge while growing in their appreciation of the scientific perspective and its impact on their lives and society.

General education courses in the natural sciences and mathematics will allow students to:

  1. demonstrate understanding of basic terms, concepts, principles, processes, and systems in the natural sciences and mathematics;
  2. draw conclusions and/or identify relationships by synthesizing from relevant information;
  3. demonstrate the ability to apply appropriate investigative methodologies in laboratory courses; and
  4. demonstrate the ability to use and understand scientific and mathematical terminology in writing assignments and/or classroom discussion.

III. Social Sciences

In their social science coursework, students explore aspects of their own cultures and beliefs and the cultures and beliefs of others within a context of empirical research findings and theoretical speculation.

They examine anthropological, economic, geographical, political, psychological, and/ or sociological aspects of individuals and groups in various cultures and the social problems that these individuals and groups attempt to overcome.

They apply a variety of methodologies (e.g., laboratory experiments, case studies, naturalistic observations) to studies of individual and group behavior.

General education courses in the social sciences will allow students to:

  1. gain insight into the diversity of human motivations and institutional forces that influence social behavior;
  2. recognize multiple methods and modes of inquiry used in the social sciences and their appropriate application;
  3. develop analytical and critical thinking skills as applied to the study of the social sciences; and
  4. communicate ideas and explain concepts and analyses using the language of the social sciences.

IV. Humanities and Fine Arts

In studying the humanities and fine arts, students learn to explore issues fundamental to human identity, as these are expressed in the artistic, cultural, and intellectual traditions of the world’s civilizations. Courses in the humanities and fine arts reveal ways to give meaning to human experience through the study of fine arts, philosophical thought, literature and film, interpretations of history, rituals and belief systems of religion, communication, and foreign languages. After studying the humanities and fine arts, students will have the tools and knowledge to respond more knowledgeably and actively to those humanistic and artistic works and traditions created by people of various societies and times.

General education courses in the humanities and fine arts will allow students to:

  1. learn to perceive accurately, describe carefully, and analyze systematically various humanistic expressions and works such as literary, philosophical and historical texts; artistic forms and musical works; and ritual, drama, and other forms of symbolic action and speech;
  2. learn the significant concepts and issues that continue to structure and guide study in the humanities disciplines;
  3. learn to identify, analyze, and interpret the historical, social, or cultural contexts for these humanistic works and expressions;
  4. examine and come to understand human values as they are represented, reasoned about, and justified through various humanistic works and traditions; and
  5. develop reading, critical reasoning, and communication skills important for understanding and effectively communicating ideas and perspectives regarding humanistic works and traditions.

V. Multicultural Studies

Through multicultural and cross-cultural study, students will develop an understanding of diversity in the United States and of the larger world as a complex network of interdependent societies, cultures, histories, and world views. The courses offered challenge narrow conceptions of Self and Other by fostering in students an appreciation for cultural diversity, as well as the critical ability to discern the impact of large-scale cultural and historical forces on their lives. Students may choose among courses focusing on contemporary national and world politics (which could include such issues as conflict and cooperation, economy, the environment, and so on); the comparative study of cultures, societies, politics, and/or belief systems within and beyond the United States; and the dilemmas of the global majority—the three-quarters of the world’s population who live where they may have to strive for national identity as well as economic and political development.

All courses in this area, whether focused on the United States or the world, encourage a better understanding of the dimensions of experience and belief that distinguish cultures and societies from one another as well as the commonalities that knit together all people. Understanding various dimensions of human experience helps break down barriers among groups and stimulates dialogue about solutions to many complex social problems. Through multicultural and cross-cultural studies students will recognize the historical, political, and cultural forces that foster inequality and injustice, while becoming aware of strategies of change that improve the quality of life for all people. The courses, therefore, stress the necessity of enhancing international and multicultural understanding and communication.

General education courses in multicultural studies will allow students to:

  1. develop an informed perspective on (a) traditionally underrepresented groups in the U.S. and/or (b) on world societies, which would include knowledge of one or more of the following: culture, history, and social institutions;
  2. learn the significant conditions and contributions of (a) traditionally underrepresented groups in the U.S. and/or (b) different world societies;
  3. become aware of significant ways that the fact of underrepresented groups and/ or multiple world societies affects decisions about human rights, social justice, and equality; and
  4. understand multiple approaches to issues of social justice.

VI. Human Well-Being

In studying human well-being, students will come to understand and develop healthy lifestyles and practices. The educational experiences in this area will enable students to examine issues and form reasoned conclusions about factors affecting personal wellness.

General education courses in human well-being will allow students to:

  1. identify information and practices that will promote personal wellness;
  2. acquire practical knowledge that can be applied toward living a healthy and fit life;
  3. explain the factors that affect the quality of a healthy leisure lifestyle; and
  4. relate the effects of personal choices to the principles of wellness for living a healthy and fit life, both physically and mentally.