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University Releases New Core Curriculum Plan for Fall 2017

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New undergraduate students enrolling at the University beginning Fall 2017 will be on a new Core Curriculum plan.  This is the first substantive change to the Core since 2006.

The new Core still requires at least 40 credits for bachelor’s degree students and at least 20 for associate’s degree students.

The new Core introduces several updates, better articulates objectives for life and career preparation, and sets a platform for more rigorous program assessment.  The changes will have little effect on current students, however, according to Associate Provost Gordon Simerson.

The core is based on nine topic areas.  Students will first take courses that cover all the topics broadly and then choose from classes that provide greater depth in more focused topic areas.

The design is based generally on the “LEAP” model (“Liberal Education for America’s Promise”) developed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities.  The design is intended to provide the foundation for a university-level education in a context that is intended for career-oriented institutions like the University of New Haven.

The nine categories expand and refine those in the current Core, with more emphasis on culture, the individual, and critical thinking.  New writing-intensive courses, normally in the major, replace the Writing Proficiency Exam (WPE) and introductory writing courses.  The “Common Course”—now UNIV1141 Life on Earth—will be required of all undergraduates.  The Experiential Education requirement remains unchanged.

As part of the effort to update the Core, many core courses have been updated as well.  Most of the courses in the current Core will also count towards the new Core, but many others are included as well as several new courses.

The new Core is designed to be more flexible as well.  Within broad constraints, individual degree programs’ faculty were free to determine whether specific courses would be required from the Core to satisfy the demands of their programs.  Many degree programs were adjusted in other ways to accommodate the new Core and to make other timely updates.

The new Core plan includes these categories:

  1. Written Communication
  2. Oral Communication
  3. Mathematical & Quantitative Literacy
  4. Scientific Exploration
  5. Critical Thinking & Problem-Solving
  6. Historical Perspectives
  7. The Individual & Society
  8. Global & Intercultural Awareness
  9. Perspectives on Creative Arts

Bachelor’s degree students must take at least one course at the foundation level from each of the nine categories (generally 28 credits) and the remaining 12 credits from higher-level courses.  Associate’s degree students must take foundation courses in categories 1, 2, 3, and 5 (generally 12 credits), and the remaining 8 credits from any Core category/level.  Some programs specify which Core courses are required, but normally the choice belongs to the student.

So, how will the introduction of the new Core affect current students?

Because the plan applies only to new students, the available courses for current students will continue largely unchanged.  Some courses from the current Core will be phased out, but new Core courses will be easily substituted.  For example, the popular COMM1100, “Human Communication” will be replaced by a new COMM course, and the new course will be acceptable in place of COMM1100 for current students who haven’t yet taken it.

Those students already pursuing a degree program will stay on their current plan, unless they choose to move to the new plan.  Changing to the new plan means the student would be switching to the 2017 catalog version of their major, including all other changes made as part of the Core update.  Students are likely to find that changes to major requirements, as well as newly introduced requirements like the Writing course and the Common Course, would cause a delay in graduation.  The Writing courses are phasing in gradually, so seats may be scarce.

Once a student makes the decision to change catalog years, they cannot “go back.”  If a student needs to simply change their major, however, they can do so while staying on their current catalog year, and thus the current Core Curriculum.  Students considering whether to make the change in catalog year to take advantage of the new Core should explore the “What If” analysis on Degree Audit and should consult with their academic advisors.

Designing and maintaining an effective Core Curriculum is among the biggest challenges for a university faculty.  Accreditation standards and state law require that at least a third of a university degree program comprise “general education.”  The faculty also must assess its effectiveness.  An institution’s Core plan serves to articulate what the institution envisions a university-educated person should know and be able to do.

While some question the value of general education, there are obvious and durable trends the higher education community is well aware of:  the knowledge and skills unique to a given discipline may change over a lifetime, but the general skills acquired through “gen ed” endure.  Employers are most impressed by graduates who have mastered skills like critical thinking, communication, and teamwork.  Many years after graduation, most graduates fondly recall and appreciate what they experienced in Core courses outside their majors.  The University of New Haven’s new Core plan is expected to continue that trend.

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University Releases New Core Curriculum Plan for Fall 2017