Fall 2006

A new curriculum for a new century

By Chancellor James Moeser

Carolina began this academic year with a once-in-a-generation event—the implementation of a new General Education Curriculum for our undergraduate students. Built around the theme of connections, it represents the collective wisdom of the entire campus community—and has been many years in the making.

Our previous curriculum, enacted in 1982, served us well for more than two decades, but several factors inspired the administration to call for a thorough review to ensure that it continued to help us prepare our students for citizenship and leadership in the 21st century.

A 1995 study raised concerns about relevancy and fragmentation between required courses and students’ academic goals, as well as pointed to a need for more experiential education, small-group seminars and global education.

In the late 1990s, an Intellectual Task Force appointed by Chancellor Michael Hooker called for more student-faculty interaction and more active forms of learning. We met those needs with initiatives such as first-year seminars, the Office of Undergraduate Research and community-based service.

The task force also recommended that we review the General Education Curriculum. We carried out that exhaustive process from 2001 to 2003, in a series of meetings and focus groups that included hundreds of faculty, undergraduate students, alumni and board members.

One question drove us: What does an educated person in the 21st century need to know?

Ultimately, the answers to that question led to our new curriculum, which was reviewed by all appropriate faculty boards and unanimously approved by our Faculty Council. Departments and programs across campus then went about determining how to implement the curriculum in their areas. To give you a sense of the scope of their task—administrative boards reviewed 4,000 new courses, approving half. This year’s freshmen will be the first class to adhere to the results—sophomores and upperclassmen will follow the curriculum in place when they enrolled.

So what does the new General Education Curriculum look like?

First, know that most previous requirements remain. Carolina undergraduates still must develop excellence in oral and written communication, a foreign language, critical thinking and analysis, and ethics. They must take courses from across the arts and sciences and are expected to study western culture.

But now they will also be expected to study global issues and to engage in experiential education such as study abroad, research and service learning. The overarching thrust will be to make connections between and across the courses they take in the undergraduate curriculum and, during their upper years, in their academic major and minor.

We believe that by connecting a breadth of subjects across the disciplines, our students will gain:

fundamental skills that facilitate lifelong learning—critical for our fast-paced knowledge-based society;

broad experience with methods and results of the most widely used approaches to acquiring knowledge; and

a sense of how to integrate these approaches to knowledge in a way that crosses traditional disciplinary and spatial boundaries.

Tied to the new curriculum is a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which we developed as part of our upcoming 10-year reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Called “Making Critical Connections,” the QEP focuses on globalizing the student learning experience and enhancing undergraduate research. Combined with our new curriculum, the QEP will ensure that we do, indeed, deliver what an educated person in the 21st century needs to know. And, as so many stories within these pages attest, private support will help us deliver on that promise.