University Senate approves next steps for new common curriculum

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The University of Connecticut Senate has approved the next steps for a new common curriculum for all undergraduate students. Senator Suzanne Wilson, representing the Education department and Educational Curriculum and Instruction, started off the special Senate meeting summarizing the past six years of work put into the new proposed common curriculum. 

“Current gen ed requirements were put in place in 1985 with major and minor changes made along the way,” Wilson said during the Senate meeting. “What we present this afternoon is the fleshed-out vision of a common curriculum for leadership and global citizenship at the University of Connecticut, the product of six years of on-going and broadly inclusive deliberation, informed by national data and UConn stakeholders’ expertise and concerns.”  

Some recent changes to the common curriculum include the multiculturalism content area and the environmental competency additions. Some of the current required competencies for all UConn students, including a writing area (W), a quantitative area (Q), and a language requirement, will not be changed in the proposed common curriculum plan. Instead, the content areas will be refined, along with the Environmental Literacy competency.  

“The new vision is intended to build on the extensive organization learning that has gone to the current general education curriculum, while also challenging us to re-envision a gen-ed curriculum that reflects our commitment to be forward looking, responsive to students, and increasingly flexible while maintaining high scholarly standards, and to offer relevant, challenging coursework that empowers students with a strong sense of moral, ethical, and social responsibility and the capacity to be proactive in a world that desperately need them,” Wilson said. 

The topics of inquiry (TOI), a revamp of the current content areas, include in its current form: creativity: design, expression, innovation (TOI-1), cultural dimensions of human experiences (TOI-2), diversity, equity, and social justice (TOI-3), environmental literacy (TOI-4), individual values and social institutions (TOI-5), and science and empirical inquiry (TOI-6). 

If this new plan is further approved, students must pass at least a total of 21 credits between the six “topics of inquiries”, with at least three credits of coursework in each of them. Students must still complete at least one laboratory course, now included in TOI-6. There are other rules and regulations students must follow as well, similar to the current content areas, which can be viewed in the email sent to all students last week.  

Senator Thomas Long, representing Nursing Instruction and Research, said the new common curriculum is a  “living” one. He noted there needed to be continued improvement on how to gauge what a student should have to get out of each “topic of inquiry”. It also means the naming of the groups and other aspects may change if further approved in the next meeting.  

Areas of criticism about the new plan raised by Senator Masha Gordina, representing CLAS/Mathematics, and Senator Jeffery McCutcheon, representing Engineering/Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, revolve around resource-allocation and over complication of the gen-ed system.  

Access to these “new” required class areas at regional campuses was also cited as a potential problem. The issue would be if regional campuses, which have less class variety, would be able to suit all these new “topics of inquiry.” No concrete answer was given, but hybrid and online courses were proposed as a potential solution. Senator Manuela Wagner, representing CLAS/Literatures, Cultures, and Languages said, “planning would come with the implementation task force”. 

The entire meeting, which lasted more than three hours, proposed minor amendments to the current plan, along with amendments to the proposed amendments. The entire plan passed by a vote of 41-10, with two abstentions.  

“The next step will be for the Curricula and Courses Committee to draft an implementation plan that will include a fiscal impact report,” Carl Lejuez, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs wrote in his announcement last week. “This plan would then be presented to the Senate in April for approval, alongside corresponding updates to the Senate By-Laws, Rules, and Regulations.” 

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