Connecticut College is implementing a new general curriculum that builds on the College’s historic strength in the liberal arts and will strengthen the academic experience for all future students.
“The new program will create an intentional learning experience for every student, integrating work in and out of the classroom over four years,” said President Katherine Bergeron.
The new curriculum was developed over the last three years through a comprehensive process, called reVision, which involved the entire Connecticut College community. The final components of the program were officially adopted through a faculty vote May 14.
“We are incredibly proud of the way faculty, students and staff came together to do the hard and thorough work of reimagining a 21st-century liberal arts curriculum,” said Jefferson Singer, Faulk Foundation Professor of Psychology and chair of the Faculty Steering and Conference Committee.
A program that spans all four years of a student’s undergraduate experience, the new curriculum, which is being called Connections, fosters an integrative and intentional approach to learning. After taking enhanced foundational courses in their first two semesters, students will explore a topic of broad intellectual significance (examples include Public Health; Global Sustainability; The Liberal Arts: Classical and Modern) through multiple lenses, by completing a series of thematically linked courses called an “Integrative Pathway.” The Connections curriculum also includes enhancements to the advising program and a new world languages and cultures requirement.
The goal, Singer said, is to encourage intellectual and creative inquiry that is personally meaningful to students and relevant to contemporary global and local concerns. Connections challenges students to think across disciplines, expand their problem-solving skills and develop an appreciation for the complexity of cultural understanding.
“Connections offers an integrative and engaging structure that students will embrace and that will give them the tools, skills and vision to prepare them for success in a world that requires flexibility, adaptability and an in-depth understanding of what it means to be a citizen in a global society,” said Mary Devins, associate director of the Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts. “Students will be active and intentional participants in designing their undergraduate educations.”
Senior Kevin Saunders, who served as a student representative on the College’s Educational Planning Committee this year, said it was inspiring to be part of a collaborative effort that will have lasting impact.
“As a graduating senior, I have enjoyed developing with my peers a new curriculum for many generations of future students,” he said. “The new curriculum will offer a unique learning experience that will enhance the liberal arts education. It's a legacy that I am very proud to leave behind."
As the new curriculum is implemented, faculty will evaluate their work through the lens of full participation, ensuring that students from all identities and backgrounds are fully included and have the opportunity to thrive at Connecticut College.
Elements of the curriculum will be rolled out over the next few years, according to the following schedule:
- Enhanced first-year seminars: The first-year seminars, which are small, discussion-based, writing intensive courses, have been redesigned to provide a stronger foundation in the liberal arts and in the core values of the College. Beginning in Fall 2015, these seminars will feature new opportunities for first-year students to engage with each other and the broader community; they will offer a forum for exploring issues of equity and inclusion from different perspectives; and they will encourage students to begin thinking openly and creatively about not only college but also their lives after college.
- Team advising: Also beginning in Fall 2015, first-year students will be supported by a new team advising system. The team will include the first-year seminar instructor, a staff member and a student peer adviser, who will work together to provide guidance and resources to help students make the most of their college experience.
- ConnCourses pilot: In ConnCourses, students connect areas of the liberal arts and explore different modes of thinking. Working in an intellectually stimulating and exciting environment, students from all backgrounds make lasting connections across fields of study and to the world beyond the classroom. ConnCourses create an environment of full participation that cultivates academic excellence and encourages an integrative approach to learning and problem-solving. Seven such courses will be offered this fall, with additional ConnCourses being offered in Spring 2016.
- Integrative pathway pilot: Integrative pathways are a faculty-designed series of courses that will offer students an opportunity to achieve academic integration within a broad intellectual framework. Every Pathway will be organized around a central theme and expose students to at least four different modes of intellectual inquiry, including creative expression; critical interpretation and analysis; quantitative and formal reasoning; scientific inquiry and analysis; and social and historical inquiry. At least one integrative pathway will be offered in the 2015-2016 academic year, and participation will be voluntary.
- World languages and cultures: Students entering in Fall 2016 or later will be required to complete two full semesters of language study, ideally no later than the sophomore year, to allow them to incorporate what they’ve learned into their academic work in the junior and senior years. In addition, students will work closely with advisers to incorporate their language learning into co-curricular experiences, such as internships, study away, research, student teaching and volunteer opportunities.
- ConnCourses: Beginning in Fall 2016, all students will be required to complete one designated ConnCourse as a requirement for graduation.
- Integrative pathways and modes of inquiry: Beginning with students matriculating in Fall 2016, the current general education program will be eliminated. New students in Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 will have the option of completing an approved integrative pathway, or complete classes in all five modes of inquiry from five different departments.
- Integrative pathways: It is the expectation that students matriculating in Fall 2018 or later will be required to complete an integrative pathway.