Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What's the Deal with the New College Curriculum?

Traditional Curriculum, Forums, New Curriculum - What's the difference?

Lately we've been getting a lot of questions about the change of curriculum going on in the College of Arts and Sciences, so this post is going to address some of those questions as well as give a summary of everything you need to know to help you choose the curriculum that's right for you.

This is the curriculum that's currently in place for students enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences. What's most important to know is that the traditional curriculum consists of two main parts: competency requirements and area requirements.
Competency Requirements:
  • The first writing requirement
    • The first writing requirement must be fulfilled by taking a first-year ENWR course at UVa. (Echols Scholars are exempt from this requirement).
  • The second writing requirement
    • The second writing requirement must be fulfilled by taking a qualifying class here at UVa (there is no one class that satisfies this requirement - there are many options!)
  • The foreign language requirement
    • The foreign language requirement can be met by either placing out through AP/IB/SAT II scores, by placing out based on your score on UVa's placement exam, or by taking classes in a foreign language at UVa through the 2020 level.
Area Requirements:
  • Social Sciences (6 credits)
  • Humanities (6 credits)
  • Historical Studies (3 credits)
  • Non-Western Perspectives (3 credits)
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics (12 credits)
The important thing to note here is that no one class satisfies any Area Requirement! This means that you have the ability to pick and choose which classes you want to take, as long as they fall under the "umbrella" of a certain Area Requirement.

Learn more:

The Forums give undergraduates a chance to take classes that are tailored around specific topics/ideas/problems. Each Forum accepts around 40 students per year, and those students then share a first-year intro seminar on the specific topic of their Forum. In the spring of their second year, Forum students participate in a Capstone class, where they work on case studies and participate in research on their topic.

New Forum topics are released each year, and for the incoming class of 2021, the Forum topics are:
  • Food, Society, and Sustainability
  • Space, Knowledge, and Power
  • Visions of the Good

This curriculum is being phased in for the first time in Fall 2017 for a select number of students within the College of Arts and Sciences. Created and led by the University's College Fellows, this curriculum is designed to engage students in a more innovative and interdisciplinary general education curriculum.

Similar to the Traditional Curriculum, the New Curriculum requires that students complete several components: the Literacies, the Disciplines, and the Engagements.  

  • Rhetoric in the 21st Century
    • This requires students to take 3 credits in a First Writing Course and 3 credits in a Second Writing Course (very similar to the traditional curriculum).
  • World Languages
    • Just like the traditional curriculum, this requirement can be met by either placing out through AP/IB/SAT II scores, by placing out based on your score on UVa's placement exam, or by taking classes in a foreign language at UVa through the 2020 level.
  • Quantification, Computation, and Data Analysis
    • This requirement can be met by completing two 3- or 4- credit courses in a variety of fields, including (but not limited to) Anthropology, Math, Statistics, Psychology, and more.
  • Artistic, Interpretive, & Philosophical Inquiry
  • The Chemical, Mathematical, & Physical Universe
  • Cultures & Societies of the World
  • Historical Perspectives
  • Living Systems
  • Science & Society
  • Social & Economic Systems
Students must take 3 credits in each of the Disciplines, for a total of 21 credits.

The Engagement Courses:

The Engagements are the biggest difference between the Traditional Curriculum and the New Curriculum. They emphasize group work and discussion, are worth 8 credits total (or 2 credits each), and revolve around 4 main themes:
  • Engaging Aesthetics
  • Empirical and Scientific Engagement
  • Engaging Differences
  • Ethical Engagement
Students take these four Engagement Courses in their first year, meaning that these classes rotate on almost a quarterly basis (so you'd take two first semester, and two second semester).

Additionally, students in the New Curriculum will attend a lecture series with guest speakers to culminate what they have learned in their Engagement Courses, and will also have a 'summer reading' project that will be used to facilitate discussion in the Engagement Courses throughout the first year.

I know this all sounds like a lot - but try not to stress!

No one curriculum is better than the other; they just work in different ways. If a Forum topic relates to what you want to study, if the Engagements in the New Curriculum sound interesting to you, or if you just want to stick with the tried-and-true Traditional Curriculum - go for it! It all comes down to what you want your academic experience to look like.

Once you've chosen the curriculum that you feel is right for you, a great resource to check out is ULink, a peer advising organization that connects upperclassmen with first-year students to help you pick classes, navigate your curriculum requirements, and adjust to college life.

Comment below if you have any additional questions, and a student blogger will get back to you soon!

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