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Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum)

Statement of Purpose

    To meet the needs of the 21st Century, both continuity and change are required in higher education. On the one hand, we must continue to foster vital links with our common cultural heritage and to inculcate crucial intellectual skills. On the other hand, the contemporary world presents a number of critical issues with which every society must grapple. Educated citizens in the years ahead must be able to react creatively to cultural, racial, and gender-based diversity, and to cope effectively with problems and potentialities stemming from such developments as technological advances and environmental crises. As the rate of change accelerates, our graduates need a curriculum of liberal education that gives them both a sense of tradition in the hard-won values of the past and a feeling of competence in dealing with newly-arising challenges.

    To address these aims, any successful educational program must combine breadth and depth - an exposure to a variety of approaches and subject matters and a further concentration in one area of study. While the major may be expected to provide in-depth study in one discipline, the Liberal Education (a.k.a. core curriculum) is designed to introduce the student to a range of traditions, modes of thinking and inquiry, and issues of central human importance now and for the future.

    The Liberal Education (a.k.a. core) requirements are designed as an integrated program of studies which enable the student to

    1. Acquire a broadly-based foundation of knowledge outside the area of specialization.
    2. Gain knowledge of and competence in using the analytic and creative problem-solving processes that form the central bases of intellectual inquiry and cultural achievement.
    3. Develop a global perspective on the diversity and dilemmas of human experience and knowledge.
    4. Understand how diverse intellectual skills and forms of knowledge can be brought together to make informed judgments about complex issues.
    5. Acquire skill in the communication of ideas and knowledge.
    6. Develop the capacities of discernment, appreciation, and criticism as they pertain to cultures, values, information, and ideas.
    7. Develop and maintain the habit of learning and responding to new ideas throughout life.
Liberal Education (a.k.a. Core Curriculum) Areas of Study

Area 1: Writing and Discourse

    6 credit hours (2 courses) selected from first-year writing courses. Students entering in fall 1999 and thereafter must complete two (2) Writing Intensive courses. Students should consult with their advisor.

    Area 1 requirements reflect the centrality of discourse in the larger intellectual community. Our first-year writing courses introduce students to the interrelated and shared modes of verbal communication that are distinctive to college life - argument, interpretation, analysis, and metaphor and whose various usages substantially delineate what it means to become broadly educated. But these beginning courses should be thought of as the springboard for further writing and discourse throughout the undergraduate curriculum, especially in the disciplinary concentration.

    In order to enable students to meet the aims both of liberal education and of professional preparation, we include writing in many courses throughout the university, even if it may not be the main intellectual skill emphasized in the course.

    Students are encouraged to seek out courses that offer frequent opportunities for writing and related forms of discourse, both for the enhanced learning these courses can offer and for also their benefit to the student in terms of professional preparation. Many courses in the Liberal Education (a.k.a. core curriculum) build upon the writing and verbal skills that are the direct goal of Area 1 by including a significant writing component and by encouraging the achievement of skill in communicating ideas and knowledge.

    Students may meet the first year writing requirement in one of three ways:

    1. By successful completion of the two-semester sequence, Engl 1105-1106 or COMM 1015-1016 (Note: COMM courses are limited. No advanced placement credit will be given for COMM courses. Student must take both COMM courses to satisfy Area 1);
    2. By successful completion of 1106 (for students who are exempt from 1105 based on standardized test scores and high school class rank); or
    3. By successful completion of H1204 (for students who meet English department honors standards or University Honors standards).

    Other information: Virginia Tech accepts ETS Advanced Placement credit for the freshman writing sequence.

The Writing Intensive Requirement**

    Writing Intensive (WI) courses are designed to pay special attention to the particular approaches to verbal communication that are used regularly in the disciplines, professions, and businesses which students are preparing to enter.

    Writing intensive courses will be offered throughout the undergraduate curriculum (major, electives, other core courses, and labs). See the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum) Guide.

    **ViEWS – Visual Expression, Writing and Speaking – (For students entering in Fall 2005 and thereafter.)

    Virginia Tech affirms its commitment to ensuring that every graduate is able to effectively use a variety of spoken, visual and written communication strategies which are necessary for success as a student, for employment, and for life as a responsible citizen. For students entering in Fall 2005 the writing-intensive (WI) and writing across the major (WAM) requirement is being transitioned into the ViEWS (Visual Expression, Writing and Speaking) requirement. The ViEWS requirement, unlike the WI requirement, is the responsibility of the department to certify.

    The responsibility for deciding how to implement curriculum to recognize communication needs and requirements will now be placed at the department level rather than at the university level. Departments may choose alternate curricular methods for addressing broader message development and presentation skills. Students should consult with the department to determine how this requirement will be met in their particular major.

    Some departments will continue with the existing WI and WAM because it best meets their disciplinary demands and student needs. WI and WAM courses will continue to be listed in the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum) Guide. Other departments have chosen alternatives to meet the requirement by specifying a given number of credit hours, either within or outside of the department; by keeping or modifying current WAM proposals; while others have identified a series or sequence of courses.

    Please note that students who entered the university prior to Fall 2005 must meet the previous WI requirement.

Area 2: Ideas, Cultural Traditions, and Values

    6 credit hours (2 courses) selected from approved core courses

    Every student should be introduced to some of the ideas, cultural traditions, and values that have shaped the human world we now inhabit. An educated person sees the present in connection with the past, and understands that presently prevailing values and meanings derive from the creative thought and action of men and women who have preceded us. A study of influential texts, ideas, representative works of art and technology, and the development of cultural traditions begins to free the student from the superficial fads of the moment and from narrow provincialisms. By examining some of the competing ideas about human nature and human achievement both past and present, the individual gains a greater degree of self-knowledge and is better able to formulate worthwhile aims and commitments.

    Courses in this curricular area take the human condition and human values as their main focus, while dealing with a range of subject matters: philosophy, literature and communication, history, religion, the arts, and technology. Most of these courses deal with some aspect of Western cultural experience in its numerous varieties. Neglected dimensions of this experience such as the experience of women and minorities will be acknowledged and dealt with, both as an integrated aspect of many existing courses and in separate courses which focus directly upon these dimensions. The foreign language courses approved for Area 2 study the literatures of other countries in their cultural contexts. Moreover, since we are living increasingly in a global cultural context, courses are included that introduce the student to formative non-Western ideas, arts, and traditions as well.

    See the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum) Guide for listing of approved courses.

Area 3: Society and Human Behavior

    6 credit hours (2 courses) selected from approved core courses

    Human beings are not only participants in the world of human culture; we are also observers of it. The cultivation of the scientific approach to the study of humanity is one of the great achievements of the human intellect. Every student should therefore be introduced to the sciences of society and human behavior, a goal that can be accomplished through several avenues: through the study of psychology; through the study of social structures such as government, family, community, or economy; or through more wide-ranging examination of social patterns and processes. Such studies may examine past as well as present, non-Western as well as Western societies.

    Courses in this curricular area are best characterized by their methods of study and theoretical frameworks. They look for regularities in human behavior rather than giving primary attention to the unique or non-repeatable aspects of life. If not quantitative, they tend at least to be descriptive. When varied human values and allegiances nevertheless make their appearance within these disciplines, they do so more as objects to be investigated than as commitments to be honored.

    See the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum) Guide for listing of approved courses.

Area 4: Scientific Reasoning and Discovery

    6 credit hours of lecture (2 courses), *2 credit hours of related laboratory (2 labs) selected from approved core courses

*The University Provost has implemented an administrative change to Area 4 of the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. Core Curriculum), due to budget priorities and insufficient resources for basic science laboratory courses. The University Provost has approved the following, effective June 24, 2003 for all students entering Fall 2003 and beyond: Waiver of the 2 credit hours of related laboratory courses as stated in Area 4 for all majors that do not wish to require a laboratory component. NOTE: this waiver does not eliminate any credit from the total required for graduation for each major. The 2 credit hours eliminated from Area 4 must be made up as free electives. Students should consult with their advisor about Core requirements in their division of the college.*

    For many students at Virginia Tech, acquiring detailed knowledge of one or more of the natural sciences is essential. But for all students a liberal education involves the study of what science is, of how it can be conducted, of what it can and cannot tell us about the world. Without scientific study and the experience offered by a laboratory, students perceive only vaguely how and why science functions as a crucial standard for rational knowledge and inquiry in modern life. The study of a science engages the student in analysis and deduction as well as empirical experimentation that is, in scientific reasoning and discovery.

    The impact of the natural sciences and technology on our globally interdependent world is one of the most important realities we face as we enter the 21st century. The science courses in the Liberal Education (a.k.a. core curriculum) have a special role in educating students about the critical relevance of scientific knowledge to the potentialities and dilemmas of our natural and social environments.

    See the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum) Guide for listing of approved courses.

Area 5: Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning

    6 credit hours (2 courses) selected from approved core courses

    Like writing, mathematics is essential to intellectual inquiry in many areas. It is a basic language of the natural and social sciences and has become a useful tool for research in the humanities. The technological uses of mathematics and related forms of symbolic analysis are of tremendous significance to human society. Furthermore, the history of quantitative and symbolic reasoning as an intellectual discipline is linked with philosophy, the arts, and other aspects of human culture. Thus, a broad education must include these forms of reasoning, both as skills and as central modes of human thought. Mathematics, statistics, and certain areas of computer science and philosophy can all contribute to broadening a student's knowledge of quantitative and symbolic reasoning.

    A diagnostic formula and testing procedure has been derived to predict readiness for Engineering/Science Calculus at Virginia Tech. A precalculus course, Math 1015, has been developed for those students who need further preparation. You can obtain information about the math diagnostic test from your advisor

    Approved course combinations: Many departments throughout the university have specific math sequence requirements. Be sure to check with your advisor about the requirements for your program.

    See the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum) Guide for listing of approved courses.

Area 6: Creativity and Aesthetic Experience

    1-credit-hour course. (Students in the College of Science must take one 3-credit-hour course.) (Most majors in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences must take one 3-credit course.)

    The arts contribute significantly both to the experience and to the interpretation of human life. Creativity and aesthetic response criss-cross the boundaries between intellectual ideas, the imagination, and actual design. Moreover, the arts are always intimately linked with the material culture of a society its modes of production and design as well as with its values and ideas. Thus, the arts can be studied and experienced in a variety of ways: not only as "high culture" for an elite, but also as a means of tracing the history and ideas of particular societies; or as an active process of creative design and expression in many different physical forms. The metaphorical and intuitive thought processes that are essential to making and experiencing works of art are woven into many other human cultural and creative activities. Thus, the arts have an important role to play in broadening the sensibilities. Most artistic mediums include a highly public dimension concerts, exhibitions, performances, publications, public installations, and the built environment in which the creative works of artists, designers, and their collaborators are accepted or contested as meaningful elements of the larger social fabric. A guided exposure to the public dimension of the arts can provide a valuable framework for continued participation in the arts beyond college.

    See the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum) Guide for listing of approved courses.

Area 7: Critical Issues in a Global Context

    3 credit hours (1 course) selected from approved core courses

    Global interdependence is a powerful fact of life as we enter the 21st century. The dilemmas and possibilities humankind faces cannot be effectively addressed by any single culture or group of people acting alone. An awareness of critical issues of the day is thus an essential extension of liberal education and prepares students to respond thoughtfully to the complex world in which they will live. As a state institution of higher education, Virginia Tech has a responsibility to prepare students to react creatively and constructively to the social, international and intercultural, and environmental challenges that confront the commonwealth and the world.

    The university requires that undergraduates take at least one course that deals in a substantial way with major issues of critical importance for the larger society. Courses that satisfy this requirement can be taken in any area of the curriculum, including the major, the Liberal Education (a.k.a. core curriculum) courses, or electives. Students may select from a wide range of courses that focus on major international and intercultural issues in contemporary world affairs, including such areas as politics, the management of conflict, the roles of economic competition and cooperation, demographic issues, and the emerging world order. Many science courses in Area 7 will examine global issues associated with environmental decline and restoration. Some engineering courses will study the role of technology as a major force in shaping the cultural and economic conditions of human societies. Alternatively, some courses will include comparative or cross-disciplinary examinations of cultures, societies, and belief systems, including those of developing countries. Other courses will examine the social and personal implications of cultural, racial, and gender-based differences. But regardless of the topical focus of the course, all Area 7 courses will utilize interdisciplinary approaches in which a number of relevant factors - historical, ethical, technological, cultural, and/or scientific are brought to bear on the issues under discussion.

    See the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum) Guide for listing of approved courses.

College Core Curriculum Requirements

    There are some differences among the colleges in how Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. Core Curriculum) courses are to be used. Please consult your advisor and the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum) Guide. The Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, Office of the Provost, may also be contacted with questions concerning the Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. University Core Curriculum).


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Virginia Tech 2006-2007 Undergraduate Course Catalog and Academic Policies