Some of you may remember many eons ago, in those halcyon days pre-pandemic, that UP’s Academic Senate approved a “revitalized University Core Curriculum.” It was approved, to be specific, in November of 2019 after several years of gathering input and information, committee work, and consultation with departments across the UP community. The intention was and is to phase in the revitalized Core for entering students in the Fall of 2021. The purpose of this post is to update the UP community on where the Core revitalization process stands and on plans for moving forward.
First, a number of people have asked whether it even makes sense to proceed with implementation plans given the extraordinary circumstances of our present academic life. This is a reasonable question. UP’s academic leadership is, however, in favor of moving forward for a variety of reasons.
For one, a University Core Curriculum is a very slow moving thing that impacts all student academic experiences and requires years to revise. The UP Core was last substantively revised over 20 years ago, and our recent revitalization process is now in year 4 of a projected 8 year cycle. To stop or delay now would put much important work, and the quality of the Core, at serious risk.
Relatedly, the Core does need to be updated. Our Core is behind the academic times in regard to coverage of key topics such as diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice, and our Core often lacks the sense of communal, progressive, and intentional intellectual endeavor that is essential to a quality liberal arts education. The prior Core has served UP well, and offers many excellent classes, but after 20 years it needs revitalization.
At the same time, there is a clear recognition that the Core revitalization cannot proceed as it would in “normal” academic times. As we push forward, we are also actively thinking about ways to keep forward momentum without unrealistic asks of faculty and staff. We want to be in communication about what is realistic, and we are happy to compromise.
As one example, in trade for some advance planning for the start of phased implementation in the Fall of 2021 we are working to minimize (and in most cases eliminate) Core assessment exercises this 2020-2021 academic year. We will still ask people to help lay a foundation for effective assessment of the Core in the future – but given the circumstances it seems unnecessary to assess a Core that is being phased out during such as challenging year. As we push forward with the revitalization process, we’ll continue to actively find such compromises in ways that balance the quality of the future Core with the real human needs of faculty and staff.
So, what is the future of the revitalization process? One feature of the revitalized Core is a series of progressive levels for Core courses.
- This starts with a new introductory Anchor Seminar (as an introduction to the liberal arts and to UP’s Core);
- Continues with a “Foundation Level” largely comprised of existing Core courses;
- Moves to an “Exploration Level” offering new interdisciplinary opportunities for courses that build on Foundation level classes;
- And culminates with an “Integration Level” that will largely involve completing a portfolio encouraging reflection on Core educational experiences.
For the Fall of 2021, our plan is to only start the Anchor Seminar and the new Foundation Level. Because the Foundation Level is largely comprised of courses in the current Core, the new work should be minimal for most faculty and academic staff – mostly involving new student learning outcomes that can guide course organization towards consistency and coherence with a new set of six “Habits of Heart and Mind” that should be the result of a UP education. We will also be identifying approximately eight regular faculty to teach sections of the new Anchor Seminar. We hope to identify these faculty this Fall of 2020 so that departments have time to plan for the one course a faculty members gives up to teach in the Anchor Seminar. More information about teaching the new Anchor Seminar will be forthcoming.
The next phase of revitalized Core implementation for the 2022-2023 academic year will be the new “Exploration Level” courses. While the Foundation Level courses will come exclusively from CAS as UP’s liberal arts college, Exploration level courses can come from any college or professional school – as long as the courses employ a liberal arts lens. We’ll be sharing much more information about these courses over time, and will have opportunities to intentionally plan course possibilities in the 2021-2022 academic year run-up to implementation.
The final phase of revitalized Core implementation will likely start in 2023-2024 with the new integration assignment (the completion of a portfolio) in collaboration with majors. By the Fall semester of 2024, all students should be taking the revitalized Core and the current Core will be completely phased out.
We have many practical questions to deal with within this implementation timeline, and will try to provide more regular updates here and elsewhere on the UP website. if you have specific questions please reach out to me in my role as the new Core Curriculum Director – firstname.lastname@example.org. As one near-term update priority, I am putting together a document outlining key differences between the current Core and the revitalized Core in hopes that will facilitate advising and discussions about transfer credits. I hope to post something about that here, and elsewhere, soon.
I also appreciate any follow-up questions; the essence of my job as Core Director is to generate collaborative ideas about how to make sure the revitalized Core fits our shared mission, builds on faculty expertise, and enhances the educational experience of our students!