General education goals shape new Compass Curriculum

Members of the general education task force review faculty submissions in an effort to build a Compass Curriculum.
Members of the general education task force review faculty submissions in an effort to build a Compass Curriculum.

UCCS students will soon receive a compass to help guide them through their academic and personal careers beginning next fall.

But this is no magnetized pointer issued as part of scout membership. Instead, Compass Curriculum is the new name for a new, 24-credit hour general education framework approved by faculty a year ago and now in an implementation phase.

The motivation behind the Compass Curriculum is to improve student experiences while at UCCS and post-graduation, according to Jeff Ferguson, professor, College of Business, and David Weiss, associate professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Weiss and Ferguson serve as general education task force co-chairs and lead a 20-plus member committee of faculty.

“We did this to maximize the number of high impact practices that students would experience,” Ferguson said. “Research indicates if you have two or more high-impact practices, retention rates go up, and graduation rates go up. That is the goal.”

Drivers for a new general education curriculum included better preparing students for the challenges of the workforce or graduate school as well as integrating professional schools such as business, engineering, nursing and public affairs into the general education curriculum. Ferguson and Weiss believe that by coordinating course offerings between colleges and improving students’ overall core skills, students will be more successful, first at UCCS and later in life.

“This is a really a signature program for our campus differentiating us from other all the other campuses in Colorado. That’s a big deal,” Weiss said. “We hope it will, number one, be a draw for students but also this is all about the students and their professional success.”

Key elements of the compass curriculum involve eight core courses in areas such as gateway ( a revamped Freshman Seminar), English and quantitative reasoning along with explore courses in areas such as physical and natural world, arts, humanities and culture, and society, economics and health. The curriculum proscribes courses in inclusiveness/global diversity, sustainability, writing, a capstone experience and a writing portfolio.

The Advanced Core is one of the signature components of the Compass Curriculum, Weiss said. It involves a 3000-level course that is meant to be multidisciplinary in nature focused on the concept of knowledge in action. The concept is to promote curricular and intellectual connections between students’ Compass Curriculum and major coursework while providing students an opportunity to integrate their learning, ideally beyond their disciplinary area of study.

Last fall, most UCCS faculty – 86 percent – agreed with the general parameters. From there, the implementation process began.

Soon after the faculty vote, the task force began meeting with leadership of UCCS colleges and faculty. Questionnaires were developed to help faculty describe courses and how they fit into a Compass Curriculum area. Some were easy. Others required in-depth conversations. The committee also had to work closely with colleges and individual departments to ensure graduation requirements did not increase and that standards and requirements set by accrediting bodies were met. The committee conducted interviews with students as well as staff in the Office of Student Success in an effort to ensure smooth implementation.

So far, 60 courses have been submitted by faculty and approved as part of the Campus Curriculum. Another 40 are in process with the goal that they will be ready by Jan. 2014 for publication in the online course catalog. Faculty can continue to submit courses monthly with the next deadline being Nov. 22. To ensure courses make the course catalog, faculty should submit their course by Jan. 30. Beginning Fall 2014, students will be expected to fulfill the new Compass Curriculum requirements.

“This is a faculty driven process,” Weiss said.

“It is very important to us that the faculty realize that they still have full control over their courses as well as the colleges have full control of courses.”

For more information about the process and to see a list of courses approved, visit Courses

For more information, contact Weiss, 255-3565, [email protected] or Ferguson, 255-3228, [email protected]

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