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Rationale for Liberal Studies
At Western Carolina University, all bachelor’s degree programs include courses in Liberal Studies designed to provide each student with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of an educated person.
WCU’s Liberal Studies curriculum requires 42 hours and is divided into three parts: Core Courses (21 hours), Perspectives Courses (18 hours), and a First Year Seminar (3 hours). The Core includes writing, mathematics, oral communication, wellness, and physical and biological sciences, while the Perspectives center on social sciences, history, humanities, fine and performing arts, and world cultures. One of the Perspectives courses must be upper-level (300/400) and fall outside of a student’s chosen major. Finally, First Year Seminars (FYS) enable students to experience intellectual life at the university from a variety of disciplinary contexts, many of which are directly connected to the major experience.
The Liberal Studies Program expects courses within its curriculum to emphasize at least one of the following student learning outcomes: inquiry, information literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, means of expression, awareness of self, awareness of cultural diversity, and awareness of impact. Taken together, these learning outcomes empower students to ask relevant research questions and evaluate the resources available to answer those questions. They encourage students to engage with their surroundings by devising solutions for observed problems, all while learning to think critically about each issue from a multitude of perspectives. Developing effective communication skills is another hallmark of WCU’s Liberal Studies approach, and our courses enable students to develop an awareness of themselves and their belief systems, while also cultivating an awareness and empathy for other cultures.
The Liberal Studies program educates the whole person, preparing people for work, family life, and civic engagement, while the curriculum also provides students with the intellectual tools for understanding contemporary issues in their local, national, and global communities.
Perspectives Courses and the Major
If a particular Liberal Studies Perspectives course is required by a degree program or major, the Liberal Studies category of that course will be satisfied for students in that program. However, the Upper-level Perspective (ULP) requirement must still be met by a course outside the discipline of a student’s major (the prefix of the ULP must be different from the prefix of the student’s major).
Academic Learning Communities
Although they are not a required part of the Liberal Studies program, Academic Learning Communities are a priority at WCU, and they are often established in the context of sets of Liberal Studies courses. Academic Learning Communities aim to encourage students to discover and appreciate relationships between disciplines, integrate knowledge, and enhance their sense of place within the university community. Academic Learning Communities consist of cohorts of students and instructors in a selection of grouped courses. Participation in an Academic Learning Community is an option for both instructors and students.
Academic Learning Communities are organized in a variety of formats reflecting faculty and student interests, scheduling constraints, and resources. The accepted formats of academic learning communities will evolve as the university gains more experience with learning communities, and as the campus culture reveals the most suitable formats for meeting the needs of our student population. Examples of course groupings might include: a First-Year Seminar, a transition course, and a writing course; or, a First-Year Seminar, a writing course, and a Perspectives course; or a writing course, another Core course, and a Perspectives course. Students enrolled in majors that begin in the freshman year (for example, Art or Music) can be accommodated by including entry-level major courses in the Academic Learning Community course grouping.
Providing the option of participation in Academic Learning Communities is based on considerable evidence in the literature that student learning, sense of community, and retention are improved by providing students with an academic structure that facilitates and fosters interaction among students, faculty, and courses. Identification with a set of peers provides social support while revealing the social nature of intellectual endeavors. Experience with several faculty and staff members who are coordinating course activities will encourage students to discover and appreciate the relationship of disciplines, knowledge, and extracurricular life at the university.
Liberal Studies and Transfer Students
Courses transferred from other institutions to fulfill Liberal Studies requirements will be evaluated by the Office of the Registrar in consultation with the appropriate department head, advising center designee, or the assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate studies, based on university guidelines. Credit earned by examination and advanced placement may be applied toward fulfillment of Liberal Studies requirements.
Students who have completed the Associate of Arts Degree, the Associate of Engineering, or the Associate of Science Degree in the North Carolina Community College System will have the Liberal Studies requirements waived. However, if a student has completed the Associate of Applied Science Degree, Associate of Fine Arts, or other degree program in the North Carolina Community College System, the student’s academic transcript will be evaluated for transfer credit on a course-by-course basis. When a transfer student has completed the General Education or Liberal Studies requirements of a public or private institution outside of the University of North Carolina system, the Associate Provost for undergraduate studies, in consultation with the Advising Center and the Liberal Studies Committee, will determine whether that institution’s general education program is sufficiently similar to Western Carolina University’s Liberal Studies program to warrant a blanket waiver of the Liberal Studies requirements.
Click below to view the requirements for the Liberal Studies Program.
Liberal Studies Program Requirements