What should a college graduate know and be able to do? In the admission process, college graduation might seem a long way off. Yet your
answer to this question should drive your exploration of colleges and universities
and what they offer academically.
When I pose this question to groups at TCU Admission events, I often immediately hear
the response, “get a job”— an undeniably important goal for those pursuing higher
education and one that is on the minds of students and their parents. Soon enough,
though, other answers follow: “critical thinking,” “working well with others from
different backgrounds,” “communicating well,” “analyzing information,” “learning to
understand others’ perspectives,” “becoming independent thinkers,” “being able to
navigate change,” and “finding my purpose in life.”
In higher education, we call the answers to the question of what a college graduate
should know and be able to do “student learning outcomes.” And the answers I hear
over and over at admission events closely resemble the student learning outcomes frequently
identified as characterizing a liberal education. Liberal education is grounded in
the classical liberal arts tradition beginning in ancient Greece and Rome, moving
through the Enlightenment, and continuing to shape higher education today. In this
context, liberal comes from the Latin word liber, which means “free.” Liberal artes referred to the areas of study which prepared people to participate in a free society.
What is TCU's Core Curriculum?
At TCU, the liberal arts tradition forms the foundation for the TCU Core Curriculum
, the curricular requirements that every TCU student must fulfill to graduate. The
Core Curriculum emphasizes student learning that exceeds the major, providing preparation
for life that no single major can encompass. While you have probably put a great deal
of time into thinking about what your major will be, you should also carefully consider
what a college or university offers in its general education curriculum. After all,
you’ll spend at least one-third of your time and energies in college taking courses outside of your major
Emphasizing breadth of knowledge and a range of skills, the TCU Core Curriculum advances
the TCU mission, “to think and act as ethical citizens in a global community.” To
fulfill this mission, the TCU Core Curriculum is organized around four essential student
- Analyze human experiences, cultural expressions, or creativity
- Apply mathematical and scientific literacy skills or concepts
- Describe concepts or theories of social responsibility in diverse or global communities
- Communicate effectively
Courses across our university—especially in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences,
fine arts, and mathematics—provide you with the challenge of thinking about enduring
questions, connecting the knowledge they learn in various courses, and problem solving
in today’s world. They teach you academic strategies and skills that will help you
in other courses in college, in your first job after graduation, and in navigating
what life throws at you.
You may recall that “get a job” was a frequent first response at admission events
to the question I posed about what students should learn while in college and you
might have noted that I haven’t talked much about that here. Rest assured that employers
highly value the student learning outcomes characterizing liberal education and the
TCU Core Curriculum. A recent, large-scale American Association of Colleges and University’s survey of employers found that nine in ten rate the learning outcomes, knowledge, and skills provided
by a liberal education as important for the recent college graduates they hire
. The TCU Core Curriculum prepares you for academic and professional success and
to make important contributions to society as you move on from TCU.
How do TCU students fulfill Core Curriculum requirements?
Here is a sampling of recent course offerings in the TCU Core Curriculum, showing
how contemporary interests combine with liberal arts traditions:
- Global Women’s Literature (Global Awareness)
- Food and Culture (Cultural Awareness)
- Race and Sports (Citizenship and Social Values)
- Video Game History (Humanities)
- Sustainability: Environment/Social/Economics (Social Sciences)
- Disasters and Failures (Natural Sciences)
- Creative Thinking and Making Stuff (Fine Arts)
If you’re wondering what all this looks like in practical terms, students at TCU fulfill Core Curriculum requirements with a minimum of 39 credit hours. Many supports are in place to make sure you progress toward completing the Core.
You can check your progress in your online academic portal at any time, and staff
and faculty advisors help you identify appropriate courses before registering each
semester. Courses in the Honors College, courses that are prerequisites for majors,
and courses in majors all fulfill Core requirements. You may meet most Core requirements
through transfer credits (including study abroad) or credit by exam.
As one TCU alum stated, “The TCU Core Curriculum classes allowed you to ask tough
questions about life and our place in it.” I hope you’ll join us in this inquiry as
a Horned Frog.Dr. Theresa Gaul is director of TCU’s Core Curriculum. A long-time English professor, she has also directed Women and Gender Studies and chaired the Department of English. She teaches and researches early American literature, women’s writing, and Native
and Indigenous Studies.