Theme 1: Advancing Liberal Education in the 21st Century

A liberal education requires a thorough grounding in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences. It illuminates the connections unifying the modes of inquiry characteristic of each discipline and provides the foundation for students to acquire wisdom. A liberal education will help students to become better citizens, better professionals, and better family members and friends. While recognizing that teaching, research, and service are all crucial to the fabric of Arts & Sciences, and that any one of these without the other two weakens our mission, we affirm that undergraduate education has traditionally been and remains central to the identity and purpose of Baylor University. Within this culture of learning, therefore, we affirm our commitment to an undergraduate core curriculum and experiential learning opportunities that embody the aims and practices of liberal learning.


Act of Determination 1 -- Evaluating the Strength of the Four C’s in the Core Curriculum

We will ensure that the Arts & Sciences core curriculum aligns with the four Core Competencies -- Communication, Critical Thinking, Civic Leadership, and Christian Perspective -- identified by the University General Education Committee (refer to Appendix 1A).

Action Step:
  • The co-chairs of the Arts & Sciences Curriculum Committee will work with academic departments to assess student competencies in communication, critical thinking, civic leadership, and Christian perspective in their respective majors; and by Fall 2014 will recommend action steps to the Council of Chairs that will ensure the content in the range of core course offerings fully addresses these competencies.


Act of Determination 2 -- Implementing the 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan

In May of 2012 the Council of Chairs in Arts & Sciences adopted a 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan, which states that by the year 2022 we will achieve a six-year graduation rate of 82 percent, a freshman retention rate of more than 90 percent, and a freshman class consisting of 50 percent high-ability students. If met, these enrollment management goals will substantially increase Baylor’s ranking in U.S. News & World Report. While Baylor is currently ranked No. 77, our goal is to enter the top 50. Specifics for the implementation of this plan are presented in Appendix 1B.

Action Step:
  • By 2022, we will successfully meet the goals presented in the 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan.


Act of Determination 3 -- Investing in Teaching

As the landscape of higher education continues to shift, faculty must have appropriate technology to implement cutting-edge pedagogies. Faculty members will assess these choices strategically in light of Baylor’s goals and the traditional emphasis on student-faculty interaction, both in students’ majors and in general education courses.

I. Improving Pedagogy
Action Steps:
  • By Summer 2014 the Dean’s Office will meet with representatives of the Provost’s Office to encourage the inclusion of liberal education values in course content and in all instruction for general education courses for the New Faculty Orientation.
  • The Dean’s Office will meet with representatives of the Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) by Spring 2015 to develop pedagogical programming to foster exchanges among the faculty in various disciplines.
  • The Dean’s Office will provide a report of these activities to the Council of Chairs by Spring 2015.
II. Improving Technology-Enhanced Learning
Action Steps:
  • By Fall 2014 the Dean will form a committee to act as a resource for technological innovations in the classroom (i.e., MOOCs, edX, Coursera), to maintain an inventory of best technology-based practices, and to provide periodic feedback to the Dean, Council of Chairs, and Information Technology Services (ITS).
  • The committee will provide a report of its findings to the Council of Chairs by Spring 2015.


Act of Determination 4 -- Developing Strategies for Engaged Learning and Merit Scholarships

Recruiting and retaining high-ability students is fundamental to Baylor’s strategic vision. Arts & Sciences guides and supports engaged learning activities in ways that enhance our academic programs. Thus far, we have done so primarily through workshops and presentations made on behalf of educating high-ability students and their departmental leaders regarding national and international scholarships. Such competitions demand that students become involved in intense engaged learning activities throughout Arts & Sciences, with the resulting self-awareness and leadership skills that enable students to be competitive for these prestigious awards. Another key component of this initiative is faculty mentoring, including supervision and engagement of undergraduate students in thesis writing or independent research, as appropriate.

Action Steps:
  • By Fall 2014 the Dean will form a taskforce to assess the feasibility of expanding the duties of the Associate Dean for Special Programs. The taskforce will consider the following activities under the umbrella of the Special Programs Office:
    • availability of engaged learning and merit scholarships;
    • improved advisement for scholarly and engaged learning experiences; and
    • creation of a dynamic model for intense engaged learning experiences open to all students.
  • By Fall 2014 the taskforce will assess the status of undergraduate research activities and ways to better coordinate and promote this important activity. The taskforce will consider, among other initiatives, the following:
    • integration of undergraduate research into the curriculum;
    • strategies for greater student access to undergraduate research opportunities, including more faculty participation in the mentoring of undergraduate students; and
    • the effectiveness of the new Arts & Sciences "Summer Research Program for Entering Freshmen."
  • By Spring 2015 the taskforce will present recommendations to the Council of Chairs.


Act of Determination 5 -- Assessing the Structure and Function of the Arts & Sciences Core Curriculum

The first four Acts of Determination of Theme 1 are immediate steps that will improve the delivery of a liberal education and the impact that our graduates have on the world. Faculty agree that these initial steps are desirable and achievable and may be attained through interdisciplinary collaboration. This AOD entails an assessment of the core curriculum, which requires a considerable commitment of time and resources. Following this assessment, the faculty may recommend whether restructuring is needed.

Action Steps:
  • The Dean and Council of Chairs will hold colloquia during the 2014-2015 academic year with a broadly representative group of faculty who teach in the core curriculum to advance the idea that courses serve a larger purpose of general importance to the University and that the subject matter of these courses be introduced to the students as such, rather than in a narrow disciplinary fashion.
  • Following these colloquia and following the assessment of the core curriculum from the Arts & Sciences Curriculum Committee (refer to AOD 1), the Dean’s Office, in consultation with the Council of Chairs, will determine if further assessment of the core is needed. The Dean’s Office will make this determination by Summer 2015.
  • Should it be determined that further changes to the core curriculum are desirable, the Dean will appoint a taskforce to assess the state of liberal education in Arts & Sciences as made manifest through the core curriculum. The taskforce will report those findings to the Dean and the Council of Chairs by Fall 2015. Appendix 1C provides the details of the charges to this taskforce.