The Baylor College of Arts & Sciences Unified Core Curriculum

Frequently Asked Questions

 

DEFINITIONS AND OVERVIEW

What is a core curriculum?

A core curriculum describes the required courses that make up the general education portion of an academic degree. All Baylor University degrees require students to complete at least 124 hours of coursework, which is divided into:

  • General education courses (the core curriculum)
  • Courses required for a given major or majors, and
  • Elective courses

What degrees are offered by the College of Arts & Sciences?

The College of Arts & Sciences offers four degrees:

  • The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is typically pursued by students majoring in humanities and by some students majoring in the fine arts, social sciences and sciences.
  • The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree is typically pursued by students majoring in art, film and digital media, music and theatre arts.
  • The Bachelor of Science (BS) degree is typically pursued by students majoring in the sciences and by some in the social sciences. 
  • The Bachelor of Science in Aviation Sciences (BSAS) degree is pursued by students majoring in aviation. 

These degrees are granted by Baylor University and certified by the College of Arts & Sciences. More than half of all Baylor undergraduates are now pursuing one of these four degrees.

What does “unified” mean?

Each of the four degrees now offered by the College of Arts & Sciences has a different set of general education requirements –– in other words, each degree now has its own, distinct core curriculum. “Unified” refers to the fact that in the revised Arts & Sciences core curriculum, all four degrees –– the BA, BFA, BS and BSAS –– will have the same required core.

 

BACKGROUND

Why did the College of Arts & Sciences decide to review and possibly update the general education requirements that make up the Arts & Sciences core curriculum?

ProFuturis, Baylor University’s strategic vision launched in May 2012, included a call to “strengthen the undergraduate core curriculum and deepen our excellence in the liberal arts.” Therefore, the College began a process of reviewing the Arts & Sciences core curriculum, which had not been reviewed or updated for many decades.

How long has this review process taken?

The College of Arts & Sciences core curriculum review is now in its sixth year.

During Phase One (2012-2015), after extensive study and deliberation the faculty affirmed the University’s call to improve the core.

During Phase Two (2015-2016), an Arts & Sciences faculty task force wrote a vision document determining what the core should achieve. That vision document was approved unanimously by the Council of Chairs, the Arts & Sciences governing body made up of the chairs of all 25 academic departments in the College.

During Phase Three (2016-2017), a faculty task force proposed the size and content of the new core curriculum based on the approved vision. Following input from faculty across Arts & Sciences, this proposal was also approved by the Council of Chairs.

What are the next steps?

During Phase Four (2018-2019), following provisory approval from the Provost’s Office that was granted in January 2018, departments are writing and submitting for review course proposals to the College of Arts & Sciences’ faculty committees. The courses that are eventually approved are the ones that will populate the unified core curriculum.

When will the unified core curriculum be implemented?

The launch date is scheduled for the Fall 2019 semester.

Will the new, unified core curriculum apply to all Baylor students?

No –– just to those students who are pursuing BA, BFA, BS and BSAS degrees.

 

WHAT’S IN THE UNIFIED CORE CURRICULUM?

What are the main differences between the current Arts & Sciences core curricula and the new unified core curriculum?

First, instead of different requirements for each of the four degrees (BA, BFA, BS and BSAS), in the unified version all four degrees will have the same requirements. Whether students are majoring in biology, art, religion or sociology, they will have one set of core requirements. These requirements, considered foundational for any Baylor degree, assist students in becoming informed and productive citizens of a democracy and servant leaders of faith communities without regard to their major specialization or vocational interests and aptitudes.

Second, the credit hours required in the unified core will provide students with much more flexibility in course selection, and in their overall degree plan. For example, the current core curriculum requirements for the BA and BS degrees call for between 65 to 79 hours of coursework –– comprising one of the largest core requirements in the United States. By contrast, the new unified core requires 50 hours –– meaning that students will have 15 to 29 more hours available to take additional electives, or to successfully complete more second majors, minors and certificates. 

Third, there are more common courses in the unified core. Just what are common courses? While some requirements of the core curriculum can be satisfied through student selection, common courses are ones that all Arts & Sciences graduates must take, such as Chapel, the U.S. Constitution and Christian Scriptures. The unified core will include eight of these common courses, instead of the five required in the current core. These additional courses will allow students to have more vocabularies, texts and experiences in common with their classmates.

Fourth, the unified core calls for multidisciplinary courses and upper-level courses. Few such courses are available in the current cores. Multidisciplinary courses examine common challenges or areas of interest that require input from various academic disciplines to solve or understand more completely.  

What are some of the major changes being made to the core curriculum?

  • Creative thinking: A creative thinking component is now required, consisting of one common course and one elective (from a fine arts list).
  • Formal reasoning: The formal reasoning requirement in the unified core includes one course from either mathematics, statistics or logic. While many students may choose a mathematics course, it is no longer a required course.
  • Foreign language: The foreign language requirement in the unified core will be nine hours, in contrast to the current requirement of six to fourteen hours (depending on the degree). Note: there will no longer be four-hour foreign language courses in the core curriculum.
  • Writing: The research writing requirement in the unified core will be one course, compared to the two courses that are now required. ENG 1302, which many students now place out of with dual or transfer credit, will no longer be required. And students will have multiple choices in the type of research writing course they wish to take to fulfill the research writing requirement.
  • Communication: While most current Arts & Sciences degrees do not require a course in communication, the unified core requires one three-hour course be completed in the all-important area of media literacy.
  • History: One common three-hour course in history will be required; students now must take zero to six hours of history.
  • Science: Two science courses will be required in the unified core; current students are required to take either two or three science classes.
  • Social science: The social science requirement in the unified core will be one course, while current requirements in social science vary.

What has not changed in the core?

  • Religion: The current requirement for two semesters of Chapel and two introductory religion courses remains unchanged in the unified core.
  • Political science: A revised political science course in the U.S. Constitution will be required in the unified core as a common course.
  • Literature: Two literature courses are still required. One of these will be a common course, while the other will be selected from a larger list.

What is the structure of the unified core?

There are 16 hours of common courses (specific courses that all Arts & Sciences students must take):

  • Chapel (zero credit hours)
  • Cultural Events Experience (zero credit hours)
  • Civic Engagement Seminar (1 hour)
  • American Literary Cultures (3 hours)
  • The United States in Global Perspective (3 hours)
  • The U.S. Constitution, Its Interpretation, and the American Political Experience (3 hours)
  • Christian Scriptures (3 hours)
  • Christian Heritage (3 hours)

There are 34 hours of distribution list courses (varied courses that can be chosen to satisfy the requirements of a specific topic area):

  • Communication and Media Literacy (3 hours)
  • Contemporary Social Issues (3 hours)
  • Fine Arts (3 hours)
  • Foreign Language and Culture (9 hours)
  • Formal Reasoning (3 hours)
  • Literature in Context (3 hours)
  • Research Writing (3 hours)
  • Scientific Method I (4 hours)
  • Scientific Method II (3 hours)

Where can I go to get more information about the College of Arts & Sciences core curriculum?

More information is available at www.baylor.edu/artsandsciences/core.