General Education Program

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General Education Vision

What is the General Education mission at WOU?

As adopted by the WOU Faculty Senate July 11, 2017:

General Education is a crucial component of the learning experience at Western Oregon University, providing students with fundamental skills for lifelong learning. Students apply, communicate, and integrate ideas from a variety of disciplines. They gain abilities to think and act critically as citizens of a complex and ever-changing world. The curriculum empowers students to pursue diverse interests and perform varying roles in their personal, social, and professional lives.

What are the General Education Learning Outcomes?

As adopted by the WOU Faculty Senate July 11, 2017:

  1. Put into practice different and varied forms of knowledge, inquiry, and expression that frame academic and applied learning. (Intellectual foundations and breadth of exposure)
  2. Demonstrate the ability to evaluate information and develop well-reasoned and evidence-based conclusions. (Critical thinking) (ULO: Inquiry & Analysis)
  3. Articulate the challenges, responsibilities, and privileges of belonging in a complex, diverse, interconnected world. (Citizenship) (ULO: Diversity)
  4. Integrate knowledge, perspectives, and strategies across disciplines to answer questions and solve problems. (Multidisciplinary learning) (ULO: Integrative Learning)

How does the revised General Education program differ from the previous model?

A key difference between this curriculum and the previous model of the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum (LACCs) is that this framework creates a General Education Program, which can be assessed holistically and modified, like other programs, at any time.

A second key difference is that rather than categorizing courses by disciplinary prefixes, we are categorizing them by their alignment to key skills and concepts aligned to the General Education Learning Outcomes. Individual Divisions and Departments no longer “own” requirements; courses can be proposed by any Academic Unit, provided those courses align appropriately to the course criteria for the category.

What are the General Education Requirements?

General Education Requirements are:

  • Foundations (Mathematics, Writing, Communication and Language, Critical Thinking, and Health Promotion.
  • First Year Seminars (Quantitative- and Writing-Focused)
  • Exploring Knowledge (Literary and Aesthetic Perspectives; Scientific Perspectives; Social, Historical and Civic Perspectives)
  • Integrating Knowledge (Citizenship, Social Responsibility, and Global Awareness; Science, Technology, and Society)

First Year Seminars

What is a First Year Seminar (FYS)?

The First-Year Seminars at Western are topical/integrative seminars designed to incorporate the development of a subset of foundational skills (reading, information literacy, creative and critical thinking, technological literacy, and either writing or quantitative literacy) into topical coursework. Seminar enrollment is limited to no more than 25 students.

How are FYS classes listed in the catalog?

All Writing-focused seminars are FYS 107 and all Quantitative-focused seminars are FYS 207. Students will be provided during registration with section descriptions for each FYS topic theme from which to choose.

Who will create and teach FYS classes?

We welcome proposals from TT and NTT faculty and staff who are interested in presenting a topic about which they have expertise and passion and provide opportunity for exploration. FYS courses that are team taught are encouraged.

How are FYS distributed across academic units?

Based upon current freshmen enrollment, we anticipate the need for approximately 72 FYS sections in the 2019-20 academic year. Of these, 36 will be Quantitative-focused and 36 will be Writing-focused. We invite and encourage all Divisions to submit both Quantitative-focused and Writing-focused proposals. Filling these sections will largely be driven by proposal submission.  

What happens if many of my Division colleagues want to submit FYS proposals?

For planning purposes, we have calculated what it would look like if we were distributing courses based on the percent of total TT and NTT faculty (over .5 FTE). That information is accessible here. It is likely that some Divisions will have more availability and interest in offering FYS depending on how the new General Education alignments impact their current LACC offerings to take into account any course reassignments for service obligations or sabbaticals. We do suggest that Divisions take the opportunity to engage in planning and discussion with colleagues internally using this information.

What kind of professional development will be offered for FYS teaching?

Faculty interested in proposing an FYS are encouraged to take part in a proposal preparation workshop during Faculty work week. This workshop will also be offered regularly throughout Fall 2018 along with asynchronous support via Moodle.

Proposing Courses for Inclusion in WOU General Education

How do I get my existing class into a General Education category?

Existing courses that faculty want to apply to be in a category will go through a curriculum process that starts with a faculty member and then will be reviewed by the Department Head, Division Chair and Division Curriculum Committee and then the General Education Committee. Faculty will need to identify how their existing course aligns to the GELOs and describe how students will have the opportunity to meet the criteria for each category (link to course content questions). 

How do I propose a new General Education course?

Details on the curriculum process can be found at

New courses (other than FYS) will need to go through the full curriculum process at the same time as the modified process that includes the General Education Committee. Faculty will need to identify how their new proposed course aligns to the GELOs and describe how students will have the opportunity to meet the criteria for each category (link here).

In the 2018-19 academic year, proposed courses will need to be in the portal and have cleared the Division Curriculum Committee by the following dates:

An FYS course will also go through a curriculum process starting with the faculty member.  The Department Head and Division Chair will be sent notification of the proposal and it will be sent to the General Education Committee for approval. FYS topic proposals need to be to the General Education Committee by the first Tuesday in November.

How many categories can my class align to?

Courses offered in fulfillment of General Education requirements may only align to one General Education category. General Education courses may also be courses that fulfill requirements for other programs.

Is 2018-19 the only opportunity to propose to offer a class in the General Education program?

No. The General Education Committee will regularly be reviewing course proposals, although we anticipate the bulk of existing course alignment proposals to be submitted in 2018-19.  

Is there support for team teaching in General Education courses?

As the General Education Program emphasizes integrative learning and high impact practices, opportunities to team teach are encouraged. Currently, options to team teach include: 1) splitting the FTE evenly between two faculty members teaching one course section or 2) faculty members teaching two sections of a course or two linked courses each allocated FTE for one of the courses, while teaching in both.

Transfer Articulation

How will we accommodate transfer students who do not have transfer degrees?

Some students transfer in without completed transfer degrees. Transfer courses that articulate as existing WOU courses that also meet General Education requirements will meet those requirements. Transfer courses that do not articulate as existing WOU courses will be reviewed by the General Education Committee to determine alignment. These transfer courses will only articulate for General Education requirements unless otherwise agreed to by other academic programs that also require those courses.

How will we accommodate transfer students who do have transfer degrees?

Transfer students with WICHE passport, OTM, AAOT, ASOT, USTA or other transfer agreements will meet the General Education requirements as blocks pending review by the General Education Committee and approval by Faculty Senate.

General Education Oversight

Who is in charge of overseeing this curriculum?

The General Education Committee provides oversight for the General Education Curriculum. The General Education Director is responsible for supporting the coordination, articulation and scheduling of General Education courses and for guiding assessment and data collection efforts. The Director also represents and advocates for the General Education Program on campus and other committees. The First Year Seminar Coordinator is responsible for providing support to ensure development of a breadth of appropriately formatted courses.  

How can I provide input on General Education?

All Divisions have representation on the General Education Committee who can provide Division-level input on the program. Individual faculty and staff members and students with input are welcomed to contact the General Education Director. The General Education office is located in ITC 205C. Phone 503-838-8348. Email

How is the program assessed?

Once implementation begins, there will be a process of assessment and data collection that will guide ongoing effectiveness of the program. The General Education Director and General Education Committee will work together to oversee the curriculum within the structure of our Faculty Senate processes. General Education assessment will include Institutional Research data, a Professional Learning Community to regularly examine student opportunities to meet General Education learning outcomes on a rotating basis, and faculty and student feedback via surveys and portfolios.


General Education Advising

Advising website with detailed FAQs

How can I petition a requirement?

Use this link petition form

Who is responsible for advising students in their General Education requirements?

Entering students will be provided with General Education information at SOAR and other orientation events. As students matriculate into their majors, academic advisors will provide advising for general education along with other academic program advising. The General Education program provides information and support to aid with advising for General Education requirements.

When are students expected to complete the General Education requirements?

First Year Seminars are purposefully designed to help integrate students successfully into the WOU community and build their college success skills. These course should be completed no later than the end of their freshman year. Foundations courses should also be completed as early as possible in the academic career as these lay the groundwork for additional coursework. Together with Foundations, Exploring Knowledge courses help build the content and skills that students will use in their Integrating Knowledge courses, which by contrast, include upper division coursework will come later in a student’s academic career.

What happens if a student changes their catalog year from the LACC model to the new General Education program?

Through the course proposal process, the General Education Program is aligning currently LACC courses to the new General Education requirements to help with “internal transfer” of students changing their catalog year.

Learning Communities

What is a learning community?

In most basic terms, a learning community is a set or cluster of courses that are:

  • Offered in the same term.
  • Linked thematically or topically.
  • And that share a cohort of students.

Does WOU General Education include learning communities?

The General Education Task Force recommended a learning communities pilot that would provide an optional pathway towards fulfillment of at least some of the General Education requirements.

How would the WOU learning community pathway work?

We envision learning communities as being composed of pairs of courses, both fulfilling a general education requirement offered through different departments linked through a common theme or topic. Learn more about this pathway by linking to the Learning Communities page.

What is the rationale behind this recommendation?

A learning communities option would provide an additional opportunity for faculty and students to, “Integrate knowledge, perspectives, and strategies across disciplines to answer questions and solve problems,” which is one of the newly adopted General Education Learning Outcomes (GELOs).

Are learning communities a General Education requirement?

Learning communities are an option. Requiring participation in a learning community, or, learning communities, could have implications for student credit loads. Learning communities also pose a number of unknowns regarding achieving and maintaining a sufficient number of communities to serve all students within faculty workloads. It makes sense to pilot optional learning communities to learn the implications of this model.

Why might a student choose to participate in a learning community?

Learning communities make it possible for students to:

  • Combine areas of interest.
  • Think creatively (a Foundational Skill).
  • Enhance their learning by sharing the experience with a cohort of their peers and participating faculty.
  • Simplify their selection of courses for fulfillment of general education requirements.

Why should faculty participate in a learning community?

For faculty, participating in a learning community is an opportunity to:

  • Practice interdisciplinarity by connecting with a colleague from another department.
  • Think creatively about their field and areas of interest.
  • Interact with students in an unique context for teaching and learning.
  • Highlight their courses.

Where can I find out more about learning communities in higher education?

Information about learning communities is highlighted on the Learning Communities page.