General education at UIS derives from the mission of the campus, which begins by stating that UIS provides an intellectually rich, collaborative, and intimate learning environment for students, faculty, and staff, while serving local, regional, state, national, and international communities.
More specifically, the mission states that the undergraduate and graduate curricula and the professional programs emphasize liberal arts, interdisciplinary approaches, lifelong learning, and engaged citizenship.
Sangamon State and the Blue Memo
The curricular emphases above are grounded in the history of UIS and its predecessor, Sangamon State University. Legislated to be an “innovative institution” at its creation, the campus and its first president, Robert Spencer, set the stage for general education by issuing the “Blue Memo”, so-called for the color of the paper on which it was issued, in December 1970 during the institution’s first year of operation. The “Blue Memo” sets out an educational philosophy that is characterized by a commitment to teaching, what we now call “active” or “student-centered” learning, and a dedication to public affairs, and community service. Dr. Spencer noted in a comment that is just as relevant today as it was 40 years ago, that the many questions on the environmental and urban crises facing our civilization naturally lead to fundamental and more profound questions about the nature of the human community and the meaning of human life itself.
For the complete text to the “Blue Memo”, see the UIS Archives website.
Sangamon State and UIS have always had some form of general education based on the principles established by the founding faculty and administration. For much of its early history, the institution was an upper division institution, catering to junior- and senior-level undergraduates, and so it had upper division general education. Eventually that took the form of a twelve-hour core of courses in three areas: Public Affairs Colloquia, Liberal Studies Colloquia, and Applied Study Terms. The colloquia were interdisciplinary and sometimes team-taught. The Applied Study Terms were the foundation of our internship program today, housed in the Experiential and Service-Learning Programs. The institution has always been known regionally and in higher education circles for the quality and extensiveness of its internship programs.
General Education Today
Our current general education curriculum, launched in Fall 2006, is based on two main principles: life-long learning and engaged citizenship. it was designed to be flexible, easy to transfer into, and distinctive. Its distinctiveness is based on a particular philosophy of liberal education best espoused by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in its statement “What is Liberal Education?”:
Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.
General Education provides much of the breadth of a college degree, and it is a curriculum shared by all the undergraduates at UIS. It provides a series of benefits, such as:
- the ability to use multiple ways of knowing based in academic disciplines;
- the ability to integrate multiple perspectives;
- the skills for life-long learning; and,
- exposure to a world filled with people and experiences that may be different from those with which students are familiar.
The UIS General Education Curriculum helps students gain skills and knowledge needed for the twenty-first century and complements all of our 23 degree programs.
Courses in the program are divided into two categories:
Lower division courses in written communication, oral communication, science, math, humanities and social sciences. These courses are sometimes interdisciplinary, and they provide a foundation of knowledge and skills that are crucial for a broad liberal arts education.
The Engaged Citizenship Common Experience is designed to help students become aware of their roles in a complex, interdependent set of communities. ECCE categories promote cultural awareness and engagement experiences.