Ursinus College Catalog

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Academics: The Ursinus Plan for Liberal Studies

The Educational Philosophy of Ursinus College

The mission of Ursinus College is to enable students to become independent, responsible and thoughtful individuals through a program of liberal education. That education prepares them to live creatively and usefully, and to provide leadership for their society in an interdependent world. Liberal education is provided through an academic program that empowers the intellect, awakens moral sensitivity, and challenges students to improve society. Students gain intellectual curiosity, the capacity to think analytically, critically, and creatively, and the skill to express thoughts with logic, clarity, and grace. Further, they develop a deepened sense of human history and an understanding of who they are as persons, what they ought to do as citizens, and how they best can appreciate the diversity and ambiguity of contemporary experience.

The faculty is the cornerstone of our academic program. Faculty members are dedicated to teaching and learning and set high standards for themselves and for students. They choose to be active scholars because they are involved teachers, seeking to transmit their enthusiasm for learning to their students.

The faculty joins with the professional staff in an educational program that extends outside of the classroom. As a predominantly residential community, the College fosters a shared life and provides an opportunity for the comprehensive personal development of all students. By taking active part in the varied programs of the campus, students have the opportunity to develop their intellectual, creative and physical talents and to strengthen their personal values in the context of the principles and traditions of Ursinus.

The College seeks students of varied backgrounds who actively search for meaning and purpose in their lives. It nurtures a sense of community by engaging students and faculty together in an unfinished conversation about liberal learning--how it is grounded in the fundamentals of human experience, broadens the mind, enhances compassion, and prepares us for a life of service.

Liberal education is more than a set of courses; it requires students to integrate insights of various academic disciplines, and to participate actively in the learning process. It takes place best among students of diverse backgrounds actively searching for meaning and purpose in their lives. In order to help students appreciate the diversity and ambiguity of their world, the college seeks to include issues of race, class, and gender across the curriculum.

The Liberal Studies Curriculum

The liberal studies curriculum is grounded in the assumption that individual human beings have intrinsic value. Individuals, however, live in community with other human beings. The challenge of liberal studies is to create independence of thought and spirit while fostering awareness of community connection and obligation.

To meet this challenge, the Ursinus liberal studies curriculum has three components:

The Core, a broad-based common experience to give all students the communications skills, and the scientific, cultural, and historical literacy that are fundamental to a liberally educated person;

Study in Depth in one or more of 27 academic majors, to provide the basis for lifelong engagement in intellectual inquiry;

The Independent Learning Experience prepares students to become independent, life-long learners. Each student must undertake one of the following: a) independent research or creative project; b) internship; c) study abroad; d) student teaching; e) Summer Fellow Program or a comparable summer research program, or f) for pre-engineering students, successful completion of the first two years of engineering school.

The Common Intellectual Experience

The Common Intellectual Experience is a two-semester course for all first year students that brings academic inquiry to bear on the central questions of a liberal education: How should we live our lives? What does it mean to be human? What is the universe and how do we fit into it?  Students engage in conversation about a common set of works drawn from diverse historical contexts, cultures and beliefs including their own, selected to prompt thoughtful examination of the central questions of the course.  Through this conversation the course accomplishes its goals: to cultivate the self-knowledge necessary to live a considered, independent, and responsible life; and to establish an intellectual community enjoyed by students and faculty alike.

The course fosters the essential skills of critical reading, careful interpretation, effective discussion, clear writing, and the use of evidence to construct a compelling argument. Enrollment in CIE classes is limited to 16 students to provide an atmosphere conducive to intellectual challenge and discovery. The engagement of all students and faculty from all disciplines, the shared syllabus, and the occasional gathering of the entire class for common events allows students to confront as a community the enduring issues of our existence.