General Education Program 


The New Foundations Program reflects Westminster’s commitment to liberal learning in the arts and sciences. This means that Westminster is dedicated to educating a student broadly by requiring courses that explore the scientific, historical, cultural, social, ethical, and aesthetic contexts in which we live. By study of these contexts, students sharpen intellectual capacities, enhancing their abilities to think critically, to reflect imaginatively, to compare and integrate, to discern values, and to communicate clearly and persuasively. 
 
Further, through this study, students gain awareness of and respect for the world around us, its problems and potential; the individuals that make up that world and their cultural and personal distinctions; the nature of knowledge and learning and both their promise and limitations; and finally, ourselves, our intellectual, creative, and spiritual capabilities.

Thus, the impact of general education at Westminster is to liberate, to free the student from narrow and parochial thought, and to enable the student to grow, change, and respond effectively to new and unforeseen circumstances.

The New Foundations Program seeks to foster:

  • skills in critical thinking, communication, quantitative reasoning and the use of computer technology
  • understanding of theories and methods of science
  • historical perspective
  • awareness of fundamental questions and values
  • sensitivity to artistic expression and critical appreciation
  • knowledge of human behavior and social institutions
  • appreciation of cultural diversity and global interdependence

Curricular requirements focusing on these goals ensure that students develop intellectual capacities and acquire the educational breadth necessary to pursue major and minor programs of their choice. In those programs, the student will have additional experiences that enhance their abilities relative to several of these educational goals.

Though the General Education Program consists of courses from many departments, these courses share many characteristics. They introduce key concepts and terminology; persons, works, events, key issues and ideas. They teach students to think critically about texts they read, arguments they hear, and situations they observe. They use techniques that involve a significant level of participation on the part of students and that require them to take direct responsibility for their learning and they demonstrate to students how to connect knowledge gained inside the classroom to the world outside.

Courses in the Westminster General Education Program are organized into three tiers:

(1) Foundational Tier;
(2) Contexts Tier; and
(3) Integrative Tier.


The tiered structure imposes a developmental order on the course work of students that encourages maximum intellectual growth at each stage. Thus, in the foundational tier, students begin by
strengthening intellectual capacities. These capacities are then utilized in the contexts tier to gain a deeper appreciation of disciplinary knowledge.

With broad study of the disciplines in the second tier, students gain multiple perspectives through which they can assimilate and evaluate information. This breadth provides a basis for the third tier integrative course in which a multi-disciplinary analysis of a significant practical or theoretical issue is undertaken.

With the exception of physical education courses, all courses in the General Education Program earn at least three hours of academic credit. For the typical student, it is expected that the Foundational Tier will be completed in the freshmen year, the Contexts Tier by the close of the sophomore year, and the Integrative Tier by the end of the junior year. By completing the General Education Program on this timetable, students will have developed the intellectual capacities and breadth of knowledge needed for success in major and minor programs of study.

Tier I:  The Foundational Tier 

At the outset, students must acquire and sharpen the basic intellectual skills that provide access to the content of their education. These basic skills include critical thinking, communication, numerical literacy, and competence with technology. Critical thinking takes students beyond the monitoring of knowledge claims; it allows students to identify what is basic, to assess, and to reassemble thoughts and feelings in a more coherent manner. The development of skills in communication, particularly reading and listening, embellishes the perception of knowledge in any discipline, and the development of writing and speaking skills deepens the comprehension of disciplinary knowledge. Mastery of quantitative skills aids students in their ability to gather and use data to make empirical decisions. Acquisition of technical skills, especially those needed for using word processing, presentation, and statistical software and for accessing resources on the Internet, enables students to gather, analyze, and express ideas effectively and persuasively. Course work here provides the core of the Westminster General Education Program, as it is required of all students. Students are required to complete the following courses:

  • ENG 103 Academic Writing (3 hrs): An introduction to writing at the college level, based on the ―process approach‖; accordingly, reading, thinking, and writing are treated as integrated skills, and
    revision is viewed as an integral part of  the writing process. In addition, word processing and use of electronic media are essential skills taught in the course.  
  • MAT 114 Elementary Statistics (3 hrs) or MAT 124 Calculus I (5 hrs):  An exploration of numerical data for the purpose of developing quantitative and problem solving skills, as well as expertise with worksheets and other computational software. 
  • WSM 101 Westminster Seminar (3 hrs): The Westminster Seminar investigates ways of knowing, showing students at the basic level how liberally-educated minds go about organizing the inquiries we conduct in various disciplines.  Using active learning strategies, the course emphasizes processes, tools, and systems used in scholarly inquiry. The course promotes listening, speaking, and critical thinking skills and is delivered in small tutorial sections designed to stimulate intellectual questioning and establish frequentexchanges between students and Westminster faculty. 
  • FL101 (4 hrs.): An introduction to a foreign language for the purpose of gaining insight into diverse languages and cultures.

Tier II: The Contexts Tier

In this second tier of the General Education Program, the emphasis shifts from developing capacities to exploring the fundamental ideas, questions, and methods of inquiry that mark several academic disciplines. Course work here is intended to ensure adequate educational breadth. However, the aim is not simply the accumulation of knowledge; rather, courses also relate how particular disciplines formulate and evaluate their beliefs.
 
The various modes of inquiry used by the disciplines yield contexts for understanding ourselves and our world. The six contexts that comprise Tier II are identified below along with the number of courses needed to complete the context. Specific courses approved to fulfill each context requirement are listed in the Schedule of Classes each semester. No course shall satisfy more than one context. Students must complete the following requirements in the Contexts Tier: 

  • Scientific Inquiry Context: Two courses required; at least one course will include both a lecture and a laboratory. 
  • Historical Perspectives Context: Two courses required. 
  • Fundamental Questions and Values Context: One course required with meaningful study of values and fundamental questions of existence. 
  • Artistic Expression and Critical Appreciation Context: Two courses required, at least one of which must be a course in literature.  
  • Human Behavior and Social Institutions Context: Three courses required with courses in three disciplines. 
  • Cultural Diversity and Global Interdependence Context: Two courses are required to fulfill this context. First, a second course of study in a foreign language, an approved study abroad experience, or a course focusing on a culture in which the language studied is spoken. In addition, students must complete a course with a significant non-Western (e.g., African, Asian, Latin American, or indigenous) component.

Tier III: Integrative Tier

While the Contexts Tier allows students to explore the unique content and methodologies of various academic disciplines, there are subsequent needs to integrate disciplinary knowledge and to explore its relevance to
contemporary issues and problems. Therefore, the General Education program requires a single course to be completed in the junior or senior year that draws together students from various disciplines for the sake of sharing their perspectives and discovering how an integrative approach can enrich understanding and facilitate solutions. Several courses will be offered annually. These courses require students to address contemporary issues and problems using a higher level of integrative and analytic skills than in previous general education courses. Further, integrative tier courses require students to share insights and conclusions about the issues at hand in research papers, essays, projects, and/or presentations.
 
Students must complete one integrative course (3 hours) approved by the Curriculum Committee. Students who successfully complete majors in any approved program of interdisciplinary study which is not housed in a single department will have automatically satisfied the Tier III requirement, if one of the courses successfully completed to satisfy major requirements is an approved Tier III course. A student taking an integrative course taught by a member of his or her major department may apply the course to satisfy 1) major requirements, or 2) the
integrative requirement of the new Foundations General Education program, but not both. 

Following is a summary list of New Foundations General Education Requirements:

  • Earn the following credits in the Foundational Tier courses
    (students entering Westminster are expected to enroll in   these
    courses or, in the case of MAT 114 or MAT124, an appropriate
    prerequisite, in their first semester):
    ENG 103 Academic Writing  3 hrs. 
    MAT 114 Elementary Statistics or 
    MAT 124 Calculus I
    3-5 hrs.
    WSM 101 Westminster Seminar    3 hrs.
    FL101, initial semester of foreign language   4 hrs.
    Total 13-15 hrs.

     
  • Earn the following credits in the Context Tier courses:
     
    Scientific Inquiry  7-8 hrs.
    Historical Perspectives     6 hrs.
    Fundamental Questions and Values    3 hrs.
    Artistic Expression and Critical Appreciation   6 hrs.
    Human Behavior and Social Institutions   9 hrs.
    Cultural Diversity and Global Interdependence   6-7 hrs.
    Total 37-39hrs.
     
  • Successfully complete an Integrative Tier course 3 hrs.

Total General Education Credit Hour Requirements:  53-57 hrs.