Mellon Grant to Support Trinity’s New Curriculum | Trinity University
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Mellon Grant to Support Trinity’s New Curriculum

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Significant grant to aid faculty implementation of “skills in context” curriculum, the new liberal arts at Trinity University

by Sharon Jones Schweitzer '75

SAN ANTONIO –Trinity University has received an $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the implementation of a new general education curriculum. The grant will support faculty as they work together to create new courses, revise existing ones, and expand their abilities to teach the core capacities, such as written, oral, and visual communication, and digital literacy.

“The Mellon Foundation award represents significant support and endorsement of an invigorated liberal arts curriculum that we believe will provide students with opportunities to master skills critical for the 21st century and prepare them for leadership in the modern workforce,” says Michael Fischer, vice president for Student Life. Trinity’s new general education curriculum, which emphasizes “skills in context,” represents the first wholesale revision of Trinity’s curriculum in 25 years and heralds a major achievement in the life of the University.

“The goals of the curriculum are aligned with the vision of Trinity’s recently adopted ten-year strategic plan,” says Trinity president Dennis A. Ahlburg. According to Ahlburg, through these combined efforts the next generation of Trinity graduates will engage regularly in interdisciplinary conversations and inquiry; develop sophisticated ways of thinking in rigorous liberal arts and sciences courses; and be challenged by experiential learning courses that bridge our campus with the San Antonio community and communities around the globe.

The new curriculum preserves some of the current graduation requirements, including a required academic major, a lifetime fitness course, and a three-year campus residency requirement. It is also designed so that students can continue to pursue double majors and self-designed interdisciplinary degrees.

The new curriculum adds five new signature elements:

  • Enhanced First-Year Experience: Considered a cornerstone of the new curriculum, this intensive course adopts a learning community model to impart substantial instruction in written and oral communication skills while engaging a topic of widespread or enduring significance. The new first-year experience is expected to play a key role in student retention and in setting student expectations for college.
  • Core capacities: The new curriculum will embed mastery of various core capacities into the liberal arts curriculum to enable students to succeed academically at Trinity and in their post-graduate careers. The core capacities include: written, oral, and visual communication; digital literacy; and engaged citizenship.
  • Approaches to creation and analysis: students will demonstrate the ability to use disciplinary approaches characteristic of (1) humanities, (2) the arts and creative disciplines, (3) the social and behavioral sciences, (4) the natural sciences, and (5) quantitative disciplines.
  • Interdisciplinary clusters: students will explore a complex subject of enduring or contemporary significance by completing three linked courses from a variety of departments. These “clusters” also give thematic cohesion to the sophomore year, which is often called the “missing” year in college.
  • Experiential learning: Trinity is committed to helping students learn to apply knowledge in a real-world environment. The new curriculum recommends that all students complete at least one experiential learning opportunity, which might include service-learning and field-based courses, self-designed projects, internships, artistic works, study abroad, or mentored research.       

The new curriculum seeks to integrate the liberal arts, sciences, and professional programs so that students can more effectively pursue connections among their academic and professional interests, as well as explore civic and global engagement opportunities.

Sharon Jones Schweitzer ’75 is assistant vice president for External Relations. You can follow her on Twitter at @sjschweitzer.