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Undergraduate Liberal Education Program

The Undergraduate Liberal Education Program at UMD

A liberal education prepares individuals to lead productive and socially responsible lives in a diverse and rapidly changing world. Liberal education at UMD helps students develop competencies that can be adapted for use in any occupation and by virtually any individual. Liberal education at UMD is not restricted to any particular part of the curriculum but is woven through each student’s course of study, including core requirements and requirements for the major. Liberally educated students are “Prepared, Informed, and Committed.”

Prepared:

  • To identify, analyze and solve problems, demonstrating critical and analytical thinking competency within and across various fields of knowledge
  • To think creatively, demonstrating intellectual curiosity, imagination and flexibility
  • To communicate effectively through writing and speaking
  • To work productively independently and through collaboration
  • To access, evaluate, and make use of information gathered through multiple methodologies

Informed:

  • About the foundations of knowledge and inquiry about nature, culture and society
  • About the past and its relevance to the present and the future
  • About controversies and unanswered questions in multiple domains of knowledge

Committed:

  • To life-long learning
  • To civic engagement and social responsibility
  • To knowledge and competence across cultures
  • To considering ethical implications of ideas and actions
  • To understanding contemporary global issues


Liberal Education Program Categories

The Liberal Education Program consists of 10 categories across three domains:

Part I. Language and Reasoning Skills (9 credits)

a. Writing and Information Literacy -WRIT 1120 (3 credits)
b. Oral Communication and Languages (3 credits)
c. Logic and Quantitative Reasoning (3 credits)

Part II. Knowledge Domain (21 credits)

a. Natural Sciences (6 credits, 2 designators, 1 lab)
b. Social Sciences (6 credits, 2 designators)
c. Humanities (6 credits, 2 designators)
d. Fine Arts (3 credits)

Part III. Key Topics (9 credits)

a. Global Perspectives (3 credits)
b. Cultural Diversity in the US (3 credits)
c. Sustainability (3 credits)


The Liberal Education Program totals 39 credits; however, a single course can be used to satisfy multiple requirements, thereby reducing the total number of credits a student completes for the program. The following options are available for designing courses to meet multiple requirements.

  • A Liberal Education course that meets the criteria for part II (Knowledge Domain) and part III (Key Topics) may fulfill both requirements.
  • A course in the major that meets the criteria for Parts Ib, Ic, II and/or III may satisfy requirements for both a major and the Liberal Education Program.
  • Liberal Education courses offered at the 3000- and 4000-levels within the major satisfying a Key Topics requirement are not required to serve a wide spectrum of students.
  • If approved by the relevant department, a Liberal Education course may also satisfy a requirement in a student’s major or minor.

All courses currently approved in the Liberal Education Program can be viewed at: http://www.d.umn.edu/catalog/liberal-education


Effective Fall 2016, successful completion of one of the following Study Abroad Programs substitutes for the Global Perspectives category within the Liberal Education Program:

  • Approved UMD or UMD-affiliate long-term programs (semester or year-long)
  • Approved UMD short term programs (less than a semester, typically 3 weeks long)
  • Approved UMD-affiliate short-term programs that include a Global Perspectives Education course listed in the UMD Study Abroad Foreign Course database.

Liberal Education Subcommittee

The Liberal Education Subcommittee is charged with overseeing the campus’ liberal education program. The Liberal Education Subcommittee works with other educational committees to review and strive toward continuous improvement of liberal education at UMD.  The subcommittee will report to as well as act on behalf of the Teaching & Learning Committee.  Specifically, the subcommittee will: revise and oversee the course submission process for courses to become part of the Liberal Education Program (LEP); review, accept or reject all courses proposed for inclusion in the LEP; monitor the LEP and make recommendations to the Teaching & Learning Committee relative to issues such as: (a) numbers of courses per category; (b) seat availability; (c) representation of courses at 1xxx-4xxx levels; (d) departmental and college representation, and so forth; monitor the patterns of petitions for substitutions and advise EVCAA for future action and maintain channels of communication with the Assessment Subcommittee.

In the Fall of 2019, the Liberal Education Program underwent an external review. The report submitted by the reviewers is available here.

Based on the recommendations made in the report, the Liberal Education Subcommittee will be working on the following during Spring of 2020:

1) Marketing analysis

2) Focused communication strategies for new-students and family members (to be introduced in summer 2020)

3) Liberal Education Assessment Discussions

4) Panel Discussion: teaching in the Liberal Education Program

In 2019 the UMD Faculty Senate commissioned a volume of short "Think Piece" essays written by faculty on the role of a liberal education or liberal arts for undergraduate students. Compiled and edited by Drs. Jennifer Brady and Kristen Hylenski (World Languages and Literature), the volume was published last semester on the University Digital Conservancy Home. You can find it at the following link: https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/208845