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New BW competency curriculum empowers students to choose their best lives

The flexible, foundational coursework replaces the old, more restrictive core and allows students to choose courses that fuel both their career aspirations and a life well-lived.

Students in FYE training

Baldwin Wallace University is rolling out distinctive, new shared degree requirements that build a powerful, versatile set of skills prized by employers while offering a reduced course load burden and greater flexibility for students.

The streamlined curriculum, which reduces what used to be known as "the core" to only two universally required courses (First-Year Experience and English 131), can also be accomplished while satisfying other degree requirements, with 87% of course offerings doing double duty for major or minor program credits.

"We revisited the design of our shared curriculum with an eye on student and employer needs, as well as differentiators that make graduates stand out to hiring managers and graduate schools," said Dr. Indira Gesink, the BW history professor who led the curriculum revision. "Rather than locking students into a list of required academic disciplines, students will have wide latitude and choice of courses that will build skills that enable them to thrive." 

Eight Crucial Competencies

BW students in class

This spring, the BW faculty considered and voted on replacing the old core with one of three competency-building options developed by Gesink.

The new, outcomes-driven BW competencies selected by faculty will be introduced to incoming first-year students this fall. The eight thematic areas that develop both career readiness and life skills are:

  1. effective communication (written and oral)
  2. critical analysis (analytical reading and logic)
  3. quantitative literacy
  4. civic literacy (as previously reported, this builds dialogue skills for engaging across differences)
  5. multicultural literacy (preparation to engage in international and domestically diverse environments)
  6. scientific literacy (lab science)
  7. wellness (how to care for mental and physical health)
  8. creative arts (design, innovation and creativity).

Plus, one differentiator

An additional three-course sequence empowers students to choose a micro-credential from the most in-demand skills identified through national employer surveys.

The micro-credential chosen — advanced professional writing, digital marketing, ethics or human development — will appear on transcripts along with major(s) and minor(s).

While majors and minors provide concentrated areas of study focused on career or graduate school preparation, this new curriculum represents the heart of a BW education with common learning outcomes for every BW student.

Solving problems not yet imagined

Students doing group work

"The multidisciplinary approach of this curriculum provides broad preparation for diverse career paths and leads to adaptability and career agility as technology reshapes the job market," said Gesink. "Students also build the capacity to think about problems from multiple perspectives so that they can solve the problems of the future — they need to be able to solve problems that we haven't even imagined."

"We're also thrilled to introduce the new thematic emphasis on civic dialogue," she added. "BW students want to make a real difference in the world, and we are teaching them the skills they need to navigate polarized political climates, to speak to each other, to hear one another and to work together to solve problems."

Building lives worth living

In addition to dialogue skills, the First-Year Experience course is being retooled to introduce the concept of a "life worth living" with discussions of what each student values and wants to achieve.

Gesink said the capabilities developed through the BW competencies curriculum will add value to every BW degree program. Students who choose BW can be confident they will be prepared to live their best lives.

"These crucial skills are always in demand, never go out of style and will serve graduates throughout a lifetime," Gesink explained. "At BW, we are continually working to improve our ability to deliver an extraordinary educational experience for our students, and we're confident these competencies will do just that."

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