Dramatically reshaping academic requirements and teaching in small first-year seminars prepares students for life beyond college.
When now University Provost Ian Baucom originally arrived on Grounds as Dean of Arts & Sciences, he brought with him a few transformational goals for the College. Among them was re-thinking the curriculum aimed at educating citizens who can nurture a 21st century democratic society that requires multiple approaches to big questions, skills to persuade, collaborate and analyze, and thinking beyond disciplines.
A&S dramatically overhauled the curriculum designed in the 1970s, receiving accolades from UVA students and faculty and leaders of top universities nationwide. One of the priorities of the Campaign is to secure permanent funding for the groundbreaking curriculum, in particular the first-year Engagements seminars.
Instead of large lectures, incoming students participate in four innovative seven-week discussion seminars taught by star professors across multiple disciplines. These College Fellows take time from their normal courses to design and teach classes that require students to engage in research and respectfully debate pressing issues of our day alongside peers with widely different experiences. After two years, Fellows return to their departments where they implement the innovative teaching methods from their Engagements courses.
Built on a three-year pilot funded by visionary donors, the new general education curriculum was adopted by a majority faculty vote in 2019. In May 2021, the pilot’s first students graduated.
As the seed funding ends for this tremendous undertaking, we must secure endowment gifts to fully scale the Engagements to all College first-year students. Donations will cover the cost of others to teach the College Fellows’ normal departmental courses while the Fellows provide our entering students with the foundational tools for lifelong learning.