Augustana Introduces New Core Curriculum

Augustana University's Core Curriculum is higher education designed for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow

As Augustana students make their way through the fall semester, AU professors are engaged in the delivery of an innovative new Core Curriculum, an endeavor University officials say will further distinguish Augustana as a premier institution of higher education.

“Some call it the Liberal Arts. Others call it teaching for 21st century skills. At Augustana, our new Core Curriculum is higher education designed for the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” said Dr. Mitch Kinsinger, associate vice president for academic affairs. 

“In today’s world — and certainly in tomorrow’s — we’re increasingly challenged to think like innovators and entrepreneurs. Whether we work in health care, business, education, research, public service, or the arts, as members of the fastest-moving society in the history of time, we need to be innovative. We need to be nimble and ready for change.

"We need to be critical thinkers — able to develop complex solutions for complex challenges. And, most importantly, we need to be able to communicate those solutions effectively. As our world becomes smaller, we need to be able to think bigger and broader. And we need to do so with a global perspective. As access to information becomes more prevalent and more sophisticated, we need to know how to interpret data in strategic, analytical and ethical ways," Kinsinger said.

“Today's students need a tool kit designed to help them navigate uncharted waters and explore new terrain. They need a foundation that will help them prepare for jobs that don’t even exist today — jobs that are the solutions to problems we haven’t yet identified. Augustana's new Core Curriculum is that tool kit."

Dr. Mitch Kinsinger
Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs

The 54-credit Core Curriculum is summarized in the acronym SOPHIA, the Greek word for “wisdom,” and represents the categories of Science, Orientation, Perspectives, Humanities, Intersections and the Arts. See the full description of the Core Curriculum.

Central to the new Core Curriculum is a two-semester, integrative First-Year Seminar (FYS), designed to orient students to academics and campus life at AU. In addition to its collection of innovative courses, FYS also enables students to connect to their professors, fellow students, and critical campus resources, such as the Student Success Center.

FYS Director Dr. Stephen Minister, an associate professor of philosophy, is currently teaching an FYS class entitled "What does it mean to be human?"

"At most universities, first-year students' schedules are loaded with large, introductory survey courses, often taught by grad students or adjuncts. Augustana's FYS program is the exact opposite of this," he said. Augustana FYS courses engage first-year students in small, inquiry-based seminars with some of our best professors. The courses are capped at 18 students so that professors can get to know their students well and help them through the transition to university."  See the full list of Fall 2016 FYS courses

"Professors can choose their own course topic and so can invite students into conversations about their current research interests or reflection on age-old questions. FYS is also designed to lay the foundation for success at Augustana and beyond by helping students develop their abilities in writing, critical thinking, public speaking, and ethical reasoning. Not only are these abilities important for academic and career success, but they also help students develop as people and as citizens," Minister said.

AU officials say that in addition to preparing students for their academic careers at Augustana and beyond, FYS is also designed to spark and inspire students at the beginning of their Augustana experience as they imagine the possibilities and chart their course for success.

According to early analysis, FYS is already exceeding expectations.

Last year, Augustana piloted FYS for 23 percent of its freshmen. The freshman-to-sophomore retention rate among those who participated in the pilot was 91 percent (compared to an 82 percent retention rate for non-pilot participants).

Learn more about Augustana’s new Core Curriculum.