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Core Commitments: Educating Students for Personal and Social Responsibility

Promising Practices Resource Bank

One of the goals of the Core Commitments initiative is to seek out and document promising campus practices designed to promote students' development across five dimensions of personal and social responsibility. Below is a collection of promising practices developed by members of the Core Commitments Leadership Consortium as well as other institutions. AAC&U understands that every campus has a distinct culture and context, and programs should be adapted to best fit an institution.

The five dimensions serve as an organizing framework for the resource bank. Under each listing, a link is also provided to the featured institution's program web site. The resource bank will be refreshed with new practices periodically and all previously highlighted practices will be available in an archive.

Questions or comments may be directed to Chad Anderson, Program Associate, Core Commitments, at

To browse promising practices within a particular dimension, click on the dimension below:

Striving for excellence
Cultivating personal and academic integrity
Contributing to a larger community
Taking seriously the perspectives of others
Developing competence in ethical and moral reasoning and action

Dimension 1--Striving for excellence:

Developing a strong work ethic and consciously doing one's very best in all aspects of college

United States Air Force Academy, Center for Character and Leadership Development
Through the Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD), the USAFA offers students over a dozen active, practical programs and seminars designed to enhance their sense of character and growth as leaders. The Falcon Heritage Forum, for example, serves as a capstone and connects cadets with veterans who embody the institutions’ core values. Veterans discuss their experiences and engage students in mentoring exercises. As another example, the Core Values Education program proactively introduces incoming students to the Air Force Core Values and to their roles and responsibilities as members of the U.S. military. The CCLD’s programming is infused into the larger curriculum and draws on a number of practices and resources (service and experiential learning, alumni (veteran) networking, and community partnerships) to achieve desired student outcomes. Learn more about USAFA's Center for Character Leadership Development and the other programs it offers.

Portland State University, Gateway to PSU
As a part of its work within Core Commitments, Portland State designed a junior-level course for transfer students called “Gateway to PSU” that focuses on student reflection about the role of education in their lives, and how that role relates to personal and social responsibility, civic engagement, and diversity. "Gateway to PSU” considers the various subcultures and contexts students inhabit (ie: transfer students) and is intentional about incorporating transfers students into the larger goals and desired outcomes of the institution. PSU’s course could also fit under the umbrella of the other Core Commitment dimensions, particularly cultivating personal and academic integrity and contributing to a larger community. See PSU's mission, student learning assessment, goals to learn more.

Dimension 2--Cultivating personal and academic integrity:

recognizing and acting on a sense of honor, ranging from honesty in relationships to principled engagement with a formal academic honors code

Bowling Green State University, BGSU 1000: Academic Integrity at BGSU
BGSU developed a web-based resource guide for its University Seminar freshman courses, which in turn are a part of the BGeXeperience program. The resource guide presents students with the school’s academic code and definitions of important terms (e.g.: forgery, plagiarism, etc), and features actual newspaper articles as examples for each type of violation noted in academic code. BGSU’s resource guide is proactive, educating students about policies and academic integrity prior to any specific infractions, and it uses engaging, real-life examples to demonstrate the definitions, the consequences, and the various forms of academic dishonesty. In addition, since the resource guide is web-based and user-friendly, it is easily accessible to students, even after they have completed the University Seminar. Learn more about BGSU’s resource guide and the BGeXeperience.

University of Central Florida, Academic Integrity Seminars
As a part of their Core Commitments work, UCF developed non-credit courses focused on academic integrity in fall 2007. These student-led, proactive seminars spark discussion about integrity as it relates to specific disciplines and to general education. UCF also launched an integrity seminar for faculty in 2008, and created a website that provides valuable information and services related to academic integrity for all members of the UCF community. The UCF ‘s work on academic integrity is pervasive across the campus, and the seminars allow students to take ownership of their education and their academic integrity. Learn more about UCF's academic integrity seminars and other related programs.

Dimension 3--Contributing to a larger community:

recognizing and acting on one's responsibility to the educational community and the wider society, locally, nationally, and globally

Babson College, Be the Change
Babson College hosted a Core Commitments student forum to highlight how students can be catalysts in developing education for personal and social responsibility. The forum, entitled Be the Change: Transforming Socially Responsible Ideas into Action, brought students from twenty campuses together to develop and pitch ideas related to educating peers for personal and social responsibility. The strongest ideas were selected by a panel of judges and the winning ideas were given a grant of up to $5000 for implementation. One of the winning ideas was Micore Exchange, a student-run consignment shop with its own currency that allows students to purchase items in exchange for service hours. Be the Change allows students to become actively involved in the creation of the programming that leads to their personal and social development. Additionally, the forum launched a sustainable initiative on campus that can potentially affect generations of Babson students across all subcultures and disciplines. Learn more by visiting the Be the Change website and checking out the students' ideas, including the winning proposal.

Wagner College, Civic Innovations
In 2006, Wagner College launched Civic Innovations, a program designed to span freshman through senior years. Thus far, six academic departments, self identified as Community-Connected Departments, have committed to threading focused civic engagement activities developmentally throughout their departmental curricula. Through Civic Innovations, each of the Community-Connected Departments collaborates with a single community-based organization. Participating faculty within the Community-Connected departments collaborate with the community organization in order to co-construct their syllabi, which helps to meet both the needs of both the community organization and the courses’ expected student learning outcomes. Semester-long engagement with one agency fosters a deeper sense of social responsibility and develops sustainable relationships between the institution's students, faculty, and staff and the larger community surrounding the campus. Learn more about experiential learning and Civic Innovations.

Dimension 4--Taking seriously the perspectives of others:

recognizing and acting on the obligation to inform one’s own judgment; engaging diverse and competing perspectives as a resource for learning, citizenship, and work

Arcadia University, Global Connections Experience
As of Fall 2008, Arcadia University requires students to fulfill the Global Connections Experience. Students can choose to study abroad, study away at a previously endorsed American university, or enroll in a course specifically designed to engage students in a long-term, cross-cultural experience within the local community. This requirement is paired with a two-credit course, which can be taken on-line, in which students reflect about their experience. In addition to this experiential learning program, students must also take two or more “Global Connections” classes that fall under the “intellectual practices” requirement. Arcadia’s Global Connections Experience and related programming permeates the institution’s curriculum as a whole, and offers students a variety of choices for cross-cultural learning that are affordable and thus accessible to more students. Learn more about Arcadia's promising curricular practices, including the Global Connections Experience.

Also, take a look at a recent article in International Educator to learn what universities and community colleges (including Arcadia) are doing to promote global learning and taking seriously the perspectives of others.

Sacred Heart University, Common Core: The Human Journey
Sacred Heart University’s new core curriculum, Common Core: The Human Journey, is a four part sequence of required courses for all undergraduate students. The program integrates liberal arts learning with ethical and social responsibility and integrity. As the signature centerpiece of the undergraduate core curriculum, the Common Core weaves focuses on four of humanity’s central and enduring questions: 1) what does it mean to be human; 2) what does it mean to live a life of meaning and purpose; 3) what does it mean to understand and appreciate the natural world; and 4) what does it mean to forge a more just society for the common good? These questions thematically organize the following five discipline areas: The Human Journey: Historical Paths to Civilization (History); Literary Expressions of The Human Journey (Literature); The Human Community: The Individual and Society (Political Science, Sociology, Psychology); The Human Community and Scientific Discovery (Biology, Chemistry, Physics); and the capstone, The Human Search for Truth, Justice, and the Common Good (Religious Studies, Philosophy). Sacred Heart’s curriculum is institutionally pervasive, interdisciplinary, and engages students with large, complex questions throughout their four years. Learn more about Common Core: The Human Journey.

University of California, Berkley, Facing You, Facing Me
In partnership with Stiles Hall, a non-profit organization dedicated to community service and interracial reconciliation, the UC Berkley Ethnic Studies department operates the Facing You, Facing Me seminar. An experiential and discussion-based course, the seminar’s racially and socioeconomically diverse students hold leadership positions in the university community. Students are expected to facilitate one discussion with peers surrounding the racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group with which they identify. The course also requires a final experiential project based on what the students have learned from one another during the semester. Facing You, Facing Me is student-centered, uses projects and assignments developed by the students, and creates an open and consistent space for participants to learn other perspectives and challenge their own. The dialogue also empowers student leaders to take what they learned back to their respective communities and organizations. To learn more about Facing You, Facing Me, see the Stiles Hall website, and read a 2002 article about the program in AAC&U’s publication, Diversity Digest.

Dimension 5--Developing competence in ethical and moral reasoning and action:

developing ethical and moral reasoning in ways that incorporate the other four responsibilities; using such reasoning in learning and in life 

University of Alabama at Birmingham, Ethics and Civic Responsibility Initiative
As a part of its Quality Enhancement Program (QEP), the University of Alabama-Birmingham developed rubrics and guidelines for designating a course as an Ethics and Civic Responsibility (ECR) course. Such courses would intentionally instruct students in civic responsibility, the role of diversity, ethical reasoning, and/or contemporary events and issues. All programs must identify a minimum of two courses taken by their majors that include significant instruction, reinforcement, or experiential learning in disciplinary aspects of ECR. Finally, every program is developing a required capstone that includes senior-level, discipline-specific ECR competencies. Each capstone includes coverage and assessment of discipline-specific ECR, including professional ethics, the value of diversity in the discipline, and the impact of the discipline on society. Fourteen programs ranging from Theatre and Social Work to Biomedical Engineering and Physics have had capstone courses approved. UAB also added a third honors program focused on Global and Community Leadership. UAB’s curricular innovations are pervasive across multiple disciplines and departments, and link academic and student affairs. Check out UAB's Ethics and Civic Responsibility initiative, including information about desired learning outcomes and capstone courses.

University of Central Florida, Ethics Bowl
As a part of its Core Commitments project, University of Central Florida initiated an internal “ethics bowl,” an event in which undergraduate students debate the ethical questions surrounding contemporary cultural, moral, political and social issues. The topics for the ethics bowl may range from medicine to the news, from law to personal relationships. Students must form teams of between 3-8 members, and have a member of the faculty, administration or staff in any department must serve as their sponsor. The entire university and local community are invited to watch the competition. The ethics bowl immerses students –participants and audience members—in large ethical questions in an appealing and engaging framework (ie: a competition), promotes sustained thought about integrity through practice sessions and discussions, and encourages outcomes such as teamwork and forging connections between students and faculty members, staff, and administrators. Learn more about the ethics bowl and UCF’s other projects related to ethics and integrity by visiting their website.

University of the Pacific, Pacific Seminars
University of the Pacific has implemented a three course general education system that develops students’ ethical reasoning and encourages them to ask, “What is a good society?” Pacific Seminar I begs that same question, and all students enroll during their first semester at the university. Pacific Seminar II is taken in the second semester of the first year, and is topical, allowing students to further explore a theme introduced in Seminar I. Students take the capstone course, Pacific Seminar III: Ethics of Family, Work and Citizenship, during their senior year, and they write their ethical autobiography as one of the major assignments. The Pacific Seminars are interdisciplinary and pervasive across disciplines, establish an intentional link between introductory and capstone courses, and urge students to self-reflect and to invest in their education and their moral identity. Learn more about the seminar program and browse the University of the Pacific website.