Liberal Education and America's Promise
LEAP Campus Examples
Through LEAP, AAC&U is working with hundreds of campuses as they work to ensure that all students graduate prepared for the challenges of the new global century. Guiding these efforts are a set of essential learning outcomes and principles of excellence.
Below are recent examples of LEAP-related campus practices. For the full list of examples, visit the archives page. Contact Bethany Zecher Sutton to share how your campus is using LEAP to strengthen undergraduate education.
Aim High—and Make Excellence Inclusive
Make the Essential Learning Outcomes a framework for the entire educational experience, connecting school, college, work, and life
Queensborough Community College
Queensborough Community College (QCC) developed the Freshmen Academies to help students navigate their first thirty credits at QCC by forming a bridge between academics and student affairs and offering individual guidance and advising for every student. QCC has been using high-impact practices (HIPs) in its courses for some time, but the Freshmen Academies represent a new effort to organize and implement those practices across the institution in a systematic way. QCC uses many of the same HIPs that are central to AAC&U’s LEAP initiative—learning communities, shared intellectual experiences, collaborative assignments and projects, and service and community-based learning. ”We’ve promised that all students will receive at least two HIPs in their first 30 credits, and we’re planning that students receive more than that,” says Michele Cuomo, associate dean for academic affairs at QCC. Read more – “Bridging Academics and Student Affairs to Advance Student Success: Freshmen Academies at Queensborough Community College,” by Wilson Peden (AAC&U News, November 2011).
Georgia Highlands College
Georgia Highlands College (GHC) has revamped its First-Year Experience program so that the FYE courses are more beneficial to first-generation college students. Libby Gore, director of the First-Year Experience program at GHC, and her colleague Jennifer Purcell, an academic adviser and the coordinator of service learning, changed almost everything about the FYE course, titled Freshman College Studies. The new course “focuses on immediately applicable skills students can use in other courses, as well as on building feelings of belonging and support among students for whom the first semester of college can feel overwhelming.” Read more – “First-Generation Student Success at Georgia Highlands College,” by Laura Donnelly-Smith (AAC&U News, December 2010).
Kapi'olani Community College (University of Hawaii)
Kapi’olani Community College, located in Honolulu, HI, serves a diverse indigenous, intercultural, and international student population and community. The college offers strong liberal arts and career programs for a global century and will be featuring two high- impact practices, service-learning and undergraduate research, and efforts to integrate them across first and second year courses/experiences and pre-transfer summers.
Kapi'olani Community College was among the presenters at AAC&U's meeting, Facing the Divides: Diversity, Learning, and Pathways to Inclusive Excellence (October 2010)
Give Students a Compass
Focus each student's plan of study on achieving the essential learning outcomes--and assess progress
Utah State University
D. Whitney Smith, a reporter for the Utah State University Hard News Cafe reports that, "Utah State University's core liberal arts college decided to stand up to critics and speak out about the competitive and life advantages its degrees offer students. One year after the former College of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences spun off a separate Caine College of the Arts, USU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHaSS) has given birth to new academic innovation based on the centuries-old concept of a free flow of ideas. These ideas are documented in the college’s new semiannual alumni magazine Liberalis—Latin for 'of or pertaining to freedom.' CHaSS Dean John Allen said, 'In today’s world, problems will not be solved by any one discipline,' Allen writes on the college’s website. 'Issues such as disease, poverty and terrorism do not respect borders or state lines. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences prepares students to address the complex challenges that lie ahead by thinking critically, thinking creatively, and thinking big.'" Read more
— "'Degrees to Everywhere' —New Magazine Explains Liberal Education," by D. Whitney Smith (Utah State University Hard News Cafe, August 31, 2011).
Eastern Oregon University
Eastern Oregon University (EOU) is especially dedicated to ensuring that its first-year students—more than 60 percent of whom are the first in their families to attend college—are exposed to a set of high-impact practices that encourage retention, academic achievement, and a sense of belonging. In 2008, with support and a grant from AAC&U as part of its LEAP Give Students a Compass Project, Sarah Witte, associate vice provost for academic affairs, and colleagues in the student affairs division began the university’s inaugural first-year experience program. “Given our demographics, having some high-impact practices at the beginning of the curricular structure was very important,”Witte says. Read more – “Engaging Students with High-Impact Practices at Eastern Oregon University,” by Laura Donnelly-Smith (AAC&U News, January/February 2011).
St. Olaf College
St. Olaf College has developed a new website, “Don’t Just Check Off Those Requirements” designed to help students learn more about how their general education courses will contribute to professional achievement and success when they graduate. The authors of the “Requirements” homepage note that, “The St. Olaf General Education curriculum provides the breadth of knowledge and understanding that is essential for both personal development and professional success. With some reflection on your part — and good advice from your faculty and peer advisers — you can create a coherent and customized program that is just as important as your major in preparing you for your future.” The website includes, “advice and perspectives from recent St. Olaf seniors, alumni, and prospective employers about the value of general education courses, gathered from surveys administered annually by St. Olaf, and from a national study of employer opinions about higher education and college graduates.” Learn more about this website online. (December 2010)
University of South Carolina
The University of South Carolina is working to introduce a new integrative core curriculum called the Carolina Core. The revision began in 2005, and the Carolina Core is expected to be fully implemented 2012. In addition, USC is working on a Quality Enhancement Plan “focused on bridging the gap between classroom learning and the cocurriculum.” Helen Doerpinghaus, vice provost and dean for undergraduate studies and a cochair of the General Education Committee says, “The ultimate goal for both USC Connect and the Carolina Core will be to provide students at a large research institution with some of the benefits of a small liberal arts college. We have a lot of capabilities to create enriched experiences for students. We’re taking advantage of the structures we have in place and are moving forward.” Read more – “Using General Education Review and Accreditation to Drive Change at the University of South Carolina,” by Laura Donnelly-Smith (AAC&U News, November 2010)
Teach the Arts of Inquiry and Innovation
Immerse all students in analysis, discovery, problem solving, and communication, beginning in school and advancing in college.
Stanford’s Science, Technology, and Society (STS) program gives students the opportunity to develop fluency across the disciplines. The interdisciplinary program allows students to take courses across the sciences and humanities, with guided research opportunities to help them make connections among those disciplines. “We call STS the liberal arts for the twenty-first century,” says Fred Turner, director of the program. “That’s what we want to be, the place where people ask what it means to be human both in science and technological terms and in humanistic and social terms. That’s the kind of world we’re living in, so that’s the kind of world we’re trying to teach to. If you have a university that hasn’t found bridge spaces for those two worlds, that’s an opportunity.” Read more – “Liberal Education for the Twenty-First Century: Science, Technology, and Society at Stanford University” (AAC&U News, April 2012).
University of Maryland at College Park
The new general education program at the University of Maryland–College Park revamps the traditional distribution requirements and puts a new emphasis on fundamental skills and scholarship in practice. Updates to UMD’s general education program began in 2007, and the revised program requirements will go into effect in the fall of 2012. One addition to the new gen. ed. program is the I-series courses, a new requirement unique to UMD, to introduce students to inquiry-based learning in their first two years on campus. These courses “invert the curricular pyramid” by focusing a specific problem or issue, rather than giving the broad disciplinary survey common in introductory courses. Read more – “Innovation, Inquiry Key Outcomes of New General Education Program at the University of Maryland, College Park” (AAC&U News, March 2012).
University of North Texas
The University of North Texas redesigned the institution's large lecture courses.
In 2006, UNT included the goal of improving large courses in its Quality Enhancement Plan for reaccreditation, and received five years of funding to work on course redesign projects. The expanded project, called Next Generation Course Redesign (NGen), strives to create a community among faculty members who will work collaboratively to continually improve, test, assess, and reflect upon their courses. Read more -- "The Promise of Blended Learning: Redesigning Large Lecture Courses at the University of North Texas" (AAC&U News, March 2010)
Engage the Big Questions
Teach through the Curriculum to Far-Reaching Issues - Contemporary and Enduring - in Science and Society, Cultures and Values, Global Interdependence, the Changing Economy, and Human Dignity and Freedom.
Community College of Baltimore County and Howard Community College
The Global Distinction Program at Howard Community College and the Community College of Baltimore County is an academic enrichment program that offers an intentionally globalized general education core, study of a world language, and global experiential learning. The program infuses global content and perspectives in courses such as composition or statistics that fulfill the colleges' general education requirements, so students complete the program requirements without having to take additional coursework. Read more – “Graduating and Transferring Community College Students with Greater Global Awareness, Perspective, and Engagement” (AAC&U News, June/July 2012).
State University of New York at Potsdam
SUNY Potsdam has spent the last twenty years refining their First Year Interest Groups (FIGs), clusters of related courses students complete during their first semester at the university. The SUNY Potsdam FIGs are a type of learning community, one of several high-impact practices AAC&U advocates for. The basic model for all FIGs is the same. Cohorts of ten to twenty-five incoming students take three to five classes that are connected by a cross-disciplinary topic or theme. Current examples include “Money and Power,” which looks at the intersecting influences of economics and politics, and “Gender: Go Figure,” which approaches gender through literature and various social sciences. A FIG coordinator, usually an instructor teaching one of the courses, tracks the students’ progress and communicates with all instructors teaching in the cluster. Students in FIGs also benefit from spending time with faculty members outside of class. While assessment of the FIG program has been limited so far, faculty and administrators at Potsdam have been pleased with what they’ve seen—and so have the students, they say. Surveys of graduating seniors and of faculty show positive impressions of the FIG program, with responses indicating the program is succeeding at providing such key elements of high-impact practices as timely feedback from instructors and students taking responsibility for assisting each other in learning. Read more – “Learning Across Disciplines in Freshmen Interest Groups at SUNY-Potsdam,” by Wilson Peden, (AAC&U News, August 2011).
Otterbein University's new Integrative Studies program, slated to begin in fall 2011 when the college makes the switch from a quarter to a semester calendar, students will still explore questions of human nature—particularly in a first-year writing requirement called an Identity Project—but the overall integrative studies core will be focused on making connections between the disciplines and the wider world. After a first-year seminar that will introduce students to the concept of integrative learning, they will take one IS course in each of four areas during the sophomore and/or junior years: Interconnections (social sciences/history); Reflection and Responsibility (religion, philosophy, and service learning); Natural Foundations (sciences); and Creativity and Culture (arts and writing). Each of these IS courses will focus on teaching students to think globally and beyond disciplinary boundaries. Read more -- Integrative Studies at Otterbein: Reinvigorating a Signature Program for a Global Century (AAC&U News, August 2010)
Connect Knowledge with Choices and Action
Prepare students for citizenship and work through engaged and guided learning on "real-world" problems.
University of Wisconsin–Whitewater
The University of Wisconsin–Whitewater staff recognized the LEAP framework as an opportunity to connect liberal education with students’ work experiences at the University Center. University Center staff developed a program that adapted the language of LEAP to the workplace and asked students to engage in conversations that connect classroom learning with work experience. The staff are continuously developing new ways to integrate LEAP into student employment, including semester- or yearlong projects, says Barry, who advised a group of students working on a project to brand the University Center. “They suggested they would make some logos in a couple of weeks, and I said, ‘I don’t think that’s what branding is.’ So we had this group of students and the whole staff read a book called The Brand Gap and get a common understanding of it.” Read more – “Using LEAP to Connect Work and Learning: the University Center at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater” (AAC&U News, January/February 2012).
Roanoke College has recently adopted a new, highly integrative general education curriculum. Based on the Roanoke College liberal learning goals and reflecting the LEAP essential learning outcomes and principles of excellence, this curriculum prepares students for the 21st century by integrating disciplinary skills with focused real-world issues and integrating course content with skills in writing, oral communication, and quantitative reasoning.
From the poster presentation “Developing an Integrative General Education Program” at AAC&U’s 2010 General Education and Assessment: Maintaining Momentum, Achieving New Priorities conference. (February 2010)
Presentation by Adrienne Bloss, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and General Education and Paul Hanstedt, Professor of English—both of Roanoke College
Wagner College’s Wagner Plan requires students to complete issue-centered integrative learning communities during the first year, the intermediate years, and the senior year. The communities are organized around a larger theme or problem, and include experiential as well as academic learning. This example was featured at the 2009 AAC&U Annual Meeting (January 2009).
Foster Civic, Intercultural, and Ethical Learning
Emphasize personal and social responsibility, in every field of study.
The public service major at Rutgers–Newark combines scholarship from the humanities and social sciences with applied learning through internships and service learning projects with community partners. Public service students are required to complete at least two internships to graduate. However, many other classes also involve elements of service learning with community and global partners. Read more – “Public Service as Responsible Citizenship”—The Public Service Major at Rutgers University–Newark” (AAC&U News, May 2012)
The Pomona College Student Union (PSU) advances the kind of perspective-taking and engagement with diverse viewpoints that AAC&U advocates as part of its Core Commitments initiative. Student-founded and student-led, the PSU was formed as a vehicle to engage the campus community—faculty, students, and staff—on a variety of significant issues, including potentially contentious topics in politics, policy, and culture. What’s consistent about all PSU events is a critical interrogation of ideas from disparate viewpoints, and PSU’s commitment to this kind of open dialogue has garnered broad support from faculty and students alike. Read more at “‘Informed Citizens to Better Serve Us All’—Perspective-Taking and Civic Learning at Pomona College” (AAC&U News, October 2011).
The Tulane University Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) curriculum features a broad range of liberal arts and sciences course requirements, as well a sequence of upper-level public health courses distributed across seven departments. But the Tulane BSPH is also set apart by its service learning component. This aspect of the program is part of a university-wide push for more experiential learning and community engagement that includes a two-tiered academic public service requirement for all undergraduate students. “Our program, from my own perspective, is in many ways in perfect harmony with the goals and objectives of the [university’s] plan in regards to service and making a difference in the community,” says Jeffery Johnson, associate dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and director of undergraduate studies. “The addition of a dedicated cadre of undergraduate public health students has allowed us to do even more at the local level to impact and lead the charge to rebuild New Orleans.” Read more – “Teaching Public Health through Service Learning at Tulane University” (AAC&U News, June/July 2011).
Assess Students' Ability to Apply Learning to Complex Problems
Use assessment to deepen learning and to establish a culture of shared purpose and continuous improvement.
Salt Lake Community College
Salt Lake Community College requires electronic portfolios for all General Education courses. The ePortfolio contains students’ significant assignments, and reflections about those assignments. The ePortfolio also allows students to document their goals and extra-curricular activities as well as to post their résumé. The ePortfolio will be included as part of the assessment of each student’s achievement of Salt Lake Community College’s Learning Outcomes – including effective communication, critical thinking, and knowledge and skills for civic and professional engagement.
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M has managed to make assessment a regular university-wide activity—despite a student body of almost 50,000 and more than 2,800 faculty members. The university’s Office of Institutional Assessment assists faculty members and administrators in assessing student learning outcomes and programmatic effectiveness, and in the past five years, it has introduced and carried out a variety of assessment activities ranging from department-level reviews to large-scale critical thinking assessments across many colleges. Read more – “Taking Assessment University-Wide at Texas A&M,” by Laura Donnelly-Smith (AAC&U News, March 2011).
University of Cincinnati
Since 2001, University of Cincinnati
students have been required to complete a senior capstone experience to earn a baccalaureate degree. The specific capstone requirements are tailored to each program of study, and department faculty assess students’ achievement using rubrics designed to measure both learning outcomes specific to the major, and outcomes required of all UC students—including critical thinking, knowledge integration, social responsibility, and effective communication. Read more -- "Assessing Learning Outcomes at the University of Cincinnati: Comparing Rubric Assessments to Standardized Tests" (AAC&U News, April 2010)
Leap Campus Action Network Contact
- Bethany Zecher Sutton, Chief of Staff and Coordinating Director for the LEAP Initiative, email@example.com