A new design for academic inquiry and success

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Beginning in Fall 2009, incoming freshmen will experience an Appalachian education quite differently than their older peers. The university is redesigning its basic requirements for a bachelor's degree and already has created a new portal for academic success—called University College—that is dedicated to developing students' reflective, life-long learning and transferable skills necessary for a changing world.

University College is committed to connecting the learning that takes place inside and outside the classroom. It consists of the following:

  • Curricular programs
  • Academic support services
  • Residential learning communities
  • Interdisciplinary degree programs
  • Co-curricular programming and support

Students benefit from University College's programs from their first step onto campus until they graduate. "The college was founded in the summer of 2007 in order to coordinate programs that meet a broad range of needs for 21st-century students as they prepare to live and work in a complex network of local, regional and global communities," explained Dave Haney, Appalachian's vice provost for undergraduate education.

"University College crosses many of the boundaries that separate traditional colleges and departments, and we are committed to the idea that a college education should connect what goes on inside and outside the classroom."

Haney has spent the past year coordinating the major components of University College, which include the new General Education Program—the 44-semester hours required of all students regardless of their major. The General Education Program will span the four years of a student's academic career and will focus on four goals: thinking critically and creatively, communicating effectively, making local to global connections, and understanding responsibilities of community membership. The program begins in fall 2009.

This fall, Appalachian began offering a redesigned version of its Freshman Seminar course, called First Year Seminar, which will be required of all entering students as part of the General Education Program next year. More academically challenging than its predecessor, First Year Seminar will be taught by experienced faculty who are committed to helping freshmen successfully transition from high school to college by developing creative and critical thinking abilities, cultivating effective communication skills, and introducing students to a variety of research tools and methods.

A student's path through University College looks like this:

Both freshmen and transfer students are introduced to Appalachian and given their initial academic guidance through University College's advising and orientation offices. The college's curricular programs—from General Education and Heltzer Honors to undergraduate and graduate interdisciplinary degree programs—are designed to help students achieve the essential learning outcomes of a liberal education. Through its co-curricular programs, students learn from distinguished visiting authors and speakers, blend their classroom learning with community service, and pursue independent research with faculty mentors.

Throughout their time at Appalachian, students benefit from University College's other support services to improve their writing, work on other academic skills, and take the tests necessary to advance their careers at Appalachian and beyond. University College also provides faculty members with innovative teaching opportunities, and supports them in developing successful learning practices, especially in the important area of writing.

University College oversees Appalachian's bachelor of arts degree in interdisciplinary studies, as well as five new degrees approved in June by the UNC Board of Governors. They are the bachelor of arts degrees in Appalachian studiesglobal studiessustainable development and women's studies, and a bachelor of science degree in sustainable development. These five academic areas were previously offered as concentrations through the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, which has since been dissolved.

"The establishment of these areas as full-fledged degree programs is an important recognition of the increasing significance of interdisciplinary teaching and learning at Appalachian," Haney said.