Policies and Rules for Undergraduate Students
The University Faculty Senate, at its meeting in April 2015, adopted a comprehensive revision of General Education Learning Objectives and requirements. This revision was further detailed in the General Education report adopted by the Senate in March 2016. The First-Year Engagement Program as described was revised April 29, 2008, and Intercultural and International Competence requirements was updated on April 27, 2004):
The General Education curriculum will enable students to acquire skills, knowledge, and experiences for living in interconnected contexts, so they can contribute to making life better for others, themselves, and the world. General Education encompasses the breadth of knowledge involving the major intellectual and aesthetic skills and achievements of humanity. This must include understanding and appreciation of the pluralistic nature of knowledge epitomized by the natural sciences, quantitative skills, social and behavioral sciences, humanities, and arts. To achieve and share such an understanding and appreciation, skills in self-expression, quantitative analysis, information literacy, and collaborative interaction are necessary. General Education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, a strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. General Education, in essence, aims to cultivate a knowledgeable, informed, literate human being.
An effective General Education curriculum shall facilitate teaching and learning through seven key objectives:
EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION – The ability to exchange information and ideas in oral, written, and visual form in ways that allow for informed and persuasive discourse that builds trust and respect among those engaged in that exchange, and helps create environments where creative ideas and problem-solving flourish.
KEY LITERACIES – The ability to identify, interpret, create, communicate, and compute using materials in a variety of media and contexts. Literacy acquired in multiple areas, such as textual, quantitative, information/technology, health, intercultural, historical, aesthetic, linguistic (world languages), and scientific, enables individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, to lead healthy and productive lives, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.
CRITICAL AND ANALYTICAL THINKING – The habit of mind characterized by comprehensive exploration of issues, ideas, artifacts, and events before accepting or formulating a conclusion. It is the intellectually disciplined process of conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
INTEGRATIVE THINKING – The ability to synthesize knowledge across multiple domains, modes of inquiry, historical periods, and perspectives, as well as the ability to identify linkages between existing knowledge and new information. Individuals who engage in integrative thinking are able to transfer knowledge within and beyond their current contexts.
CREATIVE THINKING – The capacity to synthesize existing ideas, images, or expertise in original ways and the experience of performing, making, thinking, or acting in an imaginative way that may be characterized by innovation, divergent thinking, and intellectual risk taking.
GLOBAL LEARNING – The intellectually disciplined abilities to analyze similarities and differences among cultures; evaluate natural, physical, social, cultural, historical, and economic legacies and hierarchies; and engage as community members and leaders who will continue to deal with the intricacies of an ever-changing world. Individuals should acquire the ability to analyze power; identify and critique interdependent global, regional, and local cultures and systems; and evaluate the implications for people’s lives.
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICAL REASONING – The ability to assess one’s own values within the social context of problems, recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, describe how different perspectives might be applied to ethical dilemmas, and consider the ramifications of alternative actions. Individuals should acquire the self-knowledge and leadership skills needed to play a role in creating and maintaining healthy, civil, safe, and thriving communities.
Courses taken to meet General Education program requirements may not be taken under the Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory option.
The baccalaureate degree General Education program consists of 45 credits that are distributed among three General Education components: foundations courses in writing, speaking and quantification (15 credits), knowledge domains in the Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Health and Wellness (30 credits), and Integrative Studies (6 credits that overlap with the knowledge domain requirement) that bridges commonality and intersections between the Knowledge Domains. There are three additional requirements that may be completed as a part of either General Education courses or courses required in the major. These requirements, which every baccalaureate degree student must complete, are 3 credits of United States Cultures, 3 credits of International Cultures, and 3 credits of Writing Across the Curriculum course work.
In addition, all first-year baccalaureate students are required to complete a First-Year Engagement (FYE) program designed to actively involve students in learning, acquaint them with the learning tools and resources available at Penn State, and orient them to the scholarly community from the outset of their undergraduate studies in a way that will bridge to later experiences in their chosen majors. A student’s campus of enrollment determines whether or not he/she is required to complete a First-Year Seminar. Campuses that no longer require an FYS provide students with a First-Year Engagement experience. All students in a University Park college or in the Division of Undergraduate Studies at University Park must complete a First-Year Seminar (FYS) for 1 to 3 credits as part of the FYE program.
Students are advised that the Requirements for the Major of certain baccalaureate degree majors include courses that have been approved as General Education courses. In those cases, the appropriate choice of General Education courses will also satisfy the Requirements for the Major.
Students whose academic majors are in the areas of natural sciences, arts, humanities, and social and behavioral sciences may not meet the General Education Knowledge Domains components by taking courses in the department or program identical to that of the academic major. All General Education courses are to help students explore and integrate information beyond the special focuses of their majors.
Courses to be Used for General Education
Skills (15 credits)
Writing/Speaking (9 credits)
Courses designated with the GenEd: Writing/Speaking (GWS) attribute satisfy this requirement.
Quantification (6 credits)
Courses designated with the GenEd: Quantification (GQ) attribute satisfy this requirement (3-6 credits are selected from mathematics, applied mathematics, and statistics; 3 credits may be selected from computer science or symbolic logic).
Knowledge Domains (30 credits)
Health and Wellness (3 credits)
Courses designated with the GenEd: Health Wellness (GHW) attribute satisfy this requirement.
Natural Sciences (9 credits)
Courses designated with the GenEd: Natural Sciences (GN) attribute satisfy this requirement.
Arts (6 credits)
Courses designated with the GenEd: Arts (GA) attribute satisfy this requirement.
Humanities (6 credits)
Courses designated with the GenEd: Humanities (GH) attribute satisfy this requirement.
Social and Behavioral Sciences (6 credits)
Courses designated with the GenEd: Social & Beh Sci (GS) attribute satisfy this requirement.
Integrative Studies (6 credits of either Inter-domain or Linked coursework, these credits overlap with the knowledge domain requirement)
Courses designated with the GenEd Integrative: Interdomain attribute satisfy this requirement.
Courses designated with the GenEd Integrative: Linked attribute satisfy this requirement.
The General Education program extends the concept of flexibility to all aspects of the degree program. Penn State wants students to use General Education as an opportunity to experiment and explore, to take academic risks, to discover things they did not know before, and to learn to do things they have not done before. A student may, in consultation with the adviser and the approval of the student’s college dean,
- Substitute a 200- to 499-level course in an area of General Education for a course found on the General Education list. For example, a student may take a 400-level course in history and use it to meet the General Education requirement satisfied by a comparable lower-level history course.
- Substitute a world language at the twelfth credit level of proficiency, as measured by the Penn State foreign language offerings, for 3 credits in any of the categories of General Education. Baccalaureate degree students may substitute study in a world/second language at the twelfth credit level of proficiency or higher for any 3 credits in any of the categories of general education only if those 3 credits are in language study beyond their degree requirements.
- Substitute a course in one of the Knowledge Domains areas of Arts, Humanities, or Social and Behavioral Sciences, Natural Sciences, or Health and Wellness for a course in one of the other areas. For example, a student might take three courses in the Arts, and only one course in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. In another example, a student might take two courses in the Natural Sciences and two courses in Health and Wellness; or a student might take two courses in the Natural Sciences and three courses in the Humanities. This substitution is referred to as the Move 3 substitution.
- The use of these substitutions (No. 2 and No. 3 above), either alone or in combination, may not lead to the complete elimination of any area in the Foundations or Knowledge Domains categories in the student’s general education program, nor may they be applied to reduction of credits in the same domain.
NOTE: When a course is used to satisfy more than one requirement, the credits in the course can be counted only once.
General Education courses are identified in the University Course Descriptions and General Education sections of the Undergraduate Degree Programs Bulletin. They can also be found in the Schedule of Courses by the appropriate course designation.
Revised Editorially: 8/23/11
Revised Editorially: 6/15/12
Revised: 5/2/18 (based on General Education Planning and Oversight Task Force report 4/28/15)