Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support: Core Component 3.B

3.B - Core Component 3.B

The institution demonstrates that the exercise of intellectual inquiry and the acquisition, application, and integration of broad learning and skills are integral to its educational programs.

  1. The general education program is appropriate to the mission, educational offerings, and degree levels of the institution.
  2. The institution articulates the purposes, content, and intended learning outcomes of its undergraduate general education requirements. The program of general education is grounded in a philosophy or framework developed by the institution or adopted from an established framework. It imparts broad knowledge and intellectual concepts to students and develops skills and attitudes that the institution believes every college-educated person should possess.
  3. Every degree program offered by the institution engages students in collecting, analyzing, and communicating information; in mastering modes of inquiry or creative work; and in developing skills adaptable to changing environments.
  4. The education offered by the institution recognizes the human and cultural diversity of the world in which students live and work.
  5. The faculty and students contribute to scholarship, creative work, and the discovery of knowledge to the extent appropriate to their programs and the institution’s mission.


3.B.1  At the undergraduate level, ASU’s general education requirements are delivered via a General Studies Curriculum consistently administered across campuses, delivery methods, and degree programs. The General Studies Curriculum emphasizes the philosophy that a baccalaureate education should prepare students for constructive and satisfying personal, social, and civic lives, in addition to depth of knowledge in a particular academic or professional discipline. The university requires all students to complete a set of General Studies Requirements that complement the undergraduate major by helping them 1) gain mastery of critical learning skills, 2) investigate the traditional branches of knowledge, and 3) develop the broad perspective that frees one to appreciate diversity and change across time, culture, and national boundaries.

General studies courses are regularly reviewed and approved by the General Studies Council, a faculty decision-making body tasked with the continuing implementation and development of the comprehensive university-wide General Studies Program (March 2017 minutes).

The AZTransfer Steering Committee (AZTransfer) is the statewide coordinating body of the Arizona articulation and transfer system. AZTransfer provides oversight of curricular alignment among Arizona’s public secondary and post-secondary educational institutions. AZTransfer also helps ensure that students are appropriately prepared and have the support services required to pursue the completion of post-secondary certificate and degree programs at ASU. The Office of the University Provost manages community college partnerships through the combined efforts of the units of Undergraduate Education (curriculum and advising), Academic Partnerships, and Enrollment Management.

3.B.2  Components of the General Studies Program ensure that baccalaureate graduates are trained broadly in the skills necessary to excel in their careers; including development of skills in collecting, analyzing, and communicating information, while conducting investigations through multiple modes of inquiry and creative work. These broad learning skills consist of literacy, critical inquiry, and mathematical reasoning competencies, including the integration of computer literacy into mathematical competency.

For breadth of training and to provide competence in the multiple ways in which humans solve problems, ASU’s core areas also incorporate instruction in the natural and social-behavioral sciences, history, fine arts, and the humanities. To develop graduates with the ability to participate in a constantly changing global community in the 21st century, the General Studies Curriculum also includes coursework in global awareness, cultural diversity, and history. Courses approved for meeting the General Studies Requirements have been specifically reviewed for compatibility with the aims of the requirement.

The General Studies Requirement and its functions in undergraduate education are clearly articulated in the ASU Academic Catalog. Course requirements are also reviewed and communicated to students directly via the unit advising offices. Undergraduates in all academic units must meet the General Studies Requirements for graduation with an ASU baccalaureate degree. The Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) is the institutional report that matches a student’s completed courses with the requirements of a particular academic degree program, and it is used as the checkout tool for graduation. Students can regularly review their DARS reports to ensure that all requirements have been completed.

3.B.3  As noted in 3.B.2, the foundations listed are provided to every student through the ASU General Studies Curriculum. Transfer students receiving the Arizona General Education Certificate receive instruction on those skills in the courses they take at the Community College level for their selected certificate. ASU broadens and hones the foundational competencies obtained by undergraduate and graduate students by:

  • Providing expanded research and critical inquiry including publishing and research. Higher education includes opportunities in research, capstone projects, and internships to prepare students for the changing global environment. As a research-intensive institution, most academic units offer some form of research experience to enrich the educational experience for undergraduate students. The following examples illustrate how students are given opportunities to go beyond what is provided by the General Education Curriculum to further hone their skills:
    1. Barrett, The Honors College, a selective, residential college that recruits academically outstanding undergraduates from across the nation, fosters an intellectually and socially vibrant environment. Honors College students can apply for funding to support their research projects. Each Barrett student must complete an honors thesis or creative project under the direct supervision of a faculty member that provides the student enhanced intellectual and research skills.
    2. Unit-based research opportunities exist in many areas including, 1) the School of Life Sciences’ Undergraduate Research (SOLUR) program placing about 120 undergraduate students each year in life science research laboratories. SOLUR students learn about and contribute to research by working closely with faculty and other mentors in on-going investigations. 
    3. The School of Earth and Space Exploration has many opportunities including the NASA Space Grant program. 
    4. The Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions provides undergraduates opportunities designed to provide research, presentation, and communication experience. 
    5. New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences' New College Undergraduate Inquiry and Research Experience (NCUIRE) provides stipends to enrolled New College undergraduates while they work on a faculty member’s research project.
    • Undergraduate and graduate experiences in interdisciplinary programs prepare students to ask different types of questions and help them cultivate the skills to explore. Examples include:

    1.  B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Sustainability. The School of Sustainability gathers faculty with expertise from across the University to build interdisciplinary degree programs that prepare students to address critical issues of local, national, and global importance. The undergraduate and graduate programs prepare students to understand, explore, and analyze sustainability in the context of real-world problems; to explore the interaction of environmental, economic, and social systems.

    2.  The Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree program is comprised of the university General Studies Requirements, a set of four core courses in interdisciplinary inquiry, and two approved minors or concentrations. An ASU Online version is also available that focuses on organizational studies.

    3.  The School of Earth and Space Exploration offers interdisciplinary degree programs that combine the intellectual disciplines of geology, astrophysics, and engineering. The undergraduate and graduate minors, degrees, concentrations, and certificates in this program offer students an integrated education across earth sciences, planetary sciences, astrophysics, and engineering. Graduates are prepared for key roles in earth resources and exploration, environmental and geologic engineering, space research and industry, and water and environmental use policy.

    4.  The MFA program in dance with a concentration in interdisciplinary digital media and performance builds on the strength of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and expands into the specific area of new media practices. The concentration provides a select group of graduate students with a rigorous, in-depth opportunity to specialize in dance as well as transdisciplinary digital arts.

    Programs at ASU do not have to be explicitly interdisciplinary to offer opportunities to students for expanding their knowledge beyond a single field of inquiry. For example, students can earn a B.A. in business by combining the core courses in business, both lower and upper division, with one of over 14 concentrations outside of business. Concentrations are available in communication, global leadership, global politics, law, public policy, statistics, sustainability, technology, tourism management, urban policy and others.

    • Internships and professional experiences allow students to infuse their learning with “real-world” applications. ASU integrates applied experiences led by practicing professionals into the traditional classroom-delivered curricula. Internships are an integral part of many professional degree and certificate programs at ASU. Field experiences in Arizona’s school districts allow Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College students to develop the skills required of teachers, while experiencing a diversity of philosophies, strategies, and settings. Students from the College of Health Solutions, and the School of Social Work complete their field education experiences with trained healthcare professionals in Arizona and across the United States.
    • ASU provides access to a host of global engagement opportunities to expand students' intellectual vision. In pursuit of ASU’s Design Aspiration of engaging globally, ASU continues to grow a multicultural community of students and scholars who address local and global challenges and collaborate to create solutions. ASU has a growing portfolio of international degree programs and partnerships. At the graduate level, examples include the W.P. Carey School of Business programs offered in Shanghai China. In addition, ASU has also developed several 3+2 programs with international partners (e.g., School of Community Resources and Development) that provide graduate degree opportunities for students completing the majority of their undergraduate degree at their home institution and their master’s degree at ASU.
    • At the undergraduate level, the ASU Study Abroad Office administers more than 250 study abroad programs in over 55 countries. Students can study during the summer term, fall and spring semesters, or for a full academic year. Participating students can expand upon a current course of study, focus on learning a foreign language, fulfill major course requirements, or experiment with various elective requirements. Three distinct types of study abroad programs are available to ASU students: 1) Exchange Programs (participants pay ASU tuition while taking courses at a foreign institution alongside host country students), 2) Faculty Directed Programs (students pay a program fee, including tuition to take ASU faculty-led courses with other ASU students, primarily offered during the summer term, 3) Partnership Programs (students pay a special program fee, including tuition to attend special programs at partner institutions with students from host countries and fellow American students), and 4) Global Intensive Experiences. The faculty-led summer study abroad programs are the most popular, comprising approximately 55 percent of the total student participants in study abroad programs. In 2015 the Institute of International Education ranked ASU in the top 25 schools in the nation for the total numbers of students studying abroad each year. During the 2014-2015 academic year, a total of 2,102 ASU students studied abroad.
    • All graduate academic programs contain one or more culminating experiences in which the student is expected to demonstrate mastery of the various modes of inquiry, communication, and creative work appropriate for that discipline; these experiences also serve to assess the student’s capacity to analyze and synthesize what they have learned. Examples of culminating experiences include written and oral comprehensive examinations, portfolios, digital portfolios, applied projects, theses, and dissertations. These intensive assessment experiences are intentionally designed to provide a rigorous, individualized, and focused assessment of the student’s mastery of the subject by faculty members admitted to the graduate faculty for that particular program. Some examples include Counseling Psychology (PhD), English (MA), Chemistry (MS), and Law (JD).

    3.B.4  ASU emphasizes recognition of diversity in its curriculum and in its academic culture and environment. The General Studies Curriculum explicitly includes requirements in Cultural, Global, and Historical Awareness. ASU’s multiple academic units offer curricula and degree programs specifically focused on diversity at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Examples of such academic units and programs include the School of Transborder Studies; Ethnicity and First Nations Studies; American Studies; Women and Gender Studies; African and African American Studies; American Indian Studies; Social and Cultural Analysis; and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Studies. In addition, ASU has a multitude of undergraduate and graduate degrees, certificates, concentrations, and minors that are focused on diversity, including ethnic, global, gender, and religious areas of study.

    3.B.5  Excellence in research is essential to meeting the goals and measures for the institution enumerated in the ASU Goals Statement and ABOR’s Enterprise Metrics. All tenured and tenure-track faculty are expected to participate in research and/or creative activities related to their discipline. Research expenditures provide a direct measure of the quality and impact of the research performed due to the common presence of peer-review and competition for those funds. The university’s total research expenditures increased from $355M in FY 2011 to $501M in FY2016. In the National Science Foundation's latest Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) rankings, ASU’s research expenditures placed it 10th out of 724 institutions without a medical school. 

    One notable grant awarded to ASU faculty exemplifies breadth of intellectual activity brought together by ASU’s design principle of intellectual fusion. ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration was recently awarded up to $450M by NASA for the Psyche Mission, which will launch a spacecraft to explore a metallic asteroid thought to be a planetary core. The scientific goals of the Psyche mission are to understand the building blocks of planet formation and explore firsthand a wholly new and unexplored type of world. The mission team seeks to determine whether Psyche is a protoplanetary core, how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways to the Earth’s core, and what its surface is like.

    Forefront research and scholarly activity are expectations for all graduate degree programs. Beyond those expectations, several ASU graduate programs are funded by the National Science Foundation through the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, a training program for U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers that expands knowledge of specified disciplines with training in interdisciplinary fields. The goal of the IGERT program is to introduce Ph.D. students with diverse backgrounds to interdisciplinary training, and to prepare them for the increasingly multidisciplinary nature of scientific research. Current IGERT research at ASU includes Solar Energy and Person-Centered Accessible Technologies.