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What Does It Take to Become a Stanford-Educated Student

Faculty Senate prescribes 11 courses to impart methods and approaches rather than disciplines.

Mark Matcho

After vigorous debate about the role of required courses in the undergraduate curriculum, the Faculty Senate has put in place a new concept for a broad and explorative approach to general education. Hewing
closely to recommendations from the recent Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES), the senate chose a system of 11 required courses that represent the report’s Ways of Thinking, Ways of Doing framework.

Starting in the fall of 2013, students will fulfill the requirements by choosing courses that range over eight essential categories: aesthetic and interpretive inquiry (two courses), social inquiry (two), scientific analysis (two), and one course in each of formal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, moral and ethical reasoning, engaging difference, and creative expression. Many details, including a process for determining the way courses are categorized, will be worked out by a governing board appointed by Harry Elam, vice provost for undergraduate education.

The Ways of Thinking, Ways of Doing rubric replaces requirements that were meant to ensure a breadth of education by mandating courses from particular disciplines, including engineering and applied sciences,
humanities, mathematics and social sciences. The SUES report argued that the new structure would provide the opportunity for students to engage even “more substantially” with a wide range of disciplines, eliciting more thoughtful consideration from them about the purposes and goals of their course choices.

Much of the discussion in the Faculty Senate revolved around an alternative proposal to reduce the new requirements to eight courses—one only from each of the newly established categories. A spirited back-andforth touched on issues of how best to provide students with guidance as well as flexibility, on the rationale for having more requirements in some areas than in others, and on how most students might be expected to make their choices.

Speaking for the 11-course proposal that prevailed, philosophy professor Debra Satz said, “These are some of the best discussions that the University has had.” Satz, senior associate dean for the humanities and arts, went on to say, “What we’re doing in the University is saying, ‘Here’s our judgment of what you need to
know to be an educated Stanford student,’ and within that there’s an enormous amount of flexibility to take different courses, but this is a message of what we stand for—that there are some skill sets that we think
students should know.”

A foreign language requirement remains in place, along with two writing and rhetoric courses and the new freshman year Thinking Matters course.

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