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The Connections Curriculum

The JFS endorsed the Connections Curriculum on April 11th, 2017.  This webpage contains information on the Connections Curriculum, and the primary audience for this page is the JFA.  Below are documents, videos, and an FAQ section.

Final Model



Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why are we making a new curriculum?
  2. What is a very general overview of the curriculum?
  3. What happens if the Connections Curriculum does not pass the JFA vote?
  4. How will this affect staffing?
  5. How might a course I currently teach fit into the new curriculum?
  6. How does this fit with Study Abroad?
  7. How does advising fit into the new curriculum?
  8. Why is the same learning outcome listed in multiple courses?
  9. Can a student graduate in four years?
  10. Who will decide if a current or newly designed class counts?
  11. How does my department fit in the new curriculum?
  12. What is a thematic cluster?
  13. What happens to the Common Curriculum requirements?

Why are we making a new curriculum?

The Program Review of the Common Curriculum, the Wabash Report, and interviews with a large majority of the faculty departments suggested that the Common Curriculum was not meeting the needs of our students.  The JFS created and charged the CCVC with creating a new curriculum.

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What is a very general overview of the curriculum?

This curriculum consists of 11 courses:  4 seminars (which, like FYS now, do not reside in any department) and 7 Questions or Investigations courses (which do reside in departments, much like Gender or Fine Arts does now). None of the courses reside in any department, and thus any department could theoretically teach any of the 7 Questions or Investigations courses.  Departments will be able to decide which of their courses will be part of the Connections Curriculum; departments will simply apply to the CCC-like committee for approval.

There is a language requirement that is identical to the one in the Common Curriculum.  The curriculum has a distribution requirement similar to that in the Common Curriculum; the details need to be determined next year, when we will determine how interdisciplinary courses will count in the distribution. 

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What happens if the Connections Curriculum does not pass the JFA vote?

Revision will start on the Common Curriculum, and this process starts anew. This process will likely result in course modifications and changes to the learning outcomes, and in some cases, restructuring of the curriculum.

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How will this affect staffing?

CCVC designed the new curriculum under the assumption that it would be taught with the current faculty. One way we have thought about this: there are currently three semesters of general education specific courses (FYS and ECS) and two semesters of Theology. In the new curriculum there are four general education specific courses (the Seminars) and one of these Seminars includes theological learning outcomes and will mostly be taught by our current theology faculty. Of course, there will be changes in what departments teach in the new curriculum.

We have not included class caps in the current proposal in order to give us some room to handle staffing issues that might arise. While we have looked at various ways the staffing might be configured, and are confident that we have the staff to teach this curriculum, staffing details is an issue that will be determined during the implementation phase.

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How might a course I currently teach fit into the new curriculum?

Many of the classes we teach now can transition into the new curriculum with mild modification. In particular, we expect that many of Questions and Investigations designated courses can be designed from our currently offered courses with some modification. The Seminars will likely take more modification or new design work, and yet for some of us one of the seminars may look similar to something we are currently teaching.

To determine if a class you teach now will fit, look at the learning outcomes housed within the courses. Envision ways in which you already teach outcomes like these, or ways you could tweak your current courses to meet these outcomes. Of course, you are also welcome to design new courses.

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How does this fit with Study Abroad?

We expect that the faculty advisor leading a semester long study abroad program will teach Seminar 300: World and Culture. While for most students this will be in their junior year, students going abroad in their sophomore year will take Seminar 300 early and those taking it in their senior year will take it late.

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How does advising fit into the new curriculum?

We are still working on how to best fit advising into the new curriculum. The FYX task force has some advising recommendations coming out in their May report. We will be working with Academic Advising and the FYS group during the implementation phase to design the advising structure. Faculty will continue to be the primary academic advisors for students.

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Why is the same learning outcome listed in multiple courses?

One of the ways this curriculum differs from the Common Curriculum is that the learning outcomes are scaffolded developmentally. Each learning outcome is designed in three tiers: Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced. All students will get through Intermediate for all the learning outcomes and some of the Advanced (which Advanced outcomes will depend on the major). The 100 level courses tend to have only Beginner level outcomes and the 200-300 level courses tend to only have Intermediate learning outcomes. Learning outcomes show up in multiple courses because every student must get through both the Beginning and Intermediate levels. Take, for example, the Write learning outcome. Students will take the Beginner tier in Seminar 100, the Intermediate tier in the Investigations course, Writing and Analysis, and the Advanced tier in their major.

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Can a student graduate in four years?

Yes. For example, a student with a 40 credit major and 20 credit minor, who takes all three language classes, who uses the light estimate of only two Liberal Arts Curriculum classes to double count in the major/minor, and who studies abroad with the light estimate of only one courses abroad apply to the major, minor or Liberal Arts Curriculum, will still have five course spaces available for other interests, for undecided explorations, or for any leftover needs through the disciplinary requirement As now, unusually large majors will have four year plans with less wiggle room. See here for more details.

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Who will decide if a current or newly designed class counts?

The (renamed) Common Curriculum Committee will continue to do the work of approving general education courses. It is likely that the CCC will grow in size for a couple of years as lots of new courses are submitted for approval, but then after that it will be business as usual.

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How does my department fit in the new curriculum?

To determine how your department can figure into the new curriculum, consider the following: Which of your department’s current classes would you like affiliated with the 11 courses of the new curriculum? Look at the learning outcomes housed in each type of course in the new curriculum (Questions, Investigations, Seminars). Envision how your department’s courses might need to be revised if you want them to be part of the 11 curriculum courses. Additionally, remember the possibility of innovation. Speculate about whether a new course your department has been dreaming about could now come to birth in the new curriculum.

Your department can decide how many Questions and Investigations courses you would like to count for your major and minor. There is no limit.

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What is a thematic cluster?

A thematic cluster is three courses from different disciplines taught on the same theme. Thematic clusters are designed to help students make connections among their coursework and to see the value in how different disciplines approach similar questions, which is central to a liberal arts education. In the proposed curriculum the thematic clusters are found in the

Investigations courses (200-300 level). For example, a student might choose the theme of Sustainability and then take Science and Society, Theology, and Creative Practice coursework from classes that teach within the Sustainability theme.

There will be three to four themes chosen by a group of faculty early in the implementation phase. Faulty will apply to the CCC to have their courses approved on a theme. We expect that the themes will be reviewed every four or five years and changes to the themes can be made at

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What happens to the Common Curriculum Requirements?

These requirements will disappear.  That is, students will not be required to take courses such as the Ethics Common Seminar and Intercultural Classes under this new curriculum.  Additionally, we will not be assessing the 70 learning outcomes of the Common Curriculum:  the curriculum and the outcomes described on this page completely replace the Common Curriculum.

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The Connections Curriculum is the result of a lot of work by a lot of people.  Barb, Bret, and Emily would like to thank the following for their help in
developing the Connections Curriculum. We have had so much help over the years that we are sure we have forgotten somebody – our apologies!  (Please contact Bret if we are missing anyone, and I will add them to this list ASAP).


The Catholic Benedictine Tradition Academic Integration (CBTAI) Committee
The Joint Faculty Senate
The Executive Committee of the JFS
The Librarians
SD 2020

Early CCVC

Pam Bacon
Terry Check
Jean Didier
Ben Faber
Don Fischer
Jean Lavigne
Anne Sinko
Isabel Tomkins
Alex Wald

Model Builders

David Arnott
Robert Campbell
Amelia Cheever
Jim Crumley
Sophia Geng
Andy Holey
Kaarin Johnston
Bill Lamberts
Derek Larson
Kyhl Lyndgaard
Sucharita Mukherjee
Wendy Sterba
Steve Welch

Mid-to-Late CCVC and Other Helpers

Carol Brash
Sunil Chetty
Kathy Cox
Jeff DuBois
Molly Ewing
Kate Graham
Matt Harkins
Lisa Lindgren
Ken Jones
Rachel Marston
Rachel Melis
Anna Mercedes
Shane Miller
Madhu Mitra
Tammy Moore
Rodger Narloch
Emily Paup
Ellie Perelman
Yvette Piggush
Terry Rodriguez
Christi Siver
Allison Spenader
Erica Stonestreet
Julie Strelow
Laura Taylor
Angie Schmidt Whitney
Beth Wengler
Richard M. Wielkiewicz

Academic Affairs and Staff

Karen Erickson
Julie Gruska
Richard Ice
Jason Kelly
Shirley Kelly
Tory Oelfke
Peggy Roske
Mary Tamm
Mary Jo Waggoner

And You

We have had so much help over the years that we are sure we have forgotten somebody. If that’s you, here’s a thanks to you, too. And our apologies for the omission.