Trinity University
Faculty and Contract Staff Handbook

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(6)    Instructional Policies, Responsibilities, and Guidelines













For a summary of recent changes to this chapter, see Chapter 9A: Summary of Recent Revisions to this Handbook.

Contents of this page: 

  1. Purpose of the Curriculum (The First-Year Seminar; The Writing Workshop; Four Options for Fulfilling these Requirements; Foreign Language, Computer and Mathematics Skills; Fitness Education; The Understandings)

  2. Retroactive Approval of Courses for Common Curriculum

  3. Transfer Credit Policy and the Common Curriculum

  4. First-Year Seminar Guidelines

  5. English 1302 “Writing Workshop”

  6. Criteria for All Understandings Courses

  7. The Common Curriculum Understandings (Understanding Cultural Heritage; Understanding the Arts and Literature; Understanding Human Social Interaction; Understanding Quantitative Reasoning; Understanding Natural Science and Technology)


The Common Curriculum reflects Trinity University’s commitment to the liberal arts and sciences. The Curriculum is meant to establish for each Trinity University student a basis for understanding the varied domains of human knowledge and experience. The Curriculum also includes skills necessary for active, critical and creative participation in the academic life of the University. Paramount among those skills are the abilities to think creatively and critically, and to express such thinking effectively, both orally and in writing. Together, these understandings and skills are necessary for the personal, lifelong quest for understanding of oneself and ones place in the world, and for the serious commitment to respond to the opportunities and needs of society and self, which are true marks of a liberally educated person. The Common Curriculum consists of the following components:

A.    The First-Year Seminar (FYS)

Every new student must enroll in a First-Year Seminar (GNED 1300 or GNED 1301) in the first year at Trinity. Major primary works in any of the fields traditionally included in the liberal arts and sciences are assigned for study and discussion in the seminars, which serve both to induct the students into an intellectual discussion of substantive issues, and to enhance their speaking, writing, and bibliographic skills. A new transfer student with 26 semester hours of transfer credit or whose high school graduation date is a year or more prior to his or her matriculation at Trinity is exempted from the First Year Seminar requirements. The total number of hours required for any Trinity degree shall not be reduced by an exemption from the First-Year Seminar.

B.    The Writing Workshop

The Writing Workshop (ENGL 1302) addresses itself to the refinement and enhancement of skills in critical reading, analysis, judgment and written composition, making sure that students are proficient in the use of these essential tools early in their academic careers.

With few exceptions, first-year students will enroll, during their first year at Trinity, in a section of the Writing Workshop. The exceptions are: (1) students who have a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement Test in English Language and Composition, or the Advanced Placement Test in English Literature and Composition; or (2) students who transfer an equivalent course from another institution.

C.    Four Options for Fulfilling these Requirements

  1. First Year Seminar and Writing Workshop in consecutive semesters with separate topics/foci.

  2. Conjoined sections of First Year Seminar and Writing Workshop under a single topic with multiple sections, each section earning six hours of academic credit (for example, HUMA 1600).

  3. First Year Seminar under a single topic with multiple sections and a consecutive, nonaligned section of Writing Workshop (for example, the First Year Seminar in Science and Religion in the fall/Writing Workshop in the spring).

  4. Individual sections of First Year Seminar conjoined with individual sections of Writing
    Workshop in a given semester – fall or spring.

D.    Foreign Language, Computer and Mathematical Skills 

Given the importance of skill in the use of foreign languages, of proficiency in the use of computers, and of an understanding of mathematical reasoning for contemporary liberally educated graduates, the Common Curriculum sets these standards. Students are encouraged to go beyond the minimum in all these areas.

1.    Foreign Languages

Study of a foreign language is an essential part of a liberal arts education. Students are encouraged to continue their study of a foreign language and to study new languages. The University requires two years of a foreign language (either ancient or modern) for admission. To graduate from Trinity, students must reach a minimum level of competence corresponding to that attained after successful completion of the first semester of the intermediate year of college foreign language study (courses numbered 2310). Students can fulfill this graduation requirement by:

  1. successfully completing a third-semester (intermediate) language course or higher at Trinity University, or receiving transfer credit for such a course;

  2. successfully completing an approved intermediate language course while studying abroad for at least one semester in a non-English speaking country;

  3. receiving an acceptable score on the Advanced Placement (AP) Test, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Exam, or the SAT II Language Exam;

  4. taking the third year of a single language in high school and receiving a B or better in the final semester of the last year;

  5. passing a language placement exam offered by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures or the Department of Classical Studies.

2.    Computer Skills

Students must be able to use computers to collect, organize, analyze and communicate information in an academic environment. We expect that all students add to their computing skills at Trinity. During orientation of their first year, students will take an examination to determine if they have competency in the following skills: 

  1. Introduction to Computing (hardware, software, files and formats); 

  2. Computers and Text (the uses of word processing software); 

  3. Computers and Numbers (quantitative analysis using spreadsheet software); 

  4. Computers and Information Retrieval (structuring and retrieving data using database software); 

  5. Computers and Graphics (visualizing and illustrating ideas using graphics software); 

  6. Computer Communications (using Local Area Networks, electronic mail and the World Wide Web); and 

  7. Computer Ethics (issues of privacy and the legal use of software and data). 

Students who do not pass the test must fulfill this requirement by the end of the first semester of the sophomore year by completing a course built around these criteria which includes both instruction in, and hands-on use of, computers and computer network resources.

 3.    Mathematics

The University requires completion of three years of college-preparatory mathematics, including either trigonometry or pre-calculus, for admission as a first-year student. Further development of the quantitative ability of all students is required as part of Understanding Quantitative Reasoning.

E.    Fitness Education

Students should possess sufficient knowledge, understanding, and skill to enable them to make intelligent decisions relating to health and fitness throughout life. This requirement may be satisfied by:

1.    having participated in a lifetime sport at the varsity or club level; or

2.    the successful completion of any approved sport or fitness activity numbered PHED 11--.

F.    The Senior Experience

A senior experience offers Trinity students various ways to reflect on and unify their four years at Trinity while moving toward their post-baccalaureate goals. The manner in which the senior experience requirement may be satisfied is determined by each individual department or program offering a major. Students must complete the senior experience in the manner specified by their chosen major(s). Students with more than one major may have to complete the senior experience
in different ways for each declared major.

Departments and programs may offer one or more of the following options to majors in order to satisfy the senior experience (not all options are accepted by all departments or programs):

1. Senior Thesis (as defined by individual departments)
2. Major Capstone course (as defined by individual departments)
3. Senior Interdisciplinary Seminar (GNED 4300)
4. Senior Synthesis (GNED 4301)

Senior Interdisciplinary Seminar (GNED 4300)

The purpose of the Senior Interdisciplinary Seminar is to encourage students to reflect upon the whole of their education at Trinity, including the major and the Common Curriculum. Courses in the Senior Seminar are interdisciplinary in nature.

Senior Synthesis (GNED 4301)

A senior synthesis may take the form of a substantive paper or project in which the student makes connections among courses in the five Understandings.

G.    The Understandings

The Common Curriculum is designed to involve all students in learning in these fundamental areas, which represent the essentials of a liberal arts education.  The courses will, where appropriate, include the development and demonstration of writing and speaking skills.

In order to ensure breadth in the Common Curriculum, the following restrictions apply:

1.    A student may take no more than seven hours in a single department to satisfy these requirements. 

2.    In no case may a student apply a single course to satisfy more than one of the Understandings. 

3.    Should a given course be certified as meeting the criteria of more than one of the Understandings, students taking that course for Common Curriculum purposes must decide, in consultation with their advisors, the Understanding to which it will actually apply. 

4.    Neither the First Year Seminar nor the Writing Workshop may be used to meet the requirements of any of the Understandings.

(Approved by the University Curriculum Council January 29, 1988)

A.    A student who has successfully completed a course that subsequently is approved for inclusion in the Common Curriculum may count this course toward satisfaction of his/her own Common Curriculum requirements provided that the Department certifies in writing that, at the time the student was enrolled in the course, the course was already being taught as described in the proposal subsequently approved for inclusion in the Common Curriculum (i.e., that the course already satisfied both all of the general criteria for courses in the Common Curriculum and all of the criteria for the specific Understanding in which the course is to be counted).

B.    In other cases, such courses may not be counted for the Common Curriculum unless the Office of Faculty & Student Affairs, through an exception to policy, allows a student to substitute such a course for one of the courses already approved for inclusion in the Common Curriculum.


A maximum of nineteen semester hours of transfer credit may be used to satisfy the Six Fundamental Understandings of the Common Curriculum, but no more than ten of these hours may be transferred from another institution in this country after the student has matriculated at Trinity University. Transfer credit may include study abroad, appropriate Advanced Placement credit, and credit transferred from other institutions. Common Curriculum transfer credit is subject to the policy and procedures for credit from other institutions and by examinations as stated in the Trinity University Courses of Study Bulletin.

Transfer credit shall satisfy the Common Curriculum requirements for the same Understanding as the equivalent Trinity University course shown on the current list of courses approved for the Common Curriculum. Transfer credit may also be approved if a course not offered at Trinity University substantially satisfies the criteria for an Understanding.

It is the responsibility of the Registrar to evaluate the equivalence and appropriateness of transfer courses in consultation, if necessary, with departmental Chairs, the Director of Study Abroad, and the University Curriculum Council. Course equivalence and appropriateness should be judged primarily on course content. The absence of the formal speaking and writing requirements, for example, should not be grounds to disqualify a course for transfer credit. In consultation with their faculty advisors, students will have the same opportunity for choosing the Understandings to be satisfied by transfer credit as for courses taken in residence.


The specific requirements for reading, writing, and oral communication must be consistent with the following statement adopted by the General Faculty:

Major primary works in any of the field traditionally included in the liberal arts and sciences are assigned for study and discussion in the seminars, which serve both to induct the students into a University-wide intellectual discussion of substantive issues, and to enhance their speaking, writing and bibliographic skills.

Hence, in addition to reading seminal works, each instructors requirements for writing and oral communication should constitute a sizeable proportion of the overall course requirements. For example, requiring several small papers (l-2 pages) and a major seminar paper would be quite acceptable. Of course, active oral participation would be expected in any seminar. First Year Seminars should have additional requirements. For example, a few short presentations and one formal presentation would be quite acceptable. Generally, it should be necessary for students to use the library extensively to develop and hone research skills.

In reviewing the course requirements and source list proposed by each instructor (or group of instructors), the First-Year Seminar Steering Committees charge is to insure that each seminar is consonant with the broad guidelines outlined above. The general presumption must be that the details of these matters are best left to the discretion of the instructor.


English 1302 introduces the student to basic rhetorical strategies in relation to intention and audience. The course enables students to write prose applicable to most situations. Focusing on the process of inventing discourse, English 1302 emphasizes the importance of effective reasoning, as students learn that the validity of assertions is relative to the premises or evidence on which those assertions are based. While individual sections may differ methodologically, the basic goals for effective essay writing in the course are as follows: 

In this way, the course teaches invention, organization, and style (editing) in relation to essay writing, the emphasis of which will be tailored to the needs of each particular class.

Students can expect to write a minimum of 6,000 words during the semester, submitted in the form of six papersapproximately one paper every two weeks. Individual professors will organize their section of the course according to the background and progress of each particular class. The choice of a “grammar” and a “rhetoric” will be left to the discretion of each professor.

“Readers” and reading selections, primarily literary works, will ordinarily reflect the basic goals of the Common Curriculum Understanding, “The Intellectual Heritage of Western Culture.” In general, progress in English 1302 depends on outside preparation for class and on active participation in class, regular attendance, and adherence to all deadlines.

The Writing Workshop addresses critical thinking skills as expressed in writing. Sections of the course meet the following criteria:

A.    The instructors assess the level of the class very early in the semester and adjust the instruction appropriately. It is assumed that the Writing Workshops in the Spring semester will have a higher sophistication level than those of the first semester.

B.    The professors apply common grading standards by use of preliminary agreement on standards, cross-grading of random papers, double-grading in cases of doubt, and related procedures. The grading standards are published and available through the Writing Center. The Department of English monitors the sections to help insure common standards.

C.    The course includes as one of the required papers a literary research paper.

D.    The course includes a section on modern formal written communication, including the need for and the use of its various specialized features.


A.    All Common Curriculum courses are expected to reach beyond their originating disciplines towards relevant connections with other areas of knowledge. Courses should be sufficiently broad that the student comes to understand more than a limited segment of the subject of the Understanding.

B.    All appropriate courses will include writing as a significant requirement in the course. The writing may be on essay exams (though there must be significant essay components if exams are to satisfy this expectation by themselves). Additional written assignments (essays, papers, etc.) are encouraged.

C.    As stated in Chapter 6I  Section III: Resolution on Speaking, approved by the Faculty, every course at Trinity University will, where appropriate, encourage and require from each student some demonstration of oral communication competence. Common Curriculum courses, perhaps more so than others, should meet this expectation through such methods as student oral presentations and participation in class discussions.

D.    Any proposal to include a course in the Common Curriculum must either demonstrate how the course will meet the writing and speaking criteria above, or show why doing so is not appropriate.

E.    The catalog copy to be printed in the Courses of Study Bulletin should be specific enough so that it is clear how the course meets the criteria for the Understanding under which it falls.

F.    As stated in the Courses of Study Bulletin, each lecture or recitation hour presupposes an average of two hours of outside preparation on the part of the student. Courses should not impose workloads that differ significantly from this standard.


Understanding Cultural Heritage (9 hours)

Understanding the traditions that underlie the world’s cultures. Three courses, at least one from each of the following two categories:


The primary emphasis in these courses is on cultural character, how societies have defined themselves through their beliefs and customs and how these definitions have changed through time and from culture to culture. Text-based courses in the Understandings analyze documents in order to illuminate larger historical and cultural processes. To encourage students to enlarge their horizons in both time and space, the Understanding is subdivided between traditional “western” cultures and “non-western” cultures, and includes courses that concentrate on the past. Since most Trinity students are already immersed in contemporary western culture, this Understanding requires students to have an understanding of at least one culture indigenous to Africa, Asia, or the Americas, and to have an understanding of the formation of western culture from the ancient Greeks through the early modern period. The goal of this Understanding is to encourage the development of a historically-informed, critical understanding of various cultural traditions.




Traditions Indigenous to Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia, and Oceania

Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian Traditions through the Early Modern Period

Understanding the Arts and Literature (9 hours)


Understanding the arts and literature as principal ways of expressing and enriching the human spirit, approached through involvement with artistic creation, performance, and theories of production and critique; and with the critical analysis of literary texts. Three courses, at least one from each of the
following categories:


This Understanding reflects the fundamental importance of the arts and literature to a liberal arts education. The courses in this category approach the arts and literature from multiple perspectives. The first subdivision, “Visual Arts, Music, Performance, and Aesthetic Production,” emphasizes the
production of art as well as theories of production, performance, and historical/cultural analysis. The second subdivision, “Literary Studies,” emphasizes the analysis of literary texts in a range of historical/cultural and rhetorical contexts. The goal of courses in both subdivisions is for students to cultivate contextual awareness, intellectual independence, and creative insight through a process of aesthetic engagement.


Visual Arts, Music, Performance, and Aesthetic Production

Courses emphasize at least one of the following:

Literary Studies


Courses emphasize at least one of the following:

Understanding Human Social Interaction (9 hours)

Understanding the behavior of individuals and groups within social, historical, and institutional contexts, focusing on the ways in which the social sciences and humanities seek to understand human behavior and social cultures, and providing an in-depth investigation of significant social issues and cultural values that help shape individual and social choice. Three courses are required to satisfy this Understanding:


This Understanding addresses the broad range of human behavior, along with its causes and consequences. The goals of this Understanding are (1) to explain the behavior of humans in their capacity as individuals as well as social agents through the theoretical and methodological approaches of social sciences disciplines; and (2) to reflect upon formation of cultural values and their complex interplay with human choices and actions.


          Approaches to the Social Sciences

          Social Issues and Values

Courses emphasize at least one of the following:

Understanding Quantitative Reasoning (3 hours)

Understanding mathematics, symbolic abstraction, and quantitative analysis as modes of cognition and tools in problem solving. (1 course, 3 hours)


This Understanding introduces students to methods of thought and language indispensable to a liberal education, to enlightened citizenship in an increasingly technological age, and to understanding of scientific and social phenomena. The goals of this Understanding are (1) to give students an
appreciation of the cognitive power of quantitative methods and their applications; (2) to provide them with a framework for problem solving; and (3) to endow them with tools to organize and interpret information and to make informed decisions.



Understanding Natural Science and Technology (at least 6 hours)

Understanding the foundations and methods of the natural sciences and technology. Understanding ways that natural science and technology impact humans, society, and the environment. Two courses are required to fulfill this Understanding. One course must focus on the fundamentals of a natural science, and one course must actively involve the student in using scientific methods to explore physical or biological phenomena or technology. One of the two courses may fulfill both the natural science and use of scientific methods requirements. (2 courses, at least 6 hours)


This Understanding addresses the need of all students to understand the implications and benefits of science and technology, along with an appreciation of the potential and the limits of science and technology to address societal needs. The goal of the courses in this category is to promote greater literacy in science and technology by teaching students to understand the fundamental nature of science, the methods and results of the natural sciences, the methodologies of science and technology, and the relationship between science and technology.


All courses study the methods and results of the scientific study of the natural universe or the methods and results of applied science, engineering, and technology. Courses may also focus on the impacts of science and technology on humans, society, and our world. These impacts may include ethical, environmental, social, or philosophical issues. Courses satisfying the natural science and using scientific methods requirements must also meet the following additional criteria:


Natural Science

Using Scientific Methods

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