Trinity University has adopted a new curriculum, known as Pathways, marking the first wholesale curricular revision in more than 25 years. Developed and honed over a nearly four-year period, Pathways seeks to provide a more conscious and intentional focus on the skillsets today’s students need and to offer a more interdisciplinary learning experience.
Pathways is comprised of six curricular requirements: the first-year experience, approaches to creation and analysis, the core capacities, the interdisciplinary cluster, the major, and fitness education. Three optional elements – experiential learning, a minor, and a second major – can complement the six core components.
Implementation of Pathways will begin in Fall 2015 with the class of 2019. First-years coming to Trinity in August will participate in the new first-year experience, a six-hour course that focuses on a topic of extensive and lasting significance. Students can choose from the 12 offered topics ranging from “Food Matters” to “A Successful Life” to “A Warming World.” Each first-year experience topic was crafted by at least six Trinity faculty, and all incoming students will take their first-year experience in the fall semester.
Geosciences professor Glenn Kroeger, chairman of the University Curriculum Council (UCC), believes that the first-year experience will greatly reduce the number of students being pigeonholed into seminars they do not like or are not interested in. “Now the topics are big and broad, and they are all very interesting,” Kroeger says.
Duane Coltharp, associate vice president for academic affairs and English professor, says that the first-year experience will improve a first-year’s transition to college. “When you show up in August for your first semester, you are still figuring out what college is like,” Coltharp says. “With six hours already filled up, you are going to have to choose some courses, but some of that choice is taken off of your shoulders.”
Kroeger also believes that the first-year experience will create a common shared experience among new Tigers, who will all be taking their chosen topic in the same semester.
“Everybody is doing it at the same time, so it becomes more of a community experience rather than an individual experience,” Kroeger says. “It generates a buzz that’s bonding in many ways.”
Under the core capacities, students will embed skills such as digital literacy and written, oral, and visual communication into their coursework. An engaged citizenship component will prepare students for the global world that they will enter upon graduation.
Lisa Jasinski, special projects coordinator for the Trinity Tomorrow strategic plan, says the core capacities will bring together skills instruction and content, giving students a “richer” experience.
“If you are just trying to learn [these skills] in a sterile environment, they are not going to feel as relevant as if you embed that in actual, authentic research,” Jasinski says.
With the approaches to creation and analysis, students will explore different methods of artistic and creative expression, refine their quantitative reasoning skills, explore the social, behavioral, and natural sciences, and delve into the humanities.
Kroeger says that Pathways aligns more closely with the University’s goals because the curriculum is written “in terms that students can understand why they would be required to do something.”
“The new curriculum is focused around skills you should be able to do,” Kroeger says.
Moving forward, Kroeger hopes Pathways will change the language used on campus in regard to courses that do not directly pertain to a student’s major. While he says the major is a crucial part of a student’s experience, he encourages students to treat their general education curriculum as a vital learning opportunity.
The interdisciplinary cluster calls students to explore “a complex subject of enduring or contemporary significance” by completing three courses from three distinct disciplines. The cluster gives students the option to select a pre-made cluster developed by faculty or to self-create their own where they see an affinity and a connection among a group of courses.
Coltharp says that Pathways has created a conversation for which faculty members from across disciplines have hungered. He notes the curriculum will enhance not only the academic lives of students but of professors as well.
“I think that you can look at the Pathways curriculum as an indication that Trinity is determined to stay relevant,” Coltharp says. “That’s a good thing for everybody, regardless of when you went to Trinity.”
Jasinski calls the adoption of Pathways “a very natural and healthy act of institutional renewal.” She believes Pathways will foster more experiential learning opportunities, more productive collisions across disciplines, and will expand a student’s international awareness.
Come fall, as students experience Pathways for the first time, the same values that have made Trinity one of the leading liberal arts and sciences institutions will endure, and they will carry Trinity to new levels of discovery in the years ahead.
Learn more about Pathways on Trinity's website.