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Updated Curriculum Aimed at Preparing the 21st Century Student

Students are advised on the Stony Brook Curriculum during Summer Orientation.

Today’s college students face challenges their parents never encountered — rapidly changing technology, globalization, and living in a world that’s socially, politically and economically interdependent. Students need more than a high GPA to guarantee a career — they must be equipped with translational skills, have real-world experience and possess varied knowledge to excel wherever their career goals take them.

To meet the students’ needs — and as part of the University’s Project 50 Forward: Academic Greatness initiative — the University has launched the Stony Brook Curriculum (SBC). Designed to unify the campus under one common experience, SBC integrates technology and experiential learning while offering more flexibility to encourage timely progress toward graduation.

First-year students entering Stony Brook in fall 2014 and transfer students entering in spring 2015 will be required to complete the SBC to earn their undergraduate degrees. Current students will continue with the Diversified Education Curriculum (DEC) until they graduate.

Why a New Curriculum?
Stony Brook last updated its General Education Curriculum more than 20 years ago — before the Internet Age or the advent of smart phones. To keep pace with changes in the global marketplace, many colleges began re-evaluating their core curriculum in the early 2000s. In recent years, general education reforms have taken place at universities across the country, including Harvard (2009), George Washington (2011), Stanford (2012), all CUNY colleges (2013) andSUNY Albany (2013).

In 2009 Stony Brook began a review of its academic and educational programs to ensure they were effective vehicles for preparing the 21st century student. While the University has continued to add majors and minors to fulfill the needs of the global marketplace — such as majors in Environmental Design, Policy and Planning, Human Evolutionary Biology, and Technological Systems Management and minors in Hellenic Studies and the upcoming Energy Science, Technology and Policy — it was time to look at the core requirements that give all students their knowledge base.

The University Committee on General Education — consisting of more than 50 faculty and staff members — worked for five years to review and create a curriculum that would fully interconnect science and the arts and include both breadth and depth of study (provided by both the SBC learning objectives and the major requirements), as well as make certain that students mastered the skills necessary for lifelong learning. The committee posed the question, “What do we want the Stony Brook student to know?” and after much hard work over the span of the last five years, designed a general education curriculum that is both innovative and interdisciplinary in its approach.

“Our updated curriculum will build the foundation for our students’ future career success,” says Charles Robbins,Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean, Undergraduate Colleges. “Following this interdisciplinary path, our students will learn to problem-solve, think critically and communicate effectively — skills that will empower them to be active citizens in a diverse and changing world.”

The new curriculum will offer students a variety of opportunities and more flexibility. Through it, students will achieve the following outcomes:

  1. Demonstrate Versatility by showing proficiency in each of 10 fundamental areas of learning. (Click here to view all objectives.)
  2. Explore Interconnectedness by completing a course that examines significant relationships between Science or Technology and the Arts, Humanities or Social Sciences (STAS).
  3. Pursue Deeper Understanding by completing advanced studies in three of four distinct areas of knowledge: Experiential Learning (EXP+), Humanities and Fine Arts (HFA+), Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS+) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM+).
  4. Prepare for Lifelong Learning by taking courses that may also satisfy SBC, major or other degree requirements, covering these four areas: Practice and Respect Critical and Ethical Reasoning (CER), Evaluate and Synthesize Researched Information (ESI), Speak Effectively before an Audience (SPK) and Write Effectively within One’s Discipline (WRTD).

How Does SBC Benefit Students?
With SBC, the vast majority of students will complete the General Education experience more efficiently. They will have more flexibility in choosing courses and potentially will require fewer courses to complete requirements because some SBC objectives will be satisfied by a student’s major requirements. This gives students more opportunities for electives or to complete a second major or minor. In addition, many objectives may be fulfilled through AP courses, challenge exams or on-campus placement tests.

Students may choose to pursue a themed option or areas to study in greater depth that will allow them to pursue their special interests. This offers students the same sense of choice and personal identification that they experience through their choice of major.

For many students, their undergraduate experience will culminate in course work beyond the classroom. SBC makes these life-altering opportunities more accessible and visible to students, such as opportunities to study abroad and to participate in internships.

To assist students further in achieving the outcomes outlined in SBC, more than 60 new courses have been added for the fall semester across a variety of disciplines — including ANT 215 Climate and Culture, EGL 121 Global Film Traditions, ESE 121 Introduction to Audio Systems, GEO 104 Ripples Across the World: Global Effects of Natural Disasters, JRN 365 Talking Science and PHI 112 Technology and Modern Life. Overall, 1,400 courses satisfy at least one SBC objective, 150 satisfy two objectives and more than 20 satisfy three objectives. Courses are open to all students — both those following SBC and DEC.

For complete details on the Stony Brook Curriculum, please visit the Undergraduate Bulletin.

— Shelley Catalano; photo by John Griffin

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