University Studies Program (USP)

The new University Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is the result of years of dedicated work by faculty committed to both increasing student retention and enhancing the quality of student learning.

The University Studies Program represents a shift in curriculum design from a distributive general education model to a more cohesive and integrated learning experience supported by numerous high impact practices, such as freshman seminars, learning communities, community engagement projects, inquiry-based synthesis projects and capstone experiences. During the 2012-2013 academic year, new partnerships were formed across the campus where faculty and staff planned integrated learning experiences. At the core of this more efficient program of general education is a sequence of courses called the “Quest.” In these carefully crafted courses, students will be challenged to ask big questions in small learning communities. The common areas of inquiry guiding the Quest emanate from the UW Oshkosh Essential Learning Outcomes, reinforcing established campus priorities with broad questions related to sustainability, intercultural knowledge and civic engagement. Students will address these themes with “Signature Questions” posed in diverse disciplines. As they participate in the Quest, students will also be taking “Explore” courses designed to provide a broad understanding of the human experience in the areas of Nature, Society and Culture. In the final “Connect” course, students will integrate knowledge from their Quest and Explore experiences in an advanced writing course that synthesizes all three Signature Question themes.

Throughout the 2012-21013 year, a significant amount of professional development of faculty brought together the teaching community to engage in dialogue and to create and approve new courses for the USP. This was a key component for the first year of program implementation. Several professional development workshops assisted faculty in integrating pedagogies of engagement and the signature questions into new courses and existing courses. Faculty created first-year disciplinary based courses that develop connections among students and faculty focused on select University learning outcomes and responsibility areas (intercultural knowledge, community engagement, and sustainability). In addition to the creation of new courses, several professional development activities assisted faculty to transition existing courses to fit the new University Studies curricular model. Another high impact practice included in the USP is the use of learning communities (both interdisciplinary and disciplinary) aimed at integrating undergraduate education. Faculty began to design community based learning experiences as a part of the Quest III component of the USP. The adoption of peer and alumni mentors for Quest I and Quest III provided opportunities for the program faculty and staff to interact with members of the community at large as well as with on-campus staff. As a result, these experiences contributed to the creation of a collaborative community of teaching scholars.

To monitor the student success pathways of all students at the University, the Faculty Senate approved a new assessment plan created to inform the campus community about the achievement of students. The plan will provide evidence for curricular decision-making based on student achievement of the university learning outcomes. Faculty and student mentors received training related to the implement an ePortfolio system that supports the assessment of the university-wide learning outcomes. In order to collect and report assessment data in a consistent and systematic way, the Office of Institutional research created a database reporting system that connects academic learning support, data for university initiatives, retention activities and student success reporting.

Learn more about the University Studies Program