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If there is a term you have come across in your USP experience that you do not see here, please email and let us know. We would like to make this glossary as helpful as possible.

Civic Learning (Signature Question)

Students consider Civic Learning through the Signature Question: How do people understand and engage in community life? Civic Learning entails understanding political and nonpolitical processes that influence a local, state, national or global community and applying skills and strategies that can affect the life of a community in positive ways. Learn more about Civic Learning from the AAC&U Civic Engagement VALUE Rubric.


Connect is the USP’s advanced composition course, WRT 288, taken by students in their fourth or fifth semesters, after completing the Quest sequence.

Essential Learning Outcomes

The essential learning outcomes  (ELO’s) were adapted from the American Association of College and Universities (AAC&U). They form the basis of a contemporary liberal education. The AAC&U has also developed rubrics for assessing all ELO’s. The ELO’s fall into four broad categories: Knowledge, Skills, Responsibility, and Learning. The responsibilities consist of ethical reasoning plus all of the signature questions.

Ethical Reasoning

According to the AAC&U Ethical Reasoning VALUE Rubric, “Ethical Reasoning is reasoning about right and wrong human conduct. It requires students to be able to assess their own ethical values and the social context of problems, recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, think about how different ethical perspectives might be applied to ethical dilemmas, and consider the ramifications of alternative actions.”


Explore courses guide students in exploring the liberal arts and sciences in three areas–Nature, Culture, and Society–and make up a majority of a student’s USP requirements. All Quest courses are Explore courses with the additional requirements for all Quest courses.


This is an acronym for High Impact Practices. These include courses like the quest sequence that offer a first year experience, small learning communities, and community engagement experiences. Learn more about high impact practices from the AAC&U chart of High Impact Practices.

Information Literacy

The AAC&U defines information literacy as, “The ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively and responsibly use and share that information for the problem at hand.” Instruction librarians at Polk Library are actively involved in assisting instructors and students with concepts related to information literacy. The library offers both synchronous and asynchronous resources to help students meet information literacy outcomes.


Intercultural Knowledge and Competence (Signature Question)

Students consider Intercultural Knowledge and Competence through the Signature Question: How do people understand and bridge cultural differences? Intercultural Knowledge is the understanding of one’s own culture as well as cultures beyond one’s own; the recognition of the cultural values and history, language, traditions, arts and social institutions of a group of people; the ability to negotiate and bridge cultural differences in ways that allow for broader perspectives to emerge; and the skills to investigate a wide range of world views, beliefs, practices and values. Learn more about this Signature Question from the AAC&U Intercultural Knowledge and Competence VALUE Rubric.

Liberal Education

Liberal Education is a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a strong sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement. These broad goals have endured even as the courses and requirements that comprise a Liberal Education have changed over the years. Characterized by challenging encounters with important and relevant issues today and throughout history, a Liberal Education prepares graduates both for socially valued work and for civic leadership in their society. It usually includes a general education curriculum that provides broad exposure to multiple disciplines and ways of knowing, along with more in depth study in at least one field or area of concentration.
Original source: Advocacy “What is a liberal education?”


Quest I courses are intense and intentional Explore courses with a unique approach in their focus on a Signature Question. There are three Quest courses in the sequence, each designed with a different goal and learning objective in mind.

Quest I courses, with their 25-student limited size, paired learning communities, guiding peer mentors, and emphasis on campus resources for supporting student academics and wellness, aims to help students build a strong foundation for success and improve student retention, completion, and graduation rates.

Quest II expands class size to 50 while retaining the small 25-student learning community in the paired writing or speaking course, and it introduces ethical reasoning, the purpose of which is best described by the Ethical Reasoning AAC&U VALUE Rubric as helping “students’ ethical self identity [evolve] as they practice ethical decision-making skills and learn how to describe and analyze positions on ethical issues.”

Quest III takes students off campus and into the community for engagement in civic action, work with community partners, and experience with real-world challenges while exploring their final Signature Question. UW Oshkosh alumni support this work as mentors with these courses.

Signature Questions

The USP’s three Signature Questions, civic learning, intercultural knowledge and competence, and sustainability, all come from the responsibilities area of the essential learning outcomes. They help students connect the dots between explore courses with the same signature question. They also add focus to Quest classes, which are required to carry one signature question.

Sustainability (Signature Question)

Students consider the three pillars of Sustainability–ecological, economic, and social–in the USP through the Signature Question: How do people understand and create a more sustainable world?

From the UWO Sustainability Rubric, “knowledge of sustainability and its applications is the ability to understand local and global Earth systems, the qualities of ecological integrity and the means to restore and preserve it, and the interconnectedness of ecological integrity, economic well-being, and social justice, in order to analyze complex environmental, economic, and social issues and to respond effectively to them.”

USP (University Studies Program)

The USP is UW Oshkosh’s structured general education requirements for undergraduate students, designed to encourage their intellectual curiosity through the exploration of three Signature Questions over four semesters, questions for which students will synthesize their growth and development in their Connect class.