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WSU Undergraduate Education UCORE

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is UCORE?

WSU’s University Common Requirements course sequence, required of all incoming first-year and transfer students, is designed to help students acquire broad knowledge of the world to complement their major programs of study. By exposure to multiple disciplines and methods of inquiry, students will develop intellectual and civic competencies, practical skills, and the ability to apply knowledge and skills in real world settings.

With sustained emphasis on critical and creative thinking, information literacy, communication, integration and application of knowledge, UCORE prepares students to address diverse, complex issues and to act as responsible, informed citizens. They won’t be an expert in any single UCORE course or area, but they will graduate from WSU with the tools needed to seek out necessary information; interpret, apply, and share it; and make reasoned and ethical judgements on a wide array of issues we face today and in the future. In short, students will develop the capacity for adaptability and lifelong learning in a complex, diverse, and rapidly changing world.

Inherent personal enrichment and fulfillment aside, employers who seek to drive innovation and change also highly value these qualities in their employees and leaders. They continue to demand that we graduate students who are clear communicators, collaborative problem solvers, and ethical and informed decision-makers. Help fulfill WSU’s land-grant mission of sending curious, engaged, and motivated graduates into our communities by imparting to students the intrinsic value of a well-rounded university education.

How do UCORE courses relate to the WSU Learning Goals?

Courses in the UCORE curriculum are explicitly designed to engage students in meeting WSU’s undergraduate learning goals. Students can expect that every UCORE course they take will at a minimum help them cultivate and develop the following skills: critical and creative thinking, information literacy, and communication. Depending on the designation, UCORE courses will also help students gain competency in understanding diversity, scientific literacy, quantitative reasoning, and integrative and applied learning.

How can I communicate the value of UCORE to students?

UCORE’s value is not often immediately obvious to students. Advisors and faculty are critical in moving students away from thinking about UCORE (or really any graduation requirement) as simply a box to check and instead toward thinking of UCORE as an experience to embrace for the purposes of exploration, intellectual growth, and the acquisition and development of broadly-applicable skills. As the American Association of Colleges & Universities reports, employers frequently cite adaptability, innovation, and broad engagement with the world as more important than one’s chosen major. Consider the following strategies when advising students:

Communicate the post-graduation return on investment. Technological priorities and modes of operation constantly change. Employers want adaptable thinkers, not narrow ones. Encourage students to begin thinking about marketing themselves with WSU’s undergraduate learning outcomes in mind. 

Whenever possible, prioritize student interest and discovery over scheduling. Discuss with students their interests and goals. What are they curious about? What social, philosophical, scientific, or technological issues do they care about? Help them build a UCORE plan with those at the center.

Empower students to take ownership over their learning. UCORE offers a scaffolded set of skills and areas of knowledge. It is in large part up to students to chart courses that help them reach their intellectual goals. But they have to know that that is possible.

Who in my department prepares and submits proposals for new UCORE courses — the instructor(s), chair/director or someone else?

An instructor or chair/director may initiate a course proposal, or do so at the request of the college. However, before the proposal is forwarded to the UCORE committee, both the chair and associate dean must sign the proposal. Also, keep in mind that only one proposal can be submitted per course (e.g., DEPT 101), even if that course has multiple sections with multiple instructors. Thus, any instructor in such a situation should confer with her or his chair before beginning a UCORE course proposal.

If every instructor offers a different version of a common course, e.g., DEPT 101, should we submit a syllabus for every section?

No. Only one syllabus per course number is to be submitted. That syllabus should contain the core learning outcomes across all sections, key graded assignments for all sections, common content, and common assessments across sections. If there is such divergence across sections that these commonalities are difficult to find, separate courses should be proposed. Consult the “My department intends to propose a new UCORE course” section.

Why are deadlines for UCORE course proposals so far in advance of the course offerings?

Because of the number of stakeholders involved, considerable time is required to evaluate the proposal. Every UCORE course approval (i.e., process by which a course receives a UCORE designator, such as [HUM] or [BSCI]) goes through several committees: the University Common Requirements Committee, the Catalog Subcommittee, the Academic Affairs Subcommittee, and then finally, the Faculty Senate. Moreover, every course seeking approval must appear in the catalog and schedule of classes before registration opens for the first term in which the course is to be taught. Thus, course proposals must be submitted months in advance of when the course will first be taught. Consult the deadlines in the “My department intends to propose a new UCORE course” section.

Why is so much detail needed in a UCORE course proposal?

University learning goals are the central feature and raison d’être of University Common Requirements; therefore, the proposal must be clear about how the proposed course will advance students toward the learning goals assigned to the course. To “advance” means not merely to cover or address learning goals, but to design the course such that all students (who pass the course) will improve noticeably on the skills and knowledge specified in the learning goal. Thus, the proposal must contain enough detail so that it is clear to the UCORE committee that such advancement likely will happen. Consult the “My department intends to propose a new UCORE course” section.

I’m working on a UCORE course proposal and have questions about the process. Whom can I talk to for help?

Your college UCORE representative as listed on the people and sucommittees page may be able to help you. Your departmental assessment lead may also be able to help you articulate the interrelation of the course goals, key graded assignments, and assessment of student mastery of the goals. In addition, those in your department that have already obtained UCORE approval for a course may be a resource for you in the revision. Lastly, you are welcome to contact the UCORE Director, Clif Stratton directly at clif.stratton@wsu.edu.

Do UCORE course approvals ever expire?

Yes. Courses naturally evolve over time; similarly, the UCORE criteria will evolve in response to University assessment efforts. Good practice dictates that UCORE courses be renewed periodically to ensure continued alignment with UCORE outcomes and criteria.

Beginning in Fall 2019, the UCORE committee will begin reviewing all courses that hold UCORE designation. Departments in which these courses are housed will play an active role in the renewal process. For details, consult the “My department intends to renew a UCORE course” section of this website.