The Foundations Curriculum
In the Fall of 2007, the Foundations Curriculum, an academic curriculum that establishes a new approach to the study of the liberal arts and sciences at the College, was fully implemented. The Foundations Curriculum was adopted by the Faculty in order to achieve several goals:
- To assist students to understand the goals of a liberal arts education and to take greater responsibility for their education. The curriculum gives students greater freedom to follow their academic interests and aspirations within a framework of Foundation requirements that are fundamental to the study of the liberal arts;
- To provide a more transparent and streamlined curriculum by framing the degree requirements in terms of skills and content areas;
- To bring greater focus to the courses students take and to recognize that their activities inside and outside the classroom should be mutually informative and energizing;
- To create the opportunity to offer more courses reflective of the scholarly interests of the faculty and to develop innovative courses that respond to the developing currents in contemporary thought; and,
- To establish four courses as the standard load per semester in order to allow for a more focused educational experience for all of our students. The Foundations curriculum enhances the way in which the four components of the Rhodes education work together: the Foundation requirements (commonly referred to as “F1”, “F2”, etc.), the concentration in a Major, the choice of elective courses, and participation in co-curricular activities.
The Foundation of the Liberal Arts Requirements
The Foundation requirements establish a framework for liberal education and life-long learning. Unless mentioned otherwise in the description, Foundation requirements will be met by taking one course specified as meeting that requirement, and most requirements will have courses in several different departments that do so.
Upon completion of the requirements and the attainment of a Bachelor’s degree from Rhodes, each graduate of the College should be able to:
- Critically examine personal, social, and cultural values. An education in the liberal arts must engage students in critical examination of the relationship between the values they hold as individuals and their social and historical location. The cultural context of a liberal arts institution in the United States is itself marked by values, a moral orientation, and operative assumptions that are in need of exploration and open to critical reflections. Thoughtful engagement with the complex legacies of texts and traditions that have been formative of this culture is an especially effective way to gain skills for critical thinking, self-awareness, and communication across differences of value. Courses that fulfill the F1 must satisfy the requirement of the Bellingrath Trust to offer academically 'sound and comprehensive' exploration of biblical texts and traditions. Courses that fulfill this requirement will engage students in a critical examination of personal, social, and cultural values through the academic study of biblical literature and of traditions that are productively compared with it. This requirement is satisfied by completing a set of two coordinated courses at the 100-level (e.g., 101, 102) and one course at the 200-level or higher. The first two courses must be completed during the first year and the second course must also fulfil the F2i. The third course at the 200-level or higher must be completed after the first year.
- Develop excellence in written communication. The ability to express concise and methodical arguments in clear and precise prose is essential to success in most courses at Rhodes and in most of the vocations Rhodes graduates pursue. Students will receive significant training in writing during the first two years through one (1) course (F2s) focused on learning to write, including such skills as critical analysis, clear expression, and effective argumentation, and two (2) writing intensive courses (F2i) focused on using writing to learn discipline-specific content. These three required courses will provide the initial steps in the student's deliberate development as a writer. Given the developmental nature of this foundation requirement series, students are encouraged to take F2s prior to or concurrent with but not after F2i; writing in discipline-specific F2i courses relies on the skills learned in F2s. This requirement will be satisfied by one writing seminar (taken in the first year) and two writing intensive courses, one of which will be in the 2nd semester of the first year F1 sequence. Normally, all three courses are to be completed by the end of the second year. Writing intensive courses and writing seminars may explore material in any discipline or may be interdisciplinary. However, the writing seminars will have as their central focus writing skills.
- Engage in historical thinking about the human past. Historical thinking requires a deliberative stance towards the human past as it is constructed and interpreted with primary sources, such as human artifacts, written evidence, oral traditions, and artistic expressions. It requires understanding of historical forces and actors and engagement with interpretive debate, through the skillful use of an evolving set of methodological practices and tools.
- Read and interpret literary texts. Literary texts provide challenging and influential representations of human experience in its individual, social, and cultural dimensions. Critical and sensitive reading of significant works refines analytical skills and develops an awareness of the power of language.
- Create art and analyze artistic expression. Humans express themselves creatively through art forms that are aural, visual, and performed. Creating and studying art are particularly effective ways of understanding art. This requirement may be satisfied with a designated course in which the primary and sustained focus is artistic creativity.
- Gain facility with mathematical reasoning and expression. Some human experiences are most effectively expressed in mathematical language, and important areas of intellectual inquiry rely on mathematics as a tool of analysis and as a means of conveying information.
- Explore and understand scientific approaches to the natural world. Our experience of the world is profoundly influenced by a scientific understanding of the physical realm of our existence. To make informed decisions about the production and application of scientific knowledge, students need to understand the way science examines the natural world. Students acquire such knowledge by learning scientific facts and by understanding and engaging through laboratory work the powerful methods by which scientific information is obtained.
- Use theory and empirical research to explore aspects of human experience and interaction and apply these to contemporary issues. Responsible citizenship entails critical evaluation and interpretation of theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding contemporary conditions that influence the well-being of individuals and their communities. A sound understanding of the institutions and practices that shape and are shaped by human behavior will allow students to become more informed participants in critical conversations that transform our world.
- View the world from more than one cultural perspective. The individual of today's world must be able to understand issues and events through multiple cultural perspectives by developing abilities that facilitate intelligent and respectful interaction in various cultural contexts. These abilities include recognizing, understanding and articulating the similarities and differences of cultural perspectives, including one's own.
- Demonstrate intermediate second-language proficiency. Proficiency in a second language allows a level of access to a culture that is not achievable through sources in translation. Intermediate proficiency includes the ability to understand and communicate with members of the target culture, negotiate differences between the second language and the first, and use the second language as a tool for human communication.
- Participate in activities that broaden connections between the classroom and the world. Rhodes students are asked to become engaged citizens, participating in the local community - its politics, its culture, its problems, its aspirations – and in the world community. Students gain skill in connecting knowledge to its uses through educational experience that takes them off campus.
- Develop skills to become an informed, active and engaged student-citizen. The F12 provides opportunities to explore core aspects of one’s community and one’s self. Students will learn how to thrive within a learning environment, and how to develop the skills and discover resources necessary to flourish as an individual, as a scholar, and as an active citizen of the interconnected communities of Rhodes College, Memphis, and the wider world. This requirement is fulfilled through the successful completion of a first year seminar at Rhodes as approved by the Foundations Curriculum Committee.