Student Guidelines for Themes

Student Guidelines for Fulfilling a Theme

To satisfy the Focus requirement of the Common Curriculum, students may take a set of courses that comprise a faculty-designed Theme spanning multiple disciplines. Themes are optional. The choice to do a Theme is entirely up to the student. If a student does not wish to do a Theme, they may still satisfy their Focus requirement by going three-deep in a single TOI.

Connections among the courses used in general education have been shown to foster deeper engagement and more meaningful learning via depth and coherency. When courses fit together to tell a larger story across disciplines, students gain a better understanding of why they are asked to learn the material. Interdisciplinary studies across a common theme also challenge students to think critically about reconciling differing points of view and to approach a complex problem from more than one perspective or skillset. Additionally, a predefined listing of courses supporting common themes helps to narrow the large curriculum down to a meaningful, curated pathway through the seemingly infinite sea of possibilities.

Themes are introduced by faculty across departments to provide such meaningful pathways. They are intended to be stimulating and engaging on emerging areas of intellectually diverse interest, but much more narrowly focused than the broad Topics of Inquiry.

Governing Principles for Students:

  • Even though Themes may contain more than three courses, students are only required to take three (3) courses to fulfill a Theme. If a Theme contains only three courses, students must take all three of those courses. If a Theme contains more than three, students are still only required to take any three of those courses.
  • There are no restrictions on which courses within a Theme students can or must take. The courses can be at any level or in any combination of TOIs. We recommend that students take courses across multiple TOIs within a Theme when possible, but it is acceptable for a student to choose courses all in the same TOI.
  • Themes will not appear on a student’s transcript.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: As a student, can I propose a Theme?

A: Not at this time. Only faculty can currently propose Themes, but we're working on some options for allowing students to suggest potential new Themes. Stay tuned.

Q: How does the Focus Area work? What is the difference between a Focus Area and a Theme?

A: The "depth" part of the Common Curriculum can be satisfied in two way:

  1. Students can take any 9 credits in one TOI to complete a Focus Area, OR
  2. Students may complete a faculty-developed Theme. Themes include courses from more than one TOI that center around a specific topic, ability, or perspective. Themes may have 3-7 courses in them, although students are only required to pass 9 credits worth of work in them.

In the case of both a Focus Area and Theme, we highly encourage students to pursue an area of depth outside their comfort zone. For instance, if you are a STEM major, choose an area other than TOI-6 for your Focus Area or Theme. Remember that the Common Curriculum is designed to allow you to build skills in other areas that will help you in your career and beyond.

*Please note that students cannot create their own Theme. Themes can be developed and submitted for CCC+ approval by faculty on behalf of any school, college, department, unit, or campus.

Q: How is a Theme different than a minor? Can I use the courses in a Theme toward a minor?

A: There are two major differences between a Minor and a Theme:

Minors consist of 12-18 credits of 2000+ level course work.
Themes only require 9 credits and can include course work at the 1000 level.

If a course or courses in your chosen Theme are at the 2000+ level and they fulfill an established Minor, you can count your Theme course(s) toward your Minor. In some cases, your course work in a Theme may lead you to discover a Minor that you want to pursue.