Topics of Inquiry

What is the purpose of a higher education? What is the knowledge that an educated person should have?

While traditional approaches to general education have often reified disciplines as central to curriculum design, UConn’s vision of general education centers inter-, cross-, and transdisciplinary fields of inquiry. Many pressing problems require interdisciplinary thinking, and introducing students to contemporary, complex problems early in their college careers is crucial in preparing them to be active and productive citizens. Interdisciplinary study also emphasizes multiple perspectives, which can result in an increased sensitivity to bias, critical thinking, appreciation of ethical concerns, and tolerance of ambiguity. The UConn vision also honors the broad spectrum of ways of knowing and inquiring that are used across fields of study.

Connections among the courses used in general education have been shown to foster deeper engagement and more meaningful learning, depth, and coherency that students crave. 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 skill-set. Additionally, a predefined listing of courses supporting common themes helps to narrow the ambitious curriculum down to a meaningful, curated pathway through the seemingly infinite sea of possibilities.

UConn’s vision of general education is organized around six topics of inquiry and the five Competencies.

Topic of Inquiry Operating Principles

1. Students must pass at least a total of 21 credits in the Topics of Inquiry.

2. Students must pass at least three credits of coursework in each of six Topics of Inquiry. Topics of Inquiry courses may be counted toward the major.

3. The courses fulfilling the Topics of Inquiry must represent at least six different subjects as designated by subject code (e.g., ANTH or WGSS) and at least one course must be passed in each Topic of Inquiry (some courses fulfill two). Exceptions to this rule are subject heading designations that group interdisciplinary studies through cross-listing, such as LLAS, AFRA, WGSS, AAAS, URBN, ENVS, EVST, HRTS, UNIV, and INTD. Other current and future interdisciplinary groups would also apply.

4. TOI courses may only have TOI courses as prerequisites and corequisites, with three exceptions: (a) Honors courses may require Honors student status, and (b) TOI-6 courses and Writing Competency courses may have prerequisites and corequisites that are not Common Curriculum courses.

5. Students must take at least three Common Curriculum courses in one Focus Area. Topics of Inquiry are by default eligible to serve as a Focus Area, but other Focus Areas may be proposed by a group of faculty and approved by GEOC to fulfill this requirement. For example, faculty may design a Theme that spans multiple disciplines. Themes are recommended but not required.

6. To satisfy the Focus requirement, a student must fulfill at least three courses in a single Topic of Inquiry or all requirements of at least one Theme.

7. Up to three credits of repeatable one-credit courses may be included in the Topics of Inquiry. No more than six credits with the UNIV or INTD prefix may be elected by any student to meet the Common Curriculum Requirements.

8. Students must complete at least one laboratory course in TOI-6 (see TOI-6 for definition of laboratory class). This does not restrict courses outside TOI-6 from having laboratories, nor does it limit TOI-6 courses to be only laboratory courses.