dominican logo top
You are here: Home / Academics / First Year Experience Big History / Program


The key to BIG learning is BIG questions.


What is Big History?  

Big History is a universal and trans-disciplinary narrative that examines the timeline of our universe on the largest possible scale. It is “a modern, scientific creation story…based on the best findings of modern science…a history that includes all human societies, and places their histories within the larger histories of the earth and the Universe as a whole” (Christian, Brown, Benjamin 2014). Big History begins with the Big Bang, follows the creation of stars and planets and the emergence of life on Earth, and extends to human beings and societies that have existed up to the present. It is a multidisciplinary study, employing astronomy, anthropology, biology, ecology, geology, literature, economics, political science, and sociology, among other fields, in its approach to understanding our collective past and possible futures. While Big History is taught at universities around the world, Dominican University of California pioneered the use of this content, along with its own "Through the Lens of Big History" courses, for a first-year course sequence.

What is First Year Experience Big History?

First Year Experience Big History is not just a pair of courses; it is an expedition. In fact, it is a unique curricular and experiential expansion of the original Big History course as taught at other institutions globally. In this one-year course sequence, we become observers of our early solar system, researchers of evolutionary theory, analysts of fossil evidence from the past, examiners of human behavior and societal structures, and agents for the health of Planet Earth and its inhabitants. A diverse and dynamic team of curriculum developers and instructors ensures students benefit from cutting-edge work by experts in a variety of fields. Whatever a student’s major or interest, our version of Big History enhances in-depth education and offers a universal context for future learning and career ambitions.

First Year Experience Big History is committed to engaged and experiential learning practices, helping students make the most of their college years. Innovative and ever-evolving classroom and co-curricular activities enhance learning. In the classroom, students discuss the forces at work in the formation of stars and planets, and then they move outside to participate in their own "accretion" exercise. They study the evolution of hominids, their habitats, and societal systems, and then get hands-on experience examining skulls in our Hominoid Skulls Lab. After reading about the birth of agriculture and the growth of civilizations, they put their knowledge to work in a debate about the physical advantages and disadvantages of that transformation to humans.

Outside the classroom, a series of multimedia events--combining video presentations, live performances by musicians, singers, rappers, poets, and dancers, and informative, inspirational messages from scholars and philosophers--present students with the opportunity to synthesize knowledge gained in the classroom and "locate themselves" in this cosmic narrative. Local astronomers visit Dominican with their telescopes and allow students to witness for themselves the wonders of space their texts can only begin to describe. Scholarly lectures by renowned scientists and celebrated thinkers give students a glimpse into the ongoing study of the cosmos and our place in it. And excursions to local science centers and museums allow students to see first-hand the amazing and varied accomplishments of humans as we strive to interpret and understand our world.

The essence of First Year Experience Big History is living content, designed to give students the relevant, applicable information they need to be informed and productive global citizens. To this end, our program strives to equip students with the research, writing, and communication skills required for college and beyond. Please visit our Program Goals page for more information on this topic.

Common Sites & Pages


Faculty & Staff