Expanding minds in an expanding universe.
The goals of the First Year Experience “Big History” program are to promote critical and creative thinking; recognition of the personal, communal, and political implications of the Big History story; and the ability to evaluate and articulate understanding of one’s place in the unfolding universe. The immense fourteen billion-year framework of this course sequence communicates the natural and cultural history of our universe and emphasizes global interconnectivity. Embedded writing and research modules cultivate skills for future learning and engaged learning practices foster a deepening of acquired knowledge and abilities. All of these program goals have been designed by Dominican faculty in accordance with the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education.
First Year Experience “Big History” and AAC&U’s Essential Learning Outcomes
AAC&U provides a new framework to guide students' cumulative progress through college. The published Essential Learning Outcomes are the result of an intensive and multi-institutional collaboration to articulate specific outcomes. Those are 1) Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World; 2) Intellectual and Practical Skills; 3) Personal and Social Responsibility; and 4) Integrative and applied Learning. First Year Experience “Big History” was created in accordance with these guidelines. It is foundational, teaches competencies, and provides context and framework for examining one’s position in the world. The first three Essential Learning Outcomes—“Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World,” “Intellectual and Practical Skills,” and “Personal and Social Responsibility” are addressed directly in this program while our second-year programming “Colloquium” addresses the first three and also the fourth Essential Learning Outcome “Integrative and Applied Learning. ”
This guided transition between the First Year Experience “Big History” and Second Year Experience “Colloquium” provides students with a realistic way to refocus their knowledge into a current topic of concern or interest, such as imperiled watersheds, social justice, the future of modern healthcare, or changes to communication in the Information Age. Our second-year programming is integrative, building a learning community by enrolling one group of students simultaneously in two thematically linked courses which are writing and research intensive and draw on Big History to move from the global to the regional or the specific. Experiential learning components such as service-learning and community-based research are embedded and help students engage with “real world” problems.