General Education Competencies

Through the General Education experience at Clemson University, undergraduate students will gain knowledge of Clemson's core competencies.

Effective oral and written communication is the means by which all competencies will be demonstrated. Students should include an example of their best work in each of the following eight areas:

Arts and Humanities

Demonstrate an understanding of the arts and humanities in historical and cultural contexts.

Cross-Cultural Awareness

Demonstrate the ability to critically compare and contrast world cultures in historical and/or contemporary contexts.


Demonstrate mathematical literacy through solving problems, communicating concepts, reasoning mathematically, and applying mathematical or statistical methods, using multiple representations where applicable.

Natural Sciences

Demonstrate scientific literacy by explaining the process of scientific reasoning and applying scientific principles inside and outside of the laboratory or field setting.

Science and Technology in Society

Demonstrate an understanding of issues created by the complex interactions among science, technology, and society.

Social Sciences

Demonstrate an understanding of social science methodologies in order to explain the consequences of human actions.

Ethical Judgment and Critical Thinking are "distributed competencies;" which means they are not necessarily connected to any one specific course. You will collect your best examples from a variety of courses and activities during your time at Clemson University. These competencies must be demonstrated by work from your junior and/or senior years.

Ethical Judgment

Demonstrate an ability to identify, comprehend, and deal with ethical problems and their ramifications in a systematic, thorough, and responsible way.

Critical Thinking

Demonstrate the ability to critically analyze the quality and utility of knowledge gained throughout the undergraduate experience and apply this knowledge to a wide range of problems.

  • General Tips:

      • Class notes and outlines should not be submitted for any competency.
      • For some papers or assignments you may need to include additional analysis in order to demonstrate your understanding of the competency.
      • Examples of these types of papers include original artworks, performances, creative writing book/film summaries, reaction or reflection paper,opinion pieces, nursing care plans, and education lesson plans.
      • Be careful with citations. Make sure that the citations are not missing. Check for in-text citations and works cited or reference lists. This is required for your communication score even if this was not required in the class in which the artifact was produced.
      • The same artifact can satisfy two competencies as long as the work reflects and satisfies both of competencies to which it is tagged. For each competency, the work must have a separate and distinct rationale statement which indicates why that artifact was chosen for that competency.
      • Eight unique artifacts are PREFERRED, so use your best judgment when doing this.
      • Craft a rationale statement that clearly and specifically articulates how the artifact satisfies the competency. Why did you choose this artifact in particular?
      • Be careful with grammar and/or punctuation deficiencies as they result in lower scores and failures. Check and recheck for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
      • If you tag an artifact that was a part of a group project, please specify and explain your specific and autonomous role in the project.  You will receive a GW score until this is done.
      • If you have no artifact on hand you can create and original one of your own, just be sure that it fulfills the competency.
      • You can submit more than one artifact for any competency. An acceptable score on one submission is enough to be satisfactory as part of the graduation requirement.
      • Work from your junior and senior years is more likely to demonstrate your learning at Clemson than work produced in your freshman and sophomore years.
      • Work completed for AP and IB courses is considered college level and can be used for your portfolio if it meets the requirements for a specific competency.
  • Arts and Humanities 

        • To demonstrate an understanding of this competency you need to provide an analysis of the historical and cultural meaning of the material.  You also need to connect ideas, events, people, and significance in relation to the work or topic being analyzed.
        • Reflection assignments, opinion pieces, extra credit visits to performances, galleries, etc. typically do not satisfy the requirement because they do not require the student to analyze the artwork or performance as it relates to its historic and cultural contexts.
        • Original artworks, performances, creative writing, architectural designs, etc. are acceptable IF accompanied by an artist’s statement that explains how the work relates to its historic and cultural context.
        • Not all literature (or visual art, musicology etc.) assignments fit this competency. Analyses limited to formal qualities or content only – themes, imagery, composition, musical motifs, comparisons of texts – are insufficient UNLESS the formal and content elements are explicitly put into a relation with historical and cultural contexts.
        • Similarly, chronologies of historic facts, or biographies of literary or artistic figures are insufficient. For example, historical facts or events need to be analyzed in terms of their larger effect on cultural sensibilities, understandings, ideals, roles, etc.  An artist’s biography must be contextualized within larger historic and cultural movements and events, and also related to their works of art. Artifacts should have the arts and humanities as their topic, not merely employ humanistic methodologies or sources. For example, a discussion of racism, homosexuality, or abortion that draws on rhetorical methods or cultural studies scholarship does not suffice because its topic is a social issue, not the arts and humanities. However, a rhetorical analysis of a speech about racism, homosexuality or abortion as a literary artifact, examining the word choice and persuasive techniques used, and how they related to a particular historic moment and cultural location would work.
        • Similarly, papers on drug abuse in general are social science artifacts (even if using humanistic methodologies and epistemologies); papers analyzing an anti-drug public service announcement as an aesthetic artifact related to its history and culture would work.

          PLEASE NOTE:

      • Arts includes (but is not limited to) fields such as literature/creative writing, performing arts, visual arts, architecture/landscape architecture.
      • Humanities includes (but is not limited to) fields such as philosophy and religion.
      • Historical Context is the events or climate of opinion that surround a work of art or artistic movement during its time. In defining historical context, it is usually helpful to specify the year/era (e.g., colonial America) while comparing it with events or public opinion from previous or subsequent time periods. Events include such things as wars, elections, technological inventions, etc.
      • Cultural Context is the society of a work of art or artistic movement. This is broader than just international culture but could include, for example, family culture, Deaf culture, gendered cultures, Southern culture, etc. This includes public beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and behaviors in a particular time and place.  It also includes the influence/impact of historical events and innovations such as technological advancements, socio-economic changes, etc.
  • Critical Thinking

      • Artifacts from freshman- and sophomore-level courses are not appropriate for satisfying the Critical Thinking competency.
      • Ideal artifacts for the satisfaction of this competency include:
          • professional portfolios
          • e.g., for Education majors, a student teaching portfolio with substantial reflection

          e.g., for Health Science majors, an electronic professional portfolio with substantial reflection and analysis
        • Capstone projects
        • Research papers containing substantial original theoretical contributions or empirical data analysis
        • An essay, assigned during the final semester of the student’s undergraduate career, in which the student is required to reflect on his/her coursework, evaluate the knowledge he/she has gained, and apply that knowledge to a situation, phenomenon, his/her future career, etc. (e.g. the critical thinking essay assignment in the Sociology Senior Capstone course)
      • Be especially reminded that artifacts for the critical thinking competency must “demonstrate the ability to critically analyze the quality and utility of knowledge gained during the undergraduate experience. This may mean that students will need to add an analytic component to an existing paper or project to make it suitable for this competency.
  • Cross-Cultural Awareness

      • Artifacts must deal with more than one WORLD culture. Compare and contrast at least two cultures form different countries. Consider multiple aspects of these cultures.
      • Comparisons and contrasts of world cultures is necessary. This does not include different neighborhoods, gestures, eating habits, body language, etc., alone.
      • An essay in a foreign language may not fulfill the requirements of this competency; a translation of an artifact from a foreign language should accompany the artifact.
      • A description of a country is not sufficient for this competency.
      • Be very academic and analytical in discussing other cultures. Papers that cross into racist or xenophobic sentiments will not be accepted.
  • Ethical Judgment

      • Papers must systematically evaluate courses of action, arguments for and against them, or different points of view.  Mere opinion pieces that discuss a situation do not work for this competency.
      • Papers must weigh multiple sides of an issue. A persuasive speech that rests on rhetorical devices, opinion and advocacy of a position without seriously considering its relative merits and other options is not sufficient.
      • Ethics training reports – such as CITI research ethics training – do not demonstrate ability to consider and evaluate arguments and different points of view.
      • An outline of a talk is not sufficient for this competency – unless it is robust and detailed enough to convey fully-developed arguments and show that it considers points of view and the evaluation of courses of action.
      • Submitting artifacts from lower (100) level classes typically lacks sufficient evidence of logical reasoning and/or analysis.
      • Some examples of topics that can meet the criteria of ethical issues are stem cell research, abortion, healthcare, the death penalty, cloning etc.
  • Mathematics

      • Mathematics must have been PERFORMED by YOU in order to demonstrate this competency. If you have copied numbers from an article or book, and discuss them, then you have not done any math and you will not have demonstrated this competency.
      • Describe the context in which the mathematical work is being presented.
      • Present a mathematical relationship (equation or graph for example) with definitions of relevant symbols (if required).
      • Develop a solution based on manipulating equations or considering statistics.
      • Interpret the results of the mathematical or statistical work.
      • A hypothetical mathematical problem is acceptable, but be sure to describe the context and explain the process you used in coming up with a solution.
      • Excel spreadsheets will not work unless you include explanations of the math and interpretation of results.
      • Math tests can be uploaded provided that step by step calculations are being shown, and they include verbal interpretation of results.
      • Research papers with statistical calculations being shown and discussed are acceptable for this competency.
      • If input/output from statistical software is used, you must turn it into a Word file or PDF so that assessors can open the file; furthermore, be sure you have included explanations of the math and interpretation of results.
  • Natural Science

      • This competency is best addressed by submitting formal laboratory or field studies and papers.
      • These typically are from Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology,  Physics or Astronomy courses.
      • Non-experimental research papers may be submitted if they significantly review natural science research and are engaged in discussion and analysis of issues raised by that research, and are best if they propose questions which arise from this analysis.
      • Book reports, power point presentations, lesson plans, and the like do not meet the requirements of the competency.
  • Science and Technology in Society

      • Identify a significant interaction between science or technology and society.
      • In many cases, the artifact focused exclusively on a science or technology but failed to address the social impact; or the artifact addressed a social issue but failed to show how science or technology impacted or affected this issue.
  • Social Sciences

      • The best place to gather evidence to address this competency is from social/behavioral science courses.
      • These include psychology, criminal justice, political science, history, economics, anthropology and sociology. Psych 309,310 and 202 projects and honors thesis projects are excellent as SS artifacts.
      • Projects analyzing stress, and health and safety may have social science content.

The Faculty Facilitators for the competencies are as follows:

Dean Jan Murdoch, Ph.D. - Social Sciences (SS)
Associate Dean Jeff Appling, Ph.D. - Natural Sciences (NS)
Gail Ring, Ph.D.- Critical Thinking (CT)
TBA - Ethical Judgment (EJ)
Elizabeth Stansell, M.S. - Science and Technology in Society (STS)
Peter Cohen, Ph.D. - Cross Cultural Awareness (CC)
Debi Switzer. Ph.D. - Mathematics (MA)
TBA - Arts and Humanities

If you would like clarification from any of the faculty facilitators please fill out the form below. You will be contacted by the facilitator as soon as possible.

More Questions?

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