It might seem strange to find “general education” as a focus at one of the nation’s top research universities. But Clemson is not your typical research university. Here we are remaking undergraduate education, transforming what it means to be a university student.
At the heart of this transformation is Clemson’s Creative Inquiry program, which teaches students critical thinking and research skills by engaging them in projects that tackle complex problems or topics. Unlike the more traditional senior projects or capstone courses, Creative Inquiry projects begin early in students’ undergraduate careers and extend over multiple semesters. They are team-based, often involving students from different fields of study.
“Students learn to ask and answer their own questions,” says Provost Dori Helms. “They learn to explore and communicate, build teams and take risks. The problem-solving skills they learn through Creative Inquiry carry far beyond the classroom.”
Clemson has about 260 Creative Inquiry projects in progress now, ranging from biomedical research to the arts and humanities. The goal is to involve all students in Creative Inquiry as part of their Clemson undergraduate experience.
Beyond the Creative Inquiry approach to scholarship, Clemson’s emphasis on general education brings together an array of programs that aim to create a different kind of graduate – one who has acquired knowledge but also analytical skills, ethical judgment, the ability to build a team and lead it, an understanding of the wider world and a commitment to service.
The Communication Across the Curriculum program, for example, is dedicated to improving the written, oral, digital and visual communication skills of all Clemson University students. The Rutland Institute for Ethics and the activities it supports reflect the university’s commitment to social and civic responsibility. The Academic Success Center, service learning and study abroad opportunities enrich the Clemson experience and nurture the intellectual and personal growth of students.
One of the best measurements of the success of this emphasis on general education can be found in the National Survey of Student Engagement. Among Clemson freshmen responding to the most recent survey, 83 percent said their courses emphasized applying theories or concepts to new situations and 86 percent said Clemson provides substantial support for academic success. Among Clemson seniors, 78 percent worked with classmates outside of class on an assignment, 78 percent did community service or volunteer work and 68 percent did an internship, practicum or field experience.
These numbers are all significantly higher than the average for other universities.
Academic Success Center
Calhoun Honors College
Center for Academic Integrity
Center for Student Involvement
Rutland Institute for Ethics