Webster University demonstrates that acquisition of a breadth of knowledge and skills and the exercise of intellectual inquiry are integral to its educational programs.
General Education at Webster
The objective of the Webster University General Education Program is to help assure that undergraduate students will encounter a breadth of knowledge and skills in a variety of key intellectual areas. These areas are: Critical Thinking, Communications, Historical Consciousness, Humanities, Values, Cultural Understanding, Arts Appreciation, Scientific Understanding, and Mathematics. These processes, methods, experiences, and skills can be acquired by individuals in a variety of ways, in numerous fields of study, and at varying times in their academic lives.
Webster’s General Education program was approved by the faculty in the fall of 1992 and first instituted as a requirement for students who matriculated in fall 1994. The origins of the program, however, go back to faculty discussions in the mid to late 1980s. At that time, a faculty committee developed a list of voluntary general education goals which students were urged (but not required) to fulfill during their time at Webster.
A team visit by North Central accreditors in 1988 pushed Webster to develop a set of clear and sensible requirements. In response, the Curriculum Committee created three task forces to work on reform in the areas of student “skills, breadth, and commonality.” In fall 1991, the committee recommended that all Bachelor of Arts (BA) students be required to “address” nine general education goals. Students pursuing Professional Baccalaureates (BFA, BM, BSN) were expected to address at least four of those same goals.
Since the creation of the general education program, the Curriculum Committee has developed procedures and specific processes for approving general education courses (course coding). Applications for coding must be approved by the department chairs and the deans. The course designer must also explain how the course meets the particular goal. The Curriculum Committee, working with the General Education Coordinator, regularly assesses the effectiveness of the general education program.
The Webster University General Education Program fulfills part of the University Mission. A statement of the Mission and Scope of Webster University and the Goals of the General Education program are published annually in the Undergraduate Studies catalog.
[EXHIBIT: HLC0.1 Undergraduate Catalog, HLC3a.1 General Education Report]
General Education Goals
A coherent baccalaureate program provides opportunity for the study of a discipline in depth while at the same time enabling students to obtain a broad general education within the context of their individual goals. Webster University acknowledges that the ideal components of general education can be addressed throughout the curriculum and that this learning may occur in a variety of ways. The University requires all baccalaureate students to complete a general education program. The following nine goals are the framework for this program:
- Critical Thinking (a systematic method of examining and evaluating arguments).
- Communications (writing and speaking that are clear, concise, and accurate when conveyed to a broad audience).
- Historical Consciousness (recognition of causes, relationships, and sequences within seemingly random social and historical events).
- Humanities (analysis of the themes of human experience through the legacy of great works and ideas).
- Values (critical reflection on the attitudes and beliefs relevant to individual and social choices and actions).
- Cultural Understanding (examination and comparison of international and/or diverse cultures)
- Arts Appreciation (recognition of artistic expressions gained through analysis, reflection, or practical experience).
- Scientific Understanding (analysis of concepts of a scientific discipline and its methods, limitations, and impact in the modern world).
- Mathematics (recognition of the value and beauty of mathematics, as well as the ability to use geometric, algebraic, or numerical reasoning).
The nine General Education Learning Outcomes are directly related to the mission and values of the University. The General Education Program helps “promote international perspectives in the curriculum and among students …” through the Values, Humanities, Historical Consciousness, and Cultural Understanding learning outcomes. Each of these learning outcomes either directly or indirectly are intended to help the student become aware of international perspectives.
The Cultural Understanding goal specifically is intended to promote global or international perspectives, and offers a comparative study of different cultures within one’s own society. This learning outcome also encourages students to reflect on their own culture as it relates to other cultures and also encourages understanding of cultural similarities and differences.
The General Education Program “encourages in its students a critical cast of mind, a respect for diversity, and an understanding of their own and others’ values.” Students are encouraged to develop a “critical cast of mind” not only from the Critical Thinking learning outcome but also from the Mathematics goal, where students are allowed to explore, conjecture, and reason logically and judge the role of mathematical reasoning in real-life situations.
The development of a “critical cast of mind” is also a function of being able to communicate one’s own position. The Communication learning outcome provides students with opportunities to use, practice, and improve written and oral communications in English.
The responsibility to periodically assess the General Education Program at Webster University is the general responsibility of the Curriculum Committee. The current assessment process began during the 2003 –2004 academic year. The Curriculum Committee selected a General Education Task Force from its membership and included the Webster University Coordinator for General Education as a member (the Coordinator for General Education is an Ex Officio member of the Curriculum Committee). This Task Force was made up of five members.
The Task force worked with Webster University administration, faculty, students, and staff during the assessment process. The Task Force began its work in Fall 2003, and the Coordinator continues the work. A second Gen. Ed. Student Assessment Task Force was formed in Fall 2006. This task force continues to work on discussing, working through, and implementing the recommendations that resulted from the 2004-2005 Assessment of the Webster University General Education Program. The review and improvement of the Webster University General Education Program is a continuous process.
National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)
Key findings from the NSSE study are used to stimulate discussions on how to improve the quality of the undergraduate experience at Webster University. Some of the NSSE data relates to the goals of the general education program, and helps inform our continuous quality improvement. The NSSE 2007 report identified five questions where Webster’s first-year and senior students scored the highest, in relation to students from our selected peers, and/or Carnegie peers.
[EXHIBIT: HLC3a NSSE]
Interdisciplinary Programs and General Studies
The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (CIS) serves as an umbrella for Webster University’s diverse interdisciplinary programs. The Center’s primary mission is twofold: to promote, strengthen, and expand interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students and to provide a central location where students can get information about interdisciplinary courses, programs, and activities.
It is currently administered by the College of Arts & Sciences and offers students the opportunity to study in areas that cut across disciplines by offering majors, minors, or certificates in Ancient Studies, Drama Studies, Environmental Studies, International Human Rights Studies, International Studies, Latin American Studies, Multicultural Studies, Practical and Interdisciplinary Ethics, and Women’s Studies. The CIS also offers an array of interdisciplinary courses unconnected to these programs and an opportunity for students to create a self designed interdisciplinary major.
[EXHIBIT: HLC3c.5 Interdisciplinary Studies]
General Studies courses comprise most of the interdisciplinary courses at the University, and provide the learner with a broad introduction to the liberal arts.
Courses are designed to offer perspectives on the interconnectedness of knowledge and experience. One part of the General Studies program is the Freshman Seminars, which are required of all full-time, degree-seeking freshmen on the St. Louis campus.
The focus of General Studies courses blends with the mission and scope of the University by providing a personalized approach to classes; encouraging critical thinking and creativity; and instilling in students the spirit of intellectual inquiry. Before discussing the evidence, a few words about the administrative structure of the General Studies Program is necessary.
The program is administered by a committee of full- and part-time faculty appointed by the Faculty Senate to three-year staggered terms. The committee meets once per month to discuss course scheduling, establish and review academic standards and policies, and review student course evaluations.
The Director of the Freshman Seminar Program is the member of the committee who plans the annual schedule of seminars and conducts an annual teaching workshop for faculty who will be teaching in the seminar program.
[EXHIBIT: HLC4b.1 General Studies, HLC3c.4 Freshman Seminars, HLC0i University Handbook]
Focus on Freshmen Seminar with General Studies
The Freshman Seminar program is in its 15th year at Webster University. All new full-time degree seeking freshmen with fewer than 16 credit hours of college credit are required to take GNST 1200 Freshman Seminar. Students select one of dozens of diverse seminars. While topics vary, all seminars are designed to help students develop the essential skills of writing, public speaking, critical thinking and group discussion.
Those objectives remain at the heart of the Freshman Seminar program. The most recent Program Guidelines for Freshman Seminars was recently approved by the General Studies Committee (April 2007):
- To create a seminar structure in which students and faculty can explore an interdisciplinary topic of mutual interest in an atmosphere energized by the love and excitement of learning.
- To introduce students to instructors as learners enthusiastically and systematically pursuing a topic of interest to themselves and inviting students to share that pursuit.
- To provide a small-class setting for first-year students where they can get personal attention from the faculty, both for academic and nonacademic issues and problems.
- To set a standard for academic excellence that will carry over into other courses.
- To introduce students to significant texts and equip them to confront these texts critically.
- To improve the retention rate among first-year students by maintaining a consistent and personal interest in them from a single member of the faculty who should help them become integrated into the academic and social environment of Webster.
- To provide systematic evaluation of students’ improvement in the development of intellectual skills.
The overarching objectives of Freshman Seminars have remained consistent since the inception of the program. However, assessment and evaluation are areas that may need improvement. More needs to be done to ensure consistent expectations and standards across the diverse sections of seminars.
Additionally, a systematic statistical analysis of student course evaluation needs to be maintained for the program.
[EXHIBIT: HLC4b.2 Freshman Seminar Report]
International Studies Program
The purpose of International Studies (IS) is to provide an interdisciplinary program designed to give students: 1) both general and specialized knowledge of the world as an interconnected global system, 2) second language skills, and 3) significant international experience. The particular combination of interdisciplinary education (transcending any limits placed by staying within a particular disciplinary boundary), language learning beyond one’s native language, and the experiential component make a unique contribution to the creation of a “global citizen,” thereby meeting several of the goals in the Webster University Mission Statement.
IS is committed to an interdisciplinary approach to international knowledge. Our curriculum investigates all aspects of the human condition from the international perspective. We believe the broadness of such an approach prepares the student for informed involvement in the global system.
As shown from this purpose statement, International Studies aims to give students a breadth of knowledge and skills as well as a strong foundation for living in a global and diverse society.
[EXHIBIT: HLC4b.3 International Studies]
Center for Ethics
The Center for Ethics (originally the Center for Practical and Interdisciplinary Ethics) was established at Webster University in 1998 with aid from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Center aims to foster discussion about practical moral problems in various disciplines and professions by promoting teaching and research in ethics, as well as community outreach.
The Center hosts lecture series for visiting speakers, interdisciplinary conferences, and professional workshops. It also administers the Certificate in Practical and Interdisciplinary Ethics, and the Pledge of Social Environmental Responsibility, and serves as an academic resource for faculty and students pursuing coursework and research in ethics.
The mission of the Webster University Center for Ethics is to stimulate dialogue, encourage awareness, and promote critical thinking about ethical issues. The Center aims to inspire reflection about ethical dilemmas and helps bring together people normally separated by disciplinary boundaries. Through curricular development and public forums, the Center identifies issues of moral importance and supports environments conducive to collegial ethical analysis.
The Center serves as a resource for collaboration within the University and throughout the larger community, urging participants to identify their roles and responsibilities to one another as citizens of local and global communities. The Center does not endorse any particular viewpoint; it aims to promote sophisticated discussions through which various ethical positions can be discussed.
[EXHIBIT: HLC4b.4 Center for Ethics]
Certificate in Practical and Interdisciplinary Ethics
With the Certificate in Practical and Interdisciplinary Ethics, students are able to demonstrate an acquired expertise in identifying and analyzing ethical issues from the perspective of various disciplines and professions. This concentration in ethics furthers the University’s mission to foster in our students “a commitment to contribute actively to their communities and the world” in a particularly meaningful way.
Completion of the certificate not only strengthens students’ awareness about ethical issues, but also helps students assure potential employers that they have spent substantial time considering the ethical aspects of professional conduct. Studying ethics enhances students’ ability to engage in conflict resolution and to discern just solutions when moral dilemmas arise in the workplace.
Those students who elect to become involved in community service through the certificate are also able to provide employers with evidence of their willingness to make meaningful contributions to their communities. This certificate gives students the opportunity to stretch their moral imaginations and to recognize the need for creative and critical thinking in pursuing social justice.
[EXHIBIT: HLC0.1 Undergraduate Catalog, HLC4b.4 Center for Ethics]
Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility
In 2003-2004 the Center for Ethics instituted the Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility at Webster University. The Pledge, coordinated out of Manchester College in Indiana, has been endorsed and implemented by over 100 colleges and universities nationwide. The Pledge is administered at the annual Commencement ceremony to graduating students.
The pledge reads as follows:
“I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organization for which I work.”
The Center for Ethics administers materials for the Pledge. For those who elect to participate, certificates, green ribbons, and wallet cards are distributed. Because the Center for Ethics aims to promote consideration of ethical issues, but does not endorse particular ethical views programmatically. The Center carefully states this to students with the Pledge materials:
“Taking the pledge is a voluntary decision, and likewise the determination of what counts as environmentally and socially responsible is up to you. Our hope is that your pledge will contribute to a broader effort to build responsible citizenship and a sustainable world. We ask that you sign the pledge card or wear a green ribbon only if you intend to fulfill the commitment. Wearing the ribbon makes a public statement of your intent to consider the well being of the world and its inhabitants, both in your choice of career and in the decisions you make while in the workplace.”
The Center’s Web site has a FAQ section on and reference binders filled with pledge resources are housed in Career Services and in the Center Director’s office. Since 2004, the number of students who have participated in the Pledge at the Saint Louis campus commencement has been approximately 20% of the ting class.
[EXHIBIT: HLC4b.4 Center for Ethics, HLC4b.5 Graduation Pledge]
We believe that the mission of the environmental studies minor indicates a commitment to a life of learning. The environmental studies minor is designed to give students in any major a significant understanding of the physical, cultural, political, and spiritual dimensions of human relationships with the environment.
Multidisciplinary in nature, this minor provides a basic foundation in ecological literacy while emphasizing the insights which the humanities and social sciences can offer into the complex interactions between human cultures and their natural surroundings.
Our program emphasizes breadth of knowledge and skills as well as intellectual inquiry. The multidisciplinary nature of the minor (see catalogue description above) and of the field of environmental studies in general ensures that virtually all of our endeavors span a broad range of knowledge and skills. Our focus on environmental problems, their causes, and their potential solutions means that our courses and programs tend to take a problem-posing approach, which promotes intellectual inquiry.
[EXHIBIT: HLC0.1 Undergraduate Catalog, HLC3c.5 Interdisciplinary Studies, HLC4b.6 Environmental Studies]
The Multicultural Studies Committee has two unique components: 1) oversight and assessment of the Multicultural Studies minor and 2) participation in the overall diversity of the campus climate.
As an interdisciplinary studies program, the Multicultural Studies minor is at its very core designed to increase “breadth of knowledge.” Designed as a supplement to other studies, the courses listed as part of the minor offer a wide array of exposure to the study of diverse populations.
[EXHIBIT: HLC0.1 Undergraduate Catalog, HLC3c.5 Interdisciplinary Studies, HLC4b.7 Multicultural Studies]
The Women’s Studies program at Webster promotes feminist teaching, research, and programming in a variety of disciplines across the University curriculum. The committee administers both a minor and a certificate in Women’s Studies and hosts speakers who highlight a variety of women’s issues and concerns. The committee also serves as a resource for Webster community members with concerns about gender equity or other issues related to women’s lives at Webster.
The Women’s Studies Minor and Certificate Programs draw on courses from across the University to comprise a truly interdisciplinary curriculum. The program includes courses from anthropology, English, history, music, and philosophy, to name only a few. The interdisciplinary nature of the program gives students the opportunity to apply feminist analysis across a broad range of academic areas, and thereby not only to deepen their understanding of feminist analysis, but also to broaden their knowledge and understanding of its application within other disciplines and within their own lives.
Students who complete the Women’s Studies Certificate are asked to complete a final senior research project. For some students, this might be a work of literary analysis or philosophical inquiry. For others, it is a practicum, in which students participate in an internship or activist project in the community, and then write an analysis of their experiences and present that analysis to faculty and students involved in the Women’s Studies program.
[EXHIBIT: HLC0.1 Undergraduate Catalog, HLC3c.5 Interdisciplinary Studies, HLC4b.8 Women’s Studies]
Continuing Formal Education – Graduate Programs
Webster University’s commitment to continued education is evidenced by the graduate programs, with an emphasis on applied scholarship, real world experience, and access to graduate programs across the United States, the world and online. The curriculum portion of the graduate programs are designed, assessed and reviewed by the various appropriate academic departments, schools and colleges, and academic affairs with a University-wide faculty body – the Graduate Council - overseeing the academic curriculum for the programs.
Many graduate programs involve some type of graduate student research as part of class activity, including thesis options and capstone experiences, resulting in a life long learner conducting research as well as exercising intellectual inquiry through the graduate program’s coursework (see Criterion 3 section). Every Webster University campus must follow the curriculum as approved by the department through the University-wide Graduate Council.
[EXHIBIT: HLC0.2 Graduate Catalog, HLC0.2b Graduate Council Minutes]
Curriculum Delivery Methods
Webster University’s graduate programs are delivered throughout the campus network and around the world in St. Louis, at our international locations, our U.S. extended campuses in metropolitan areas, on military bases and online. This delivery method brings education where there exists need.
It is an example of Webster’s commitment to formal life long learning as the majority of graduate students are non-traditional aged students seeking a change in career or an improvement over their current job position. In addition to regional accreditation and specialty accreditation, Webster University’s programs and campuses are routinely reviewed by external evaluators from State and Military authorities with positive outcomes of the external reviews.
[EXHIBIT: HLC0.13-18 Webster Accreditation Page, South Carolina Approvals, Other State Licensures and Approvals, MIVER Web Site, Summary of MIVER Reviews, MIVER Self-Studies and Documents]
Doctoral Program – Doctor of Management (D. Mgt.)
As a prerequisite to enter the D. Mgt. program, all students must have a master’s degree in business or management, a related degree, or an MBA, and managerial experience. Thus, the students in the program range from 30 to more than 50 years of age, and are committed to continuing their education and a life of learning. The program began in 1987 and has always been structured as a part-time, evening program so that students can continue to work while studying.
The D. Mgt. is a professional doctorate, as opposed to a full-time Ph.D. It involves applied research and coursework with one-on-one mentoring. Also, several students plan to use their D. Mgt. degree to transition into consulting work as they prepare to retire from multi-decade careers in industry, government, or the military.
As evidence of continual improvement of the program, the D. Mgt. program gained approval from Graduate Council in 2006 for several structural changes, and has been working to implement these changes. Further changes likely will come during the late spring and summer 2007. The D. Mgt. program is preparing to assess the program via the new DMGT 7900 course, Integrative Seminar, which replaces the old comprehensive exam. The themes of globalization, diversity, and technology can certainly be monitored through this assessment.
[EXHIBIT: HLC0.2 Graduate Catalog, HLC0.2b Graduate Council Minutes, HLC4b.9 Doctor of Management]