Liberal Studies Program (LSP): Essential Skills

Freshman Writing: Writing as Critical Thinking

Students who successfully complete Writing as Critical Thinking will understand and appreciate the central role writing and critical thinking play in becoming an active student of the liberal arts. Critical thinkers are able to apply clearly articulated criteria when examining and analyzing texts, ideas, and events; recognize the limits of their understanding and knowledge; rethink their ideas and values as they discover new information; enthusiastically seek out a range of views on the subjects that concern them; listen skillfully to the ideas of others; and recognize that critical thinking requires a lifelong commitment to self-reflection.

In Writing as Critical Thinking you will be asked to develop these and similar attitudes by writing. In fulfilling these requirements, students will:

  • use critical thinking to analyze readings as well as other forms of media (such as photographs, sound recordings, or film);
  • recognize and emulate the writing process of experienced writers;
  • meet the needs of readers with varied expectations and backgrounds by using appropriate style and mechanics;
  • use critical thinking, critical reading, reflection, and discussion to compose engaging, well-organized writing;
  • revise their writing using instructor and peer response as well as self‑assessment;
  • make progress towards computer literacy; and
  • understand the importance of intellectual and academic honesty, including accurate, critical, and clear quotation and citation of the work of others.


A liberally educated person is intellectually and practically engaged in academic, professional and civic communities. Ethical and effective public speaking enables that engagement. Public speaking draws on rhetorical and other communication theory to illuminate the personal responsibility of each citizen speaker, particularly the call to civility through reason. Individual response to that call determines the character of democracy as a collective action.

The conscious acceptance of personal responsibility for public speaking is intertwined with a deep understanding of the purposes, structures and delivery of spoken messages. Students investigate the classical modes of proof – ethos, pathos, and logos – to develop the ability to construct eloquent messages and defensible arguments that respond to the needs of their communities. Students practice conscious, critical, and respectful listening to gain an appreciation for diverse points of view. Students critique their own speaking performances and those of others to achieve confidence in and mastery over delivery skills.

To prepare students for civic engagement, the public speaking essential skills requirement will accomplish the following objectives:

  • Students will enact ethical public discourse and accept ethical responsibility in producing and consuming public discourse.
  • Students will understand and perform the audience-centered approach of the speechmaking process including selecting topics, organizing speeches, using persuasive appeals and using supporting materials effectively.
  • Students will develop critical thinking skills, including the process of listening as receiving, constructing meaning from and responding to public messages.

Elementary Functions

Mathematical functions are used to model phenomena in the world around us, to make forecasts, and when graphed, to summarize information in a meaningful way. The elementary functions (consisting of the algebraic, exponential, and trigonometric functions) are important not only because they show up so often in mathematics courses, but because they are the functions which appear most often in applications in other fields. Algebraic functions can model the movement of a projectile or describe the change in the inflation rate. Exponential functions capture both the rapid rise of populations and the slow decay of radioactive material. Finally, trigonometric functions not only aid in solving problems involving geometry, but are essential to modeling oscillating phenomena, such as the pulse of a heart or the changes in air pressure formed by playing a note on the piano. A student who has passed the Elementary Functions requirement should be prepared for the Mathematical Mode of Inquiry requirement, the Statistics requirement, and other courses involving mathematical reasoning.

Upon completion of the Elementary Functions requirement students will:

  • have gained experience with mathematical reasoning in a variety of applications that demonstrate the prevalence of mathematics in the world around us;
  • understand the fundamental concept of a function;
  • understand how to use and apply algebraic, exponential, and trigonometric functions;
  • have developed their basic skills in algebra; and
  • be prepared for more advanced mathematics courses, in particular calculus.


A liberally educated person is capable of being both a producer and a consumer of statistical information with some basic level of competency. He or she should be able to perform basic statistical analyses (producer) and should understand statistical information and data (consumer). As a result, the goals for the essential skill requirement in statistics are twofold: students are to develop statistical thinking, which leads to statistical literacy. The American Statistical Association endorsed the Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education Project, which makes six recommendations concerning the introductory statistics course: (1) Emphasize statistical literacy and develop statistical thinking; (2) Use real data; (3) Stress conceptual understanding rather than mere knowledge of procedures; (4) Foster active learning in the classroom; (5) Use technology for developing conceptual understanding and analyzing data; and (6) Use assessments to improve and evaluate student learning. The statistics essential skill should reflect these recommendations with a solid introduction to the basic principles of statistical practice, which will, in turn, adequately prepare students for further study in statistical applications or for wise use of data in work and everyday life.

Upon completion of the Statistics requirement students will:

  • recognize the overall importance and broad application of statistics from its use in research to its use in everyday life;
  • understand the techniques of random sampling and the production of “good” data;
  • be able to use basic descriptive statistics and exploratory data analysis (EDA) to select appropriate statistics for both univariate (one variable) and bivariate (two variable) data on qualitative and quantitative scales;
  • understand distributional characteristics of variables measured on quantitative scales including shape, central tendency, variability, and percentiles;
  • understand the basic concepts of events, spaces, and the rules of probability;
  • understand the basic theory behind the three main areas of inferential statistics: Point estimation, confidence intervals, and tests of hypotheses;
  • be able to use inferential statistics on a variable measured on one or two samples, including: selection of procedures, verification of assumptions, application of procedures, and interpretation of results; and
  • be able to use a statistical package of the creation of graphs and descriptive statistics which allow for the meaningful interpretation of data.

Computer Literacy

The computer literacy requirement identifies skills relevant to a broad range of disciplines. So that professors can expect students to make use of these throughout their academic career, all students should acquire proficiency by the beginning of their second year.

Three features of computer proficiency necessitate frequent re-evaluation of this requirement, perhaps as often as each year. First, students continue to arrive on campus each year with an increasing degree of computer experience. Second, computer software and technology continues to evolve; and third, the expectations of student capabilities must keep pace with this evolution. Reassessing these outcomes will also require ongoing contact with the faculty concerning the appropriateness of the specific requirements and the competency of students who have completed them.

Computer literacy entails understanding and knowledge of computer usage for processing and communicating information. Information comes in many forms, including text, numbers, pictures, and sound. Computer literate individuals should, therefore, be able to retrieve, organize, analyze, describe, and present various types of information in an appropriate manner. They should understand the relationships between computers and society, including legal and ethical issues related to software use, copyright, plagiarism, and privacy.

Students will be able to:

  • use a computer to create a document in an appropriate format;
  • retrieve and cite information from the World Wide Web;
  • utilize electronic means of communication;
  • retrieve information from a bibliographic database;
  • organize, manipulate, and present numeric data in a document;
  • save, retrieve, copy, print, and delete files; and
  • recognize unethical use of technology including copyright and privacy issues.

Personal Well-Being

Health Knowledge Outcomes:

  • Relate the components of the physical dimension of health to a health enhancing lifestyle: Explain how physical fitness, diet, sexual behavior, substance abuse etc. affect physical health as evaluated by written tests, projects or portfolios.
  • Recognize the importance of engaging in creative and stimulating mental activities in and outside the classroom to promote lifelong intellectual growth as evaluated by written tests, projects, or portfolios.
  • Describe the components of emotional health: personal feelings and feelings of others, the normality of human emotion, personal abilities and limitations, controlling or coping with personal feelings, and how to seek support when necessary as evaluated by written tests, projects or portfolios.
  • Appreciate the significance of getting along with others, showing concern for humanity as a whole and accepting the uniqueness of others as an essential part of social health as evaluated by a Likert or value scale.
  • Reflect on the spiritual dimension of health which requires examination of life experiences to discover personal meaning and purpose in life as evaluated by a reflection project.
  • Explain how our reciprocal interaction with the environment affects our health as evaluated by written tests, projects or portfolios.

These objectives have been adapted from Robbins, G., Powers, D., & Burgess, S. (1999). A Wellness Way of Life (4th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Students should experience physical activities that are classified as lifetime activities when attempting to accomplish the outcomes indicated below.

Physical Activity Outcomes:

  • Participate in activities that affect and improve cardiovascular endurance as evaluated by an exercise log.
  • Perform activities that promote muscular strength and/or muscular endurance as evaluated by demonstration and an exercise log.
  • Demonstrate proper technique in a variety of stretches as evaluated by demonstration.