Thomas Jefferson’s original curriculum for the University—with its emphasis on the useful arts—was a dramatic departure from the standard course of studies of his time. He was, however, very clearheaded in asserting that the curriculum should be revisited regularly. We are “establishing beginnings” he wrote, “to be developed . . . as those who come after us shall find expedient. They will be more advanced than we are in science and in useful arts, and will know best what will suit the circumstances of their day.”
Fitting the curriculum to the circumstances of our day requires us to ask important questions. Is U.Va.’s liberal arts education equal to the challenges that will face our students as citizens of a 21st-century democracy? Are we equipping students with the specialized knowledge and leadership skills they need to be successful in their chosen careers and lead productive lives? And, finally, are we engaging students in ways that most effectively advance their intellectual development at a critical stage in their lives?
Formulating these questions has led us to explore new directions and has lent fresh impetus to established efforts. Faculty members in the College, for instance, are launching a pilot program that clusters introductory courses around interdisciplinary themes such as climate change or molecular medicine, giving students a more focused and coherent path through their general education requirements. The Darden School is introducing a suite of extracurricular activities that complement and extend a new curriculum launched in 2010. Through initiatives like our partnership with online-learning pioneer Coursera and our own Hybrid Challenge, we are building on our substantial expertise in new teaching technologies that can help us reach students on the Grounds and around the world with more impact and excitement.