Students listening to professor, smiling

Literacies for Life and Career

A Signature Initiative

The Arts & Sciences undergraduate curriculum will provide students with a set of literacies and competencies that are indispensable for their future careers, their roles as engaged and responsible citizens, and their well-being as individuals.

Our innovative literacy-based approach focuses on the acquisition of multiple knowledge areas and skills as well as diverse perspectives necessary for successfully navigating a complex, ambivalent, and rapidly changing world. The sets of literacies may include:

  • media, narrative, and visual literacies
  • scientific, technological, and environmental literacies
  • numerical, computing, and data literacies
  • a solid grounding in ethics and civic responsibility
  • a substantial understanding of human cultural diversity, both past and present
  • intercultural literacy
  • a nuanced understanding of social and economic structures and of global dynamics
  • knowledge of political systems and democratic structures
  • critical thinking and problem-solving competencies
  • facility in oral and written communication

The explicit concentration on literacies leverages the existing Arts & Sciences curriculum in all disciplines and on all levels — including introductory and core courses, major-specific courses, graduate education, and capstone experiences. This approach, in conjunction with innovative career-planning efforts in the College of Arts & Sciences, will better prepare students to understand their value, meet the challenges of the workplace, and engage meaningfully with critical sectors of society.

Implementation Timeline

By fall 2026, the literacy-based approach will extend to all A&S courses, career advising and preparation, and assessment tools. Ahead of that, the launch will progress through five phases:

Phase 1: Explore, Refine, Develop (SP22-FL23)

Develop and refine intellectual rationale through retreats, conferences, guest speakers; hire Director of Curricular Innovation; draft workable definitions of each literacy and guidelines for course integration through the concentrated efforts of ten A&S Literacies Fellows; issue call for grants to identify early adopters

Phase 2: PROTOTYPE (SP23-SU23)

Build cohorts of early adopters; develop early adopter FL23 and SP24 literacy-based courses; revise A&S course evaluation template for courses that have adopted literacies; start planning with advising programs and Career Center; explore capstone

Phase 3: PILOT (AY23-24)

Launch early adopter pilot courses; cohorts continue; adjust and refine definitions and guidelines with feedback from early adopters; pilot integration of literacies into four-year advising; develop assessment tools

Phase 4: SCALE UP (SU24-SP25)

Socialize literacies through faculty meetings, town halls, lecture series; facilitate faculty learning communities and workshops; configure literacies in Workday Student for rolling go-live with first launch in Sept. 2024

Phase 5: FIRST-YEAR AND INTRO COURSES (AY25-26)

Offer literacy-based first-year and 100/200-level courses; complete integration of literacies into four-year advising; continue to facilitate faculty learning communities and workshops with the aim of fully extending the literacy-based approach to all A&S courses, advising, and assessment tools in fall 2026

Four Overlapping Objectives

Encourage students to prepare thoughtfully and intentionally for their future careers by capitalizing on the strengths of their liberal arts education

Enable students to imagine and build future lives of meaning and impact

Equip students with long-term tools for navigating the world’s complex problems in informed and nuanced ways

Produce graduates who are ready and able to act as a positive force in the world

The initiative will foster awareness of the larger objectives of a liberal arts education and build tools for students to track their progress as they gain literacies and competencies over time. 

Faculty and students in Arts & Sciences will be encouraged to reframe how they regard the liberal arts curriculum. Literacies for Life and Career will:

  • Ask faculty to identify, augment, and signpost particular literacies that may exceed the subject matter or disciplinary focus of a course, thus making students more aware that they are also gaining broad, practically applicable literacies and competencies.
  • Integrate a literacy-based approach into existing courses within the Arts & Sciences curriculum.
  • Create new courses that are intentionally structured around the achievement of particular literacies or that combine disciplinary areas and diverse literacies through innovative modes of engagement such as:
    • Experiential learning
    • Capstone projects
    • Internships
    • Study trips and other international experiences
  • Build into the existing comprehensive four-year advising practice exercises in which students articulate and reflect on their acquisition of literacies, with the eventual goal of enabling them to craft a narrative about the knowledge and skills they have gained, which they can then take into their post-graduate lives and offer to potential employers.

Advisory Committee

The role of the Advisory Committee is to facilitate communication between various units across the university and to ensure that Literacies for Life and Career aligns with the objectives of the other undergraduate schools as well as with the Washington University Strategic Plan.

  • Tim Bono, Associate Dean and Director of Research & Analytics (Student Affairs), Lecturer in Psychological & Brain Sciences (A&S)
  • Mimi Calter, Vice Provost and University Librarian
  • Megan Daschbach, Teaching Professor of Chemistry (A&S)
  • Kurt Dirks, Senior Advisor to the Chancellor for Leadership, Bank of America Professor of Leadership (Olin School of Business)
  • Meg Gregory, Associate Director for Faculty Programs and Services (Center for Teaching and Learning)
  • Amy Hauft, Director of the College & Graduate School of Art, Jane Reuter Hitzeman and Herbert F. Hitzeman, Jr. Professor of Art (Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts)
  • Grace Chapin James, Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions (Office of Undergraduate Admissions)
  • Andrew Knight, Vice Dean for Education and Globalization, Professor of Organizational Behavior (Olin School of Business)
  • Carol Moakley, Associate Director, Career Development (Career Center)
  • Shanti Parikh, Chair and Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology and of African and African-American Studies, Pillar Champion for “Expand Student Literacies and Engagement Through the Liberal Arts” (A&S)
  • Jay Turner, Vice Dean for Education, James McKelvey Professor of Engineering Education (McKelvey School of Engineering)
  • Abram van Engen, Chair and Professor of English (A&S)
  • Heather Woofter, Director of the College of Architecture, Sam and Marilyn Fox Professor (Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts)

Co-Directors

Faculty and Staff Engagement

Literacies Fellows for Fall 2022

Humanities
Jami Ake, Teaching Professor, The Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities
Ji-Eun Lee, Associate Professor of Korean Language and Literature, Head of the Korean Section, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Alexander Stefaniak, Head of Musicology, Associate Professor of Musicology, Department of Music

Social Sciences
Talia Dan-Cohen, Associate Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology, Department of Anthropology
Mungai Mutonya, Teaching Professor, Kenya Summer Program Coordinator, Department of African and African American Studies
Sunita Parikh, Associate Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science

Natural Sciences
Bhupal Dev, Assistant Professor of Physics, Department of Physics
José Figueroa-López, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Barbara Kunkel, Professor of Biology, Department of Biology

College Writing
Peter Monahan, Director of the College Writing Program, Teaching Professor in College Writing

Steering Committee

Brian Carpenter, co-lead, Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences
Erin McGlothlin, co-lead, Vice Dean of Undergraduate Affairs & Professor of German and Jewish Studies
Sara Ryu, Director of Academic Initiatives & Special Advisor to the Vice Dean
Jen Smith, Vice Provost for Educational Initiatives & Professor of Earth & Planetary Science

Implementation Staff

Michelle DeLair, Director of Curricular Innovation
Patricia Maurer, Ph.D. Student in Germanic Languages and Literatures & graduate student intern

By drawing students’ attention to the ways in which their coursework transcends their major and indeed even their preparation for a specific career, this approach will make the larger, more holistic goals of their education more transparent to them and assist them in translating the knowledge they have acquired into concrete competencies attractive to future employers.

―Erin McGlothlinVice Dean of Undergraduate Affairs, College of Arts & Sciences