Frequently Asked Questions: Faculty and Staff

This is a section of Frequently Asked Questions from a faculty or staff member’s perspective. It has been collected over the years, and we encourage you to add to the list. Please send questions and answers to webmaster@ls.wisc.edu.

The questions are divided according to which requirement they pertain:

General | Communication | Ethnic Studies | Quantitative Reasoning

Click on a question to see an answer.

General Questions

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WHY GENERAL EDUCATION?

WHO NEEDS TO FULFILL THE GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS?

Matriculation date is either:

  • if UW-Madison is the first post-secondary institution the student has attended, the day the student entered UW-Madison is the matriculation date.
  • if the student has attended another post-secondary institution, the evaluation of transfer credits will help determine the matriculation date. For students who entered between May 20, 1996 and Summer 1999, their first college matriculation date is given on the credit evaluation. For students entering Summer 1999 or later, the exemption action for General Education is indicated if their first matriculation was prior to the implementation of the General Education Requirements; however, the matriculation date may not appear on the credit evaluation report.

DO STUDENTS SEEKING A SECOND UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE NEED TO FULFILL THE GEN ED REQUIREMENTS?

WHERE DO STUDENTS GO TO TAKE THE MATH OR ENGLISH PLACEMENT TEST?

HOW IS THE GENERAL EDUCATION PROGRAM ASSESSED AT UW-MADISON?

More information about UW-Madison’s assessment efforts may be found online on the Outcomes Assessment website, hosted by the Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.  This site offers links to all of UW-Madison’s documents on assessment, including the continuously updated UW-Madison Assessment Manual.

I'M INTERESTED IN UNDERGRADUATE GENERAL EDUCATION. HOW CAN I CONTRIBUTE?

While the College of Letters and Science serves as the campus trustee for general education matters, UGEC members are drawn from across all UW-Madison schools and colleges that serve undergraduate students. Approximately nine faculty/academic staff serve rotating three year appointments; they are joined by other faculty and staff who serve as ex officio members due to their particular responsibilities vis-a-vis the General Education requirements. The Committee generally holds two to three meetings per semester, at meeting times established based on members’ schedules.

Anyone interested in serving on the UGEC can contact the committee chair, Elaine Klein (Director of General Education and L&S Assistant Dean for Academic Planning: emklein@ls.wisc.edu), or their dean, who can nominate members by contacting Dean Gary Sandefur (gsandefur@ls.wisc.edu).

Communication Questions

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WHO IS REQUIRED TO COMPLETE THE COMMUNICATION A REQUIREMENT?

WHAT COURSES FULFILL THE COMMUNICATION A REQUIREMENT?

CAN STUDENTS RECEIVE DEGREE CREDIT FOR MORE THAN ONE COMMUNICATION A COURSE?

This change in policy acknowledges that students who receive course credit by AP exam or transfer might still wish to take and benefit from taking a Communication A course while they are at UW-Madison.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMMUNICATION A AND COMMUNICATION B?

CAN STUDENTS WHO MISS THE LIBRARY COMPONENT IN COMM-A MAKE IT UP SOMEHOW?

WHAT COURSES FULFILL THE COMMUNICATION B REQUIREMENT?

WHAT ARE THE PURPOSES AND GOALS OF COMMUNICATION B COURSES?

WHAT GUIDELINES DO I NEED TO FOLLOW WHEN DEVELOPING A COMM-B COURSE?

They should contact Associate Dean Elaine Klein (elaine.klein@wisc.edu), Associate Dean for L&S Academic Planning and Chair of the Undergraduate General Education Committee if they have questions about possible support for such courses.

I HEARD THE CRITERIA FOR COMM-B COURSES CHANGED - DO I NEED TO CHANGE MY COURSE?

WHAT IS A BASCOM COURSE?

DOES A WHOLE COURSE HAVE TO OFFERED AS COMMUNICATION B? DOES A COURSE HAVE TO BE OFFERED AS A COMMUNICATION B COURSE EACH SEMESTER AFTER IT IS APPROVED?

WHAT ARE THE ENROLLMENT GUIDELINES FOR A COMM-B COURSE? HOW MANY STUDENTS ARE WE (FACULTY, LECTURERS, TEACHING ASSISTANTS) EXPECTED TO TEACH PER LECTURE OR DISCUSSION SECTION?

IS THERE ANY SPECIAL TRAINING FOR INSTRUCTORS AND TEACHING ASSISTANTS OF COMMUNICATION B COURSES?

IF MY DEPARTMENT HAS A "TOPICS" COURSE THAT HAS BEEN APPROVED AS COMM-B, DO I NEED TO GO BACK TO THE COMMUNICATION IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE FOR APPROVAL OF EACH NEW TOPIC?

WHAT ARE WRITING INTENSIVE COURSES AND HOW DO THEY FIT IN THE GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS?

Quantitative Reasoning Questions

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WHO IS REQUIRED TO COMPLETE THE QUANTITATIVE REASONING A REQUIREMENT?

Credit granted on the basis of AP scores or college level credit earned while the student is in high school may also be presented to fulfill or be exempted from QR-A.

ARE MATH COURSES THE ONLY COURSES THAT MEET THE QR-A AND QR-B REQUIREMENTS?

While most QR-A courses are offered through the Math Department, students may also choose to complete Philosophy 210 (Reason in Communication) to fulfill the QR-A requirement. Additionally, one of the Math courses that fulfills the QR-A requirement, Math 141, is intended for students who do not plan to complete any further college level mathematics courses.QR-B courses are offered by a wide range of departments, a full list of which can be found in the Course Guide. Criteria and guidelines for both QR-A and QR-B courses are outlined in the QR course criteria.

WHAT GUIDELINES DO I NEED TO FOLLOW WHEN DEVELOPING A QR-B COURSE?

The criteria for Quantitative Reasoning courses was originally set forth by the Quantitative Reasoning Implementation Committee. Instructors interested in creating a new QR-B course or revising a current course to meet the criteria should contact Professor Shirin Malekpour (malekpou@math.wisc.edu) of the Mathematics Department who serves as the liaison for Quantitative Reasoning to discuss any questions they may have about the criteria.

CAN YOU CLARIFY THE QR TRANSFER POLICY?

  1. A student who is given transfer credit (or AP credit, or credit based on a departmental exam) for a course that equates to a QR-A course has satisfied QR-A. In the case of Math 141, this would mean a non-remedial QR course at another institution. This does NOT mean that transfer credit for a QR-B course implies that a student has satisfied QR-A, except as described below.
  2. A student who is given transfer credit (or AP credit or credit based on a departmental exam) for a MATH course that equates to a UW-Madison QR-B Math course is presumed to have also satisfied the QR-A requirement. Completing or receiving transfer credit for any other QR-B course does NOT mean that the student has completed or been exempted from the QR-A requirement.
  3. If a student transfers from within the UW System, then she or he as (presumably) taken the UWS placement exam. This can be used to determine QR-A exemption by evaluating whether the scores are high enough to place into MATH 114 or beyond.
  4. If neither (a), (b) or (c) holds, transfer students should take the placement exam and their QR placement will be determined on the basis of their placement scores (or they can forgo the placement exam and take the QR-A course). It is our recommendation that transfer students who have not already taken the UWS placement exam and who have not transferred a Math course that exempts them from QR-A should be required to take the placement exam.

Special note: Because there was some confusion about QR-A and -B policy for transfer students, those who were admitted between Summer 1996 and Semester II, 1997-98 were informed that they were exempt from QR-A based on completion of a non-math QR-B course. These exemptions were honored. After that time, transfer students who are given credit for a QR-B certified non-Math course but not a QR-B certified Math course no longer receive QR-A exemption.

IF STUDENTS COMPLETE A QR-B COURSE, ARE THEY AUTOMATICALLY EXEMPT FROM QR-A?

Ethnic Studies Questions

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WHY DO WE HAVE THIS REQUIREMENT?

As with other General Education Requirements, the ESR is implemented via a list of courses that have been reviewed by a committee of faculty who determine whether the courses proposed meet a specific set of criteria. Courses that meet the criteria are designated in the Catalog and Timetable with an “e”.

WHAT ARE THE LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR ETHNIC STUDIES COURSES?

In addition to whatever outcomes are expected for the specific content of the course, four overarching, “Ethnic Studies” learning outcomes were identified.

As a result of taking a course that has been reviewed by the faculty committee, and designated as an Ethnic Studies Course, students should:

Be Aware of History’s Impact on the Present – Ethnic Studies courses highlight how certain histories have been valued and devalued, and how these differences have promulgated disparities in contemporary American society.

Be Able to Recognize and Question Assumptions – Ethnic Studies courses promote recognition and application of critical thinking skills, specifically with respect to teaching students to harbor a healthy skepticism towards knowledge claims, whether in the form of media, political, or popular representations, primarily as these relate to race and ethnicity. As part of this process, the ESR should challenge students to question their own assumptions and preconceived notions on these topics.

Be Conscious of “Self” and “Other” – Awareness of self is inextricably linked with awareness of and empathy towards the perspectives of others. In constructing a space for this kind of discussion in their classrooms, Ethnic Studies courses give students an opportunity to think about identity issues, including their own identity, as well as the connections they might have to people “outside” their focused social circle.

Be Able to Participate Effectively in a Multicultural Society – Ethnic Studies courses should be relevant to students’ “lives outside the classroom”, and pursuing the objectives above should not only lead to student behavioral change, but to action in the real world. The ESR should ultimately engender in students the ability to participate in a multicultural society more effectively, respectfully, and meaningfully. This participation may be as mundane as simply being able to discuss issues related to race with a colleague or friend, or to recognize inequities in interpersonal, institutional, or other contexts.

Participants in these discussions noted, too, that the ESR, in keeping with UW-Madison’s tradition of exposing students to a diverse array of subject matter, helps to educate students about the presence and legitimacy of a variety of academic disciplines and topics that they may otherwise not have encountered.

WHY WAS THE ESR REVIEWED AND REVISED?

The requirement states:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is committed to fostering an understanding and appreciation of diversity, in the belief that doing so will:

  • Better prepare students for life and careers in an increasingly multicultural US environment,
  • Add breadth and depth to the University curriculum, and
  • Improve the campus climate.

One of the University’s overarching goals is to infuse the curriculum in all disciplines with diversity, including those where traditionally it has been absent. The Ethnic Studies Requirement (ESR) is one of several key elements in reaching this goal. This is a requirement that all students take a 3-credit course that considers ethnic/racial minorities that have been marginalized or discriminated against in the U.S. Because issues of ethnic diversity and religion are often intertwined and cannot easily be separated, courses that focus on religion may, where appropriate, fulfill the ESR.

All courses that the implementation committee approves as satisfying the requirement must provide evidence that the course material illuminates the circumstances, conditions, and experiences of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. (Adopted by the UAPC January 23, 2003)

The ethnic studies requirement is intended to increase understanding of the culture and contributions of persistently marginalized racial or ethnic groups in the United States, and to equip students to respond constructively to issues connected with our pluralistic society and global community.

The review committee’s recommendations were approved (with one amendment) by the University Academic Planning Council (UAPC), which is empowered in FPP 6.52 with the responsibility for addressing academic issues crossing school and college lines. Since the College of Letters and Science houses most of the courses and faculty responsible for fielding the requirement, the UAPC also charged the Dean of L&S to implement the recommendations on its behalf. Dean Certain convened the Ethnic Studies Implementation Committee (ESIC), which undertook the review of the ethnic studies course array.

The Final Report of the Ethnic Studies Implementation Committee was submitted to the University Academic Planning Council for consideration in Spring 2005. In that report, the committee presented the results of its review of the courses that, as of September 2003, carried the ESR or “e” designation. Many of these courses continue to carry that course attribute; several courses had the attribute removed (either because the course no longer met the criteria, or at department or faculty request). In addition, many new courses are now designated as ESR courses. In the course of conducting its work, the ESIC found it useful to articulate a set of descriptive guidelines that are founded on the ESR criteria discussed above. These guidelines were developed to help reviewers evaluate those few courses that may fall on the borderlines between being acceptable as ESR courses, and those that are not. The UAPC accepted the committee’s conclusions, and endorsed the use of these descriptive guidelines.

Per the ESIC’s recommendation, the administration and review of ESR courses has now been delegated formally to the University General Education Committee, which oversees all of the other university wide requirements undergraduate students must complete.

WHO REVIEWS COURSES TO SEE IF THEY SHOULD CARRY ESR CREDIT? HOW CAN I GET MY COURSE REVIEWED?

Instructions for seeking review of potential ethnic studies courses are available on this website at the New General Education Courses webpage. The process adds one additional layer of review to the usual process for creating new or changing existing courses, General Education Committee review. Once a course addition/change is approved by the department, the next step is to submit a New Course or Course Change form (accompanied by a syllabus) via the online course proposal system. The online system will automatically route the proposal (which will carry the request for a General Education designation) through the appropriate review process: the offering school/college curriculum committee, University Curriculum Committee and General Education Committee.  The proposal system communicates each committee’s determination to involved parties, and final approval to the Registrar’s Office.

If you have questions about the process, please feel free to contact Dr. Elaine M. Klein at emklein@ls.wisc.edu.

MY COURSE USED TO CARRY ETHNIC STUDIES DESIGNATION; NOW IT DOES NOT. CAN I APPLY FOR RECONSIDERATION?

IF A STUDENT TOOK AN ETHNIC STUDIES COURSE BEFORE FALL 2005, AND THAT COURSE HAS SINCE BEEN REMOVED FROM THE LIST; WILL S/HE STILL GET ESR CREDIT FOR IT?

DO STUDENTS NEED THREE CREDITS OF ETHNIC STUDIES? OR JUST ONE ETHNIC STUDIES COURSE?

  • Students who matriculated (entered) the university before Fall 2005 need 3 credits of coursework in Ethnic Studies designated courses.
  • Students who matriculate in Fall 2005 need to take one 3-credit course designated as Ethnic Studies.

CAN "TOPICS" COURSES CARRY ETHNIC STUDIES DESIGNATION?

The “topics” course mechanism allows departments and programs to offer a variety of courses under a standard number, usually with the title, “Topics in [Subject]”; often, these course listings are used to test and refine new courses as they’re being developed, or to provide members of the faculty a chance to teach in an area of specialty not usually found among the regular course listings. Since the content of topics courses varies from offering to offering, it is usually inappropriate for such courses to carry the Ethnic Studies designation, since there is no way for the Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) to discriminate between when the designation is appropriate and when it is not. A few departments and programs that focus much of their attention on issues related to ethnic studies and often develop new courses in those areas have been granted permission to create “Ethnic Studies Topics” courses, with the understanding that only topics that meet the criteria for ethnic studies courses will be allowed to be taught under those numbers.