GE Redesign: Program Objectives

All undergraduates at USC satisfy the University’s General Education Program, providing a well rounded background in critical thinking designed to nurture habits of thought and a desire for lifelong learning.

The requirements of the USC General Education Program make up a challenging,  multifaceted curriculum that encourages intellectual inquiry, reflection, and scholarship with consequence.  It is designed to help students become resilient and competitive leaders of the future by promoting engagement, fostering mutual understanding, and encouraging citizenship in a global context.

In major and minor coursework, students focus on an area of intellectual inquiry in depth, studying the fields that comprise the discipline, its founding principles, research methods, central questions and practical applications. The General Education Program complements that depth by preparing students to be generally well educated adults who can function as informed citizens of the twenty-first century, understanding its challenges and participating in the popular intellectual debates of their time.

Toward that end, students must develop some sense of the complexity of issues. In General Education courses, they learn to think critically about the texts they read and the analyses they are offered to decide whether conceptions proposed in written, verbal, or digital form represent the best among competing perspectives. Students learn to move between conceptual frames,  to evaluate contrasting ideas, to consider what is being assumed and what might alternatively  be argued.

To do this effectively, the General Education Program provides context for the learning that takes place in more specialized programs across the campus. Students gain familiarity with the traditions informing contemporary culture (from democratic Athens and Republican Rome to imperial Beijing and Edo) as well as the new responsibilities and obligations of citizenship in our interdependent global society. In encountering arguments that reach across a range of disciplines, students need to understand the assumptions shared by practitioners of each discipline, the research methods they consider reliable, and the conclusions that are generally shared or debated.  No program of study can provide all the context necessary, but students should learn enough about the criteria for what is held to be true so that they can articulate sensible doubts at key moments in an argument.

As the world becomes more interconnected, so does the need for critical thought in all its  guises: as self- reflection, moral discernment, appreciation of diversity, aesthetic sensibility, civility, reconciliation and empathy across all spheres of life. The General Education Program has been designed to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the challenges of a complex world and the demands of a satisfying personal life. To benefit the  most from the opportunity provided, students should reach beyond their comfort zones to engage unfamiliar questions and angles of response, thereby broadening their range of intellectual talents.


Proposed GE Administrative Details:

(1)    No more than one GE course may be taken on a P/NP basis.

(2)    Every transfer student must complete at least two GE courses at USC.

(3)    The requirement in any category can be satisfied by appropriate transfer coursework completed prior to matriculation at USC. Course approvals will be granted by the Articulation Office.

(4)    Following a student’s matriculation at USC no coursework taken out of residence can satisfy a GE requirement.

(5)    The standing GE Committee will grant approval for study-abroad and special session courses (e.g., Problems Without Passports, Marshall World Bachelor in Business, or Maymester courses) that satisfy GE requirements. Course standards and learning objectives should match those for regular- session courses.

(6)    A limited set of AP examinations, passed with a score of 4 or 5, can satisfy GE require-ments. The set of allowed examinations will be determined by the Fall 2013 subcommittees charged with vetting existing and new USC courses.

(7)    A regular system of GE course review will be established to ensure that syllabi and grading standards meet the objectives of the program.


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    USC Office of the Provost
    University of Southern California
    Bovard Administration Building 203
    3551 Trousdale Parkway
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-4019
    Phone: 213-740-2101