A competency-based education: global perspective, critical thinking, aesthetic response. What does the ability to use these skills contribute to a degree in integrative studies? The School of Integrative Studies believes that a successful undergraduate education requires more than an ability to master complex bodies of knowledge.

Throughout their years as undergraduates, our students pursue excellence in eight competencies, each one essential to the transfer of knowledge from classroom practice to real-life problems. Learning communities and courses in the School of Integrative Studies incorporate several competencies imaginatively into the curriculum. Students demonstrate their growing mastery of the competencies through assignments, projects, reflection, self-assessment and the creation of portfolios.


Communication is the process of creating and sharing meaning through human interaction. A competent communicator will be able to:

  • Speak, read, write and listen effectively, with attention to audience, purpose and context.
  • Use appropriate language, nonverbal and visual symbols.
  • Organize ideas and information strategically.
  • Design, revise and produce work tailored to diverse audiences.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a habit of mind characterized by the comprehensive exploration of issues, ideas, artifacts, and events before accepting or formulating a judgment or conclusion.  Someone who is a good critical thinker will be able to:

  • Explore the issues and identify any problems to be solved.
  • Identify and evaluate relevant, valid information and evidence.
  • Understand the influence of context and assumptions.
  • Summarize and synthesize key issues.
  • Articulate his or her own position using evidence-based arguments.
  • Design and implement problem solving plans. 

Group Collaboration

Group collaboration is the process of working toward a shared agenda and/or common purpose while capitalizing on the diversity within the group.  Effective group collaboration means that students should be able to:

  • Create shared expectations and a common purpose.
  • Understand and choose roles and tasks.
  • Make decisions and track progress collaboratively.
  • Facilitate constructive consensus-building, compromise and conflict.
  • Integrate individual talents and strengths toward the accomplishment of goals and tasks.
  • Be inclusive and value the diversity of the group.

Global Understanding

Global understanding is the respect for and appreciation of the interconnections among biocultural systems. Global understanding includes the ability to:

  • Appreciate and apply diverse perspectives, ways of knowing, and values.
  • Analyze the complexity of the interconnectedness of local and global communities politically, economically, socially, and culturally.
  • Understand and respect various life forms and the environment.
  • Recognize and address the global implications of human, environmental, and economic exploitation.

Civic Engagement

Civic engagement is practice based on an informed understanding of communities and the roles and responsibilities of individuals within those communities. Students will:

  • Develop the ability to examine contemporary issues and their historical contexts.
  • Recognize and value multiple perspectives in civic life.
  • Understand how actions are shaped by multiple forces, including values, and economic and social inequity.
  • Make informed choices regarding personal community involvement, social justice issues and leadership roles. 
  • Work collaboratively with diverse partners to solve problems for a common good

Digital Literacy

As information and communication technologies permeate more and more aspects of personal, professional and civic life, students need to be able to apply and critique existing and emerging technologies.  Competence in digital literacy requires that students will be able to:

  • Research, evaluate and apply the digital information and communication tools and platforms appropriate to each activity undertaken.
  • Demonstrate a readiness to learn new information communication technology (ICT) confidently and independently in the creation of original digital work.
  • Integrate existing personal and networked ICTs with emerging tools and platforms.
  • Understand and ethically resolve the privacy, security, accessibility and identity-management issues associated with the integration of digital literacy into everyday life.

Aesthetic Awareness

Aesthetic awareness encourages individuals to develop intellectual and emotional responses to nature or human creativity.  An aesthetically aware person can:

  • Understand the historical, social, political, environmental or gendered contexts of specific created works.
  • Appreciate the complex processes of creative expression in multiple forms and media.
  • Recognize and explore the transformative potential of creativity in effecting societal change.
  • Value creative expression and the natural world to enrich everyday life.


Well-being is the life-long experience of life satisfaction, happiness, and purpose.  Students will:

  • Develop insights and habits of regularly assessing one’s own quality of life.
  • Develop self-efficacy and control over one’s own life.
  • Effectively self-manage stress and anxiety.
  • Find equanimity, peacefulness, and resiliency in the face of adversity.
  • Develop imaginative and inclusive ways to solve problems.
  • Create and sustain positive relationships and social support.
  • Demonstrate prosocial behaviors and emotions (e.g., compassion, joy, gratitude, cooperation).