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Curriculum and Concentrations

To earn the B.A. degree with a major in Liberal Studies, students must develop and complete a coherent curriculum with a concentration of at least 30 semester hours (15 of which may be transfer credit).

The chosen concentration is designed to ensure depth of learning beyond the introductory level.

The concentrations are:

  • Psychology and Human Development
  • Arts, Writing, and Literature
  • Global Studies, History, and Culture
  • Environmental Studies and Sustainability
  • Education
  • Self-Designed

The Six Concentrations: Conceptual Framework and Core Knowledge

Union Institute and University offers the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. All students will earn a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. Students choose a concentration within that major. Each concentration addresses five dimensions of learning appropriate to the concentration: Methods, Theories and Concepts, History/Context, Controversies and Application. These dimensions are referenced in each of the concentration descriptions below, some directly and some indirectly. For further information, please consult a core faculty member in the concentration.


Demonstrate understanding of the social context and/or historical background of the concentration as it has emerged and is practiced.

Theories and Concepts:

Demonstrate comprehension of theories, concepts, questions, and/or viewpoints relevant to the concentration.


Understand and apply basic methods of inquiry relevant to the concentration.


Recognize contemporary and historical controversies relevant to the concentration.


Demonstrate an ability to apply principles and methods of the concentration in a real world setting.

Students are encouraged to think not only about their concentration but also about all their independent studies and seminars in terms of these dimensions. Even if the study is not part of one’s concentration, it will still address theories, concepts, methods, etc. in the topic area. Although all five outcomes will probably not be addressed each term in each study or seminar, a study or seminar ordinarily will address two or three of these outcomes, depending on how the topic and its study are structured.

Psychology and Human Development

Conceptual Framework:

Broadly defined, the concentration in psychology and human development focuses on the growth and development of individuals through the life course. Students are encouraged to formulate relevant questions and learn how these questions can be conceptualized and examined from a psychological perspective. Studies examine individuals’ behaviors, characteristics, attitudes, and psychological problems. Such study necessarily embeds individuals in their social contexts, whether that is families, small groups, schools, subcultures, or the larger society and culture. It can and does incorporate applications aimed at solving or ameliorating individual and social problems.

The psychology and human development concentration encourages a multidisciplinary approach to the examination of psychological questions. Such inquiry may include the biological, cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of human behavior and mental processes.

Core knowledge:

The core knowledge of this concentration occurs in the following domains:

  • Methods The development of questions and hypotheses appropriate to psychological inquiry and the tools for constructing knowledge (for example, observational and experimental methods, uses of interviews, surveys, questionnaires, tests).
  • Theories and Concepts
    Theoretical systems, philosophical underpinnings, and key ideas addressed in an individual study and in the field of psychology more generally.
  • History/Context
    The beginnings and evolution over time of psychology as a field of study, situating it with respect to other disciplinary approaches.
  • Controversies
    Recognizes multiple perspectives and approaches within psychology and between psychology and related fields. Where are there disagreements within this field of study and between psychology and other fields? What are the social, ethical, and historical relevance of these controversies?
  • Applications
  • The study of methods aimed at ameliorating individual and social problems through psychological understanding and intervention. Also asks student to consider how the new learning is applied in the student’s life, family, and/or community.

History, theories, methods, controversies and applications may be elaborated on and understood through an array of study topics including any of the following areas of inquiry:

  • Psychology as a discipline (history, methods of inquiry, tools of inquiry, the science of behavior and what that means – e.g., findings arrived at via scientific method, hypotheses, testing theories, revising based on new findings).
  • Psychology focused on development: growth- and age-related aspects and processes – e.g., in infancy, preschool, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and elderly individuals.
  • Psychology and health (wellness, mind-body, disorders, stress, substance abuse, bodily functions, eating, sleeping, dreaming, sexuality).
  • Psychology as a method of healing (individual and group psychotherapy and counseling, medication, alternative treatments, mind/body issues, spiritual healing).
  • Psychology focused on cognition and cognitive science (brain and behavior, consciousness, perception, attention, memory, language, thinking, reasoning, learning).
  • Psychology focused on personality (the self, motivation, emotion and feeling, individual differences).
  • Psychology focused on social contexts and interactions (social roles, social cognition, social comparison, behavior in groups, crowd behavior, communication, competition, aggression, and conformity).
  • Non-western and other models (cross-cultural, Buddhist psychology, ecopsychology, transpersonal psychology).
Note: Content in parentheses is illustrative and not exclusive.

Representative Outcomes:

  • The student describes at least two theories of development or personality; compares and contrasts them; and explains her/his own preferences or conclusions and why. The student demonstrates understanding of and an ability to use concepts accurately.
  • The student explains at least two different methods of gathering data and arriving at findings and articulates why and how each method is appropriate for the question being addressed.
  • The student describes an application of psychological knowledge that shows how it uses psychological research and theories and articulates the strengths and weaknesses of the application.

Degree: B.A. - Liberal Studies
Credits: 120
Transfer up to 78 credits
Min Time: 42 credits (3.5 terms)
Start Dates: Jan, May, Sept

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