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General Education Courses

Click here for a complete list of curriculum requirements.

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:

  1. Psychology and Human Development
  2. Arts, Writing, and Literature
  3. Global Studies, History, and Culture
  4. Environmental Studies and Sustainability
  5. Education
  6. 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.


Conceptual Framework:

The education concentration is designed for students who are not seeking teacher licensure but who are interested in exploring educational issues from an interdisciplinary liberal arts perspective. (For teacher licensure, see following section.) The field encompasses a variety of topics in the social, psychological, political, cultural, and economic dimensions of education. A primary area of focus is the complex relationship between the purposes and effects of schooling. Within this broad category students investigate such topics as: the role of schools in a diverse democracy; the relationships among families, communities, and schools; elite education vs. universal access; adult education; content mastery vs. the construction of knowledge and meaning; and the effects of local, state, and federal policies on student achievement. Students explore such issues through reading, research, experiential learning, reflection, and critical analysis.

Core knowledge:

Students will develop an awareness of the methodological lenses available in the various social sciences to examine educational issues and will be conversant with the various ways that researchers use evidence to draw conclusions. They will become familiar enough with both quantitative and qualitative methods to act as sophisticated consumers of education research and program evaluation.

Theories and Concepts
Students will describe the fundamental concepts of teaching and learning and will trace various instructional approaches to their theoretical roots. Because our program draws inspiration from the work of philosopher John Dewey and constructivist models of learning and human development, students are expected to be particularly knowledgeable about progressive education.

Students will understand the evolution of educational theory and practice over time and the changing role of schools in democratic societies. Multiple perspectives on the purposes and effects of schooling will facilitate critical analysis of past and present reform efforts.

Students will describe current debates in educational policy and classroom practice and will develop the tools to analyze competing claims about the effectiveness of interventions and improvement efforts.

Students will draw on the skills developed in the areas described above to investigate and evaluate important issues in education. They will demonstrate the ability to access information from reliable resources and will use them to critically analyze the issue under study.

Representative Outcomes:

  • Explain current controversies in education and critically analyze the implications of current school reform efforts.
  • Apply principles of human development to an examination of classroom practice and curriculum development.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the role of education in a democracy and identify the tensions inherent in the dual functions of increasing access to equal opportunity and contributing to social stratification through sorting and selection mechanisms.