Core curriculum, UGS enrich learning experience

Michael Jensen

The University of Texas is a diverse campus with thousands of students studying over 170 different majors spread across 13 colleges. Despite divergent interests, every UT student has one thing in common: the University core curriculum. Many students complain that these classes have little to do with their major or post-graduation plans, but such complaints are short-sighted. The core curriculum is a valuable tool ensuring students graduate as well-rounded individuals in a highly competitive world which requires diverse skill sets and perspectives.

The core curriculum is comprised of 42 hours of coursework from several different disciplines that expose students from all majors to new ways of thinking.

Many students have fond memories of these foundational courses. Biochemistry junior Vivian Nguyen said her English literature class was one of the most meaningful and enjoyable classes she’s taken.

“I’d hate to feel like my knowledge of other subjects is dying out, so taking classes outside of my major is a nice refresher and keeps my brain working,” Nguyen said. 

This balanced learning experience might prove critically important later in life, especially since many students will work in fields unrelated to their majors. 

A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that only 27. 3 percent of college graduates work in fields that match their major. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 74 percent of individuals with STEM degrees work in non-STEM occupations. 

Another crucial element of the core curriculum is the undergraduate studies course. These are novel courses meant for first-year students, allowing them to explore interests which may not be related to their field of study. The topics vary, ranging from “Austin Area Environmental Issues” to “Cricket: Sports, Literature and Empire.” 

The benefits of these classes are far-reaching. Social work professor Elizabeth Pomeroy, who teaches a UGS course on mental illness, said she believes her class has introduced her students to new perspectives. 

“[Students] have described the class as ‘a life-changing experience’ that challenges their own perceptions of the mentally ill,” Pomeroy said in an email. “Students often state that they have developed a new level empathy and insight.”

Specialization is important but so is experimentation and breadth of knowledge. The core curriculum is there, partly, to encourage intellectual curiosity.

College is a great time to explore your interests and discover what motivates and inspires you. Even once you figure out what your passion is, understanding how it relates to the passions of others can make your experience richer and more vibrant. The world is infinitely larger and more complex than any individual field of study. 

Michael Jensen is a biology junior. Follow him on Twitter @michaeltangible.