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The Common Experience

In this Section

     Effective for students entering as freshman in the fall semester of 2006, Clarkson University's general education requirements were redefined and henceforth were referred to as "The Common Experience".



A Clarkson education prepares each student for today's world and tomorrow's challenges. All Clarkson students who enter with the Class of 2010 and later1 are required to meet the learning expectations of the Clarkson Common Experience, which integrates each student's learning in a major field of study with learning expectations that broaden the student's understanding of our modern world. Each Clarkson graduate achieves objectives in fundamental academic abilities, in personal and social development, and in prescribed areas of knowledge.

Learning Expectations of the Common Experience

Each Clarkson graduate will achieve academic abilities that include:

  • mastery of a major field of study,
  • effective communication in oral, written and technological forms,
  • critical and imaginative thinking, and
  • problem solving skills using both quantitative and qualitative reasoning where appropriate.

Each graduate is also expected to experience personal and social development that includes:

  • an increased understanding of and insight into his or her own behavior,
  • an appreciation of the need for self-motivated, life-long learning,
  • an increased social awareness and interpersonal competence, including an appreciation for the value of experiencing diversity, and
  • an understanding of and recognition of the need for personal, societal and professional ethics.

Knowledge is the essence of a university education, and each Clarkson graduate is expected to become knowledgeable beyond his or her major field in these areas:

  • the nature of cultures and societies,
  • contemporary and global issues,
  • the imaginative arts and their role in society,
  • science and technology, including their relationship to society and their impact on the environment,
  • economic and organizational concepts and decision-making, and
  • methods for studying and explaining individual and group behavior.

The Clarkson Common Experience

The Clarkson Common Experience provides a common set of learning expectations and outcomes for all Clarkson students. To achieve these outcomes, each student is required to complete a set of courses and a professional experience. Coursework consists of required and elective courses both from within a student's major field and from across the spectrum of all disciplines in the university.

Embodied in the Common Experience are four components that serve as common threads:

  • learning to communicate effectively,
  • developing an appreciation for diversity in both working and living environments,
  • recognizing the importance of personal, societal, and professional ethics, and
  • understanding how technology can be used to serve humanity.

Each of these components is introduced early in the curriculum, reinforced in subsequent courses, and included in upper division courses.


The Communication Component:To develop excellent communication skills, Clarkson requires communication-intensive coursework, first in the Clarkson seminar, then across the curriculum and in the major. Courses designated as communication intensive are assigned points on a scale of one or two (C1 or C2) to indicate the extent of communication experience in that course. Beyond the Clarkson Seminar, students must obtain six more "communication points," at least two of them within the major at the 300/400 level. Communication points can be obtained by taking designated courses, or, with approval, through co-curricular experiences. Depending on initial abilities and background, students may also be required to enroll in a course that provides writing instruction and support for the Clarkson Seminar.

Clarkson places a strong emphasis on developing students' abilities to communicate effectively in a variety of contexts using diverse forms of communication. Students must select coursework and possibly extracurricular activities that carry a total of at least six communication points. Courses and activities with a communication component will carry either one or two points. At least two points must come from within the student's major discipline in a 300/400 level course.