General Education

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General Education

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General Education

Students who graduate from Oakland University have demonstrated success in two programs of study: Their major degree program and OU’s innovative General Education program. Alongside the in-depth study for professional success, the General Education program provides students opportunities to cultivate the skills valued by employers and essential to successful engagement as citizens and members of local and global communities.

The core skills of critical thinking, effective communication, information literacy, and social awareness shape all of the courses offered in our General Education program. Because they are essential to our students’ educational and future success, these core skills are recognized as University Learning Outcomes (ULOs).

  • Critical thinkers are capable of comprehensively exploring issues, ideas, artifacts, and events before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion. They analyze, evaluate, and synthesize relevant information, alternative points of view, inferences, and/or assumptions, in order to arrive at substantiated conclusions.
  • Effective communicators analyze rhetorical situations, adapt their discourse to diverse genres and media, treat their sources and source material ethically, and meet the expectations of a variety of discourse communities in the academy and beyond. They convey ideas, arguments, or analyses clearly and cogently in oral, written, or visual form, and they apply effective communication skills as appropriate to the context and intended audiences.
  • OU graduates are information literate citizens who reflectively find and evaluate information, understand how that information is produced and valued, and use information responsibly and ethically to create new knowledge and participate as lifelong learners in society. They effectively integrate relevant information sources to build new, or add to existing, public or professional understandings.
  • Socially aware citizens demonstrate their intercultural competence and consider the ethical implications of their words, actions, and engagement with or indifference to other communities. They apply principles, methods, value systems, or ethics to social issues confronting local and global communities.

Oakland University’s General Education program has a three-part structure that complements every major, giving students a well-balanced, refined education. Complete requirements are available in the course catalog.

  • Foundations courses prepare students for writing and reasoning in their professional lives.
  • Explorations courses offer understanding of the universe, of society, and of humankind.
  • Integration courses prepare students to solve real world problems.

Foundations courses prepare students for writing and reasoning in their professional lives.


OU students must meet the writing foundations requirement. You'll be introduced to the elements of effective writing and rhetoric. Composition II (WRT 1060) meets this requirement, but students who do not qualify (based on course placement tests) will first need to complete prerequisite courses. See also writing intensive on the Integration tab.

What will I learn?

  • Knowledge of the elements, writing processes and organizing strategies for creating analytical and expository prose
  • Effective rhetorical strategies appropriate to the topic, audience, context and purpose
Formal Reasoning

This area incorporates courses from disciplines such as computer science, mathematics, statistics, linguistics and logic that require students to use formal reasoning systems to model and solve problems. A formal reasoning course must be taken prior to junior standing (56 credits).

What will I learn?

  • Knowledge of one or more formal reasoning systems such as computer programming, mathematics, statistics, linguistics or logic
  • Application of formal reasoning to read, understand, model and solve problems across a variety of applications

OU students are required to take one course in each of the seven knowledge explorations categories outlined below. This is where you'll learn a breadth of knowledge and analytical skills.

While completing each of these courses, keep in mind that some also may count as the diversity requirement (see the Integration tab) and/or the writing intensive requirement (see the Foundations tab).


What will I learn?

  • Knowledge of cultural or historic artistic traditions in visual, auditory, movement, theatrical or cinematic art
  • Knowledge of the role of art as critical commentary on society and as an aesthetic expression of experience
Global Perspective

What will I learn?

  • Knowledge of two or more of the following: environments, political systems, economies, societies, and religions in any region outside of the United States
  • Knowledge of the role that different cultural heritages (past and present) play in forming values in another part of the world, enabling the student to function in a global context
Language and Culture

What will I learn?

  • Knowledge of an additional language and its associated culture
  • Knowledge of linguistic and cultural diversity and the contributions of such diversity to the global society

What will I learn?

  • Knowledge of how literature is an expression of culture
  • Knowledge of literary form
Natural Science and Technology

What will I learn?

  • Knowledge of major concepts from natural science or technology, including developing and testing of hypotheses; drawing conclusions; and reporting of findings and some laboratory experience or an effective substitute
  • How to evaluate sources of information in science or technology
Social Science

What will I learn?

  • Knowledge of concepts, methods and theories designed to enhance understanding of human behavior and/or societies
  • Application of concepts and theories to problems involving individuals, institutions, or nations
Western Civilization

What will I learn?

  • Knowledge of the historical events and/or philosophical ideas of European or American culture
  • Knowledge of how Western ideas or institutions have evolved over time

The knowledge integration area focuses on issues of ethics, the application of knowledge to specific problems, and the relevance of the undergraduate experience to life. 

Knowledge Applications

Explore the ways in which knowledge can be applied in areas outside your own field of study. You'll compare and contrast methods used in your major with those in another field. The course must be outside of your major.

What will I learn?

  • How knowledge in a field outside of the student’s major can be evaluated and applied to solve problems across a range of applications
  • Knowledge of the personal, professional, ethical, and societal implications of these applications

The capstone experience will create an explicit link between general education and your major (or between general education components if you take a general education capstone instead of one in your major). The capstone can be interdisciplinary- or discipline-specific. If taken in the major, it must explicitly address the relevance to the major of a combination of at least three of the general education knowledge areas and capacities to the major.

Although students who change majors may be required to take a second capstone as part of their major, you are only required to meet the general education capstone requirement once.

What will I learn?

  • Appropriate uses of a variety of methods of inquiry and a recognition of ethical considerations that arise
  • The ability to integrate the knowledge learned in general education and its relevance to the student’s life and career
Writing Intensive

Writing intensive courses help students develop advanced writing competency within their major (WIM) and in a discipline outside of their major (WIG). Writing intensive courses require the completion of the writing foundation requirement.

What will I learn?

  • More than one writing format, such as written papers, laboratory reports, abstracts, quizzes, examinations, journals, ungraded writing assignments, writing during class, and writing in small groups
  • Critical inquiry through the writing process, including gathering, interpreting, evaluating, and revising information appropriate to the area of study

View the complete requirements for writing intensive courses.

U.S. Diversity

Make sure one of your general education courses and/or courses for your major also fulfills the diversity requirement. A course can qualify to meet the diversity requirement if one-half of its content deals with issues relating to at least two of the following: race, gender or ethnicity.

What will I learn?

  • Knowledge of how diverse value systems and societal structures are influenced by at least two of the following: race, gender and ethnicity
  • Major challenges and issues these raise in society

U.S. Diversity prepares the student to demonstrate knowledge of how diverse value systems and societal structures in the United States are influenced by at least two of the following: race, gender, and ethnicity identify major challenges and issues these raise in society. Approved diversity courses may double count in the major and/or general education.

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