Essential Education FAQs

What is Essential Education at Graceland?

Graceland's Essential Education curriculum is designed to prepare students for a life of inquiry, analysis, discovery, problem solving, effective communication and innovation.

For more details, visit the Essential Education web page.

What are the Student Learning Outcomes for the Essential Education program?

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) identify what a student should know or be able to do as a result of completing a particular course of study. Graceland's Essential Education curriculum has six Student Learning Outcomes. They are:

  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Ethical Thinking and Action
  • Global Learning
  • Knowledge of Human Cultures
  • Knowledge of Physical and Natural World

What are the five themes?

Graceland's Essential Education curriculum has five themes. They are:

What are the courses that make up the Essential Education curriculum?

Each of the five themes has courses in its curriculum unique to that theme. Click here for a list of the courses by theme.

What is the course work required for each specific theme?

Click on any one of the themes to see the complete list of coursework for that theme:

Do I have to complete an Essential Education theme?
For students who come to Graceland for the 2017-2018 academic year, completion of a theme is encouraged, but not required to satisfy the Essential Education requirements. However, students entering Graceland for the 2017-2018 academic year do have to complete the new Essential Education curriculum.

If I complete a theme, what appears on my transcript?
If you complete one of the Essential Education themes, your transcript will include the following notation: "Concentration: Essential Education Curriculum (name of theme, e.g. Sustainability) Theme."

What's the process for selecting a theme?
While themes are not required for students following the new Essential Education curriculum in 2017-2018, the student may choose to complete one of them. New students will learn about the themes as they go through the orientation and registration process, in their INTD1100 Critical Thinking in the Liberal Arts and Sciences course, as well as from material that is available to them on the GU website, at the CAP Center, and from academic advisors. Students will be able to request a theme in their INTD1100 class.

How is Essential Education at Graceland different from the current general education curriculum?
The Essential Education curriculum is different from the existing general education curriculum in three important ways:

  • The Essential Education curriculum has a new set of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). These SLOs were carefully developed by the faculty to better prepare students for success.
  • Students will have the option of completing their Essential Education requirements by taking a series of courses centered around a specific theme. The themes are equality, innovation, peace, sustainability and world citizenship.
  • For most of the goals in the current general education curriculum, students can take any course in an academic area to fulfill a requirement (for example, any art, music or theatre class counts for the "arts" goal). In the new Essential Education curriculum, specific courses in academic areas have been designated for the learning outcomes, and only those courses fulfill the requirement.

When does the Essential Education curriculum go into effect?
The first phase of the Essential Education curriculum went into effect for the 2016-2017 academic year with the addition of the Discourse sequence (Discourse I, II and III, replacing Modern Rhetoric, Speech Communication and Advanced Composition).

The second phase goes into effect in 2017-2018. This phase replaces the current general education curriculum with courses organized around the new Student Learning Outcomes and the five new themes.

What if I come to Graceland with transfer credit or with college credit that I earned in high school?
College courses that you have taken in high school or at other colleges may count toward your Essential Education requirements.

This policy outlines the process Graceland uses to determine what transfer courses will meet Essential Education requirements. If you have questions about this policy, please contact your academic advisor, the CAP Center, or the Registrar's office.

Essential Education requirements follow for students with transfer credits when entering Graceland University.

  • Students entering Graceland with 1-23 s.h. of transfer credit:
    • Any college level math courses that are transferred in will count toward the math Essential Education math requirement.
    • If a student has taken 3 s.h. in speech or composition, Discourse I is waived and the student must take Discourse II and III.
    • If a student has taken 3 s.h. in both speech and composition, or has taken 6 s.h. in composition, Discourse I and II are waived and the student must take Discourse III.
    • If the student has taken 6 s.h. in composition and 3 s.h. in speech/communication, the student is waived from Discourse I, II and III.
    • Students who have taken courses in: ethics, visual and performing arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural and physical science will be allowed to apply courses taken in those disciplines to substitue for no more than 6 s.h. of the courses required for a specific Essential Education curriculum theme.
  • Students entering Graceland with 24-47 s.h. of transfer credit:
    • Any college level math courses that are transferred in will count toward the Essential Education math requirement.
    • If a student has taken 3 s.h. in speech or composition, Discourse I is waived and the student must take Discourse II and III.
    • If a student has taken 3 s.h. in both speech and composition, or has taken 6 s.h. in composition, Discourse I and II are waived and the student must take Discourse III.
    • If the student has taken 6 s.h. in composition and 3 s.h. in speech/communication, the student is waived from Discourse I, II and III.
    • Students who have taken courses in: ethics, visual and performing arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural and physical science will be allowed to apply courses taken in those disciplines to substitute for the courses specifically required for courses in an Essential Education curriculum theme.
  • Students entering Graceland with 48 or more s.h. of transfer credit - students automatically qualify for the "Alternative Essential Education" program. Students must complete 8 s.h. in each of the following areas: college composition/speech courses (to include at least 3 s.h. of composition and 3 s.h. of speech), humanities (literature, philosophy, religion, art, music, theatre, and foreign language courses), social sciences, and science/mathematics (to include at least 3 s.h. of college-level mathematics and 3 s.h. of natural science). The student must also meet the following requirement:
    • Discourse III (ENGL3100) or two lower division composition courses with a grade of "B" or better in each course - the registrar's office will review transfer work to determine which option a student uses. If it is determined that the two-course option satisfies the requirement, a waiver of the upper division course will be indicated on the student's academic record. Courses used to waive this requirement may also be used toward the 8 s.h. of college composition/speech courses.

Does the Essential Education curriculum apply to everyone at Graceland?

Essential Education applies to all undergraduate students entering Graceland beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year. The specific requirements will vary depending upon the number of semester credit hours you earned prior to coming to Graceland (see GU transfer policy).

Why did Graceland decide to adopt Essential Education?

Graceland's General Education Committee spent the 2014-2015 academic year studying the existing general education curriculum to determine the extent to which it was meeting the needs of students. This included a faculty survey that examined what faculty believed students most needed to learn and the extent to which the core curriculum was designed to help students in those areas. Employer surveys were studied to learn more about employer expectations. When the idea of the themes emerged, students were surveyed to assess their level of interest. The recommendation that emerged from this process was that a revised general education package was needed.

The committee then spent the 2015-2016 academic year designing the new curriculum. The faculty chose to endorse the Essential Learning Outcomes developed by the Association of America's Colleges and Universities' LEAP (Liberal Education and America's Promise) initiative and the committee sought to incorporate LEAP's Principles of Excellence into the new curriculum. Additional information about LEAP's Essential Learning Outcomes and Principles of Excellence is available at:

AACU Essential Learning Outcomes
AACU Principles of Excellence

How many credits is the Essential Education curriculum?

The new Essential Education curriculum is 39 credits, and they are distributed as follows:

Student Learning Outcomes # of s.h. credits required
Communication 9 s.h.
Critical Thinking 3 s.h.
Ethical Thinking and Action 3 s.h.
Global Learning 3 s.h.
Knowledge of Human Cultures

Total of 12 s.h.

  • 3 s.h. Arts
  • 3 s.h. Histories
  • 3 s.h. Humanities
  • 3 s.h. Social Sciences
Knowledge of the Physical and Natural World

Total of 9 s.h.

  • 6 s.h. Math
  • 3 s.h. Science

The new Essential Education requires six fewer semester hour credits than the current general education curriculum. 

Does Essential Education at Graceland involve more than just coursework?

Yes. The idea behind Essential Education is that there are essential skills that successful graduates need to develop, and those skills can be developed both in and out of the classroom where their importance will be stressed in a wide range of places.

Can a course count for both my major or minor and for Essential Education?

Yes, it can.

May I complete an Essential Education theme even if I enrolled at Graceland prior to Fall 2017?

Yes. Students who entered Graceland before the 2017-2018 academic year may choose to complete their general education requirements using the Essential Education curriculum. However, they are also free to complete the general education requirements that existed when they came to Graceland.

Where can I find out more about Essential Education at Graceland?

Get more information at Graceland University's Essential Education web page.

If I have questions, who should I talk to about Essential Education?

You may talk to your academic advisor, to CAP Center personnel, the registrar's office, or Gary Heisserer, Essential Education Committee Chair. 

Do online courses at Graceland count for Essential Education?

Yes, some of the courses that are part of the new Essential Education curriculum are offered both face-to-face and online.