Students study lots of different things at UW Oshkosh. Three questions that almost every student will ponder at UW Oshkosh are the following:
- How do people understand and engage in community life?
- How do people understand and bridge cultural differences?
- How do people understand and create a more sustainable world?
These three questions are woven throughout the University Studies Program. Students might ask one of these questions from a chemist’s point of view, and then again from a geographer’s point of view. Ultimately, students will have encountered these questions and constructed answers for themselves.
There are a lot of ways to think about these questions. Here is how some UW Oshkosh faculty approach the questions.
How do people understand and engage in community life?
Civic knowledge consists of an awareness and understanding of the various political and social processes that impact the nature and quality of life in local, state, national, or global communities. It also encompasses the cultivation of skills which may be useful in public life, like effective communication and ethical reasoning. Civic engagement means having an appreciation for and applying the values gained from civic knowledge in real world settings, directed at improving the quality of life in the communities of which one is a part. Civic knowledge and civic engagement emphasize learning, reflection, and action in order to create better communities.
How do people understand and bridge cultural differences?
Intercultural knowledge and competence is the understanding of one’s own culture as well as cultures beyond one’s own; the recognition of the cultural values and history, language, traditions, arts, and social institutions of a group of people; the ability to negotiate and bridge cultural differences in ways that allow for broader perspectives to emerge; and the skill to investigate a wide range of world views, beliefs, practices, and values.
How do people understand and create a more sustainable world?
Knowledge of sustainability and its applications is the ability to understand local and global earth systems; the qualities of ecological integrity and the means to restore and preserve it; and the interconnection of ecological integrity, social justice and economic well-being.
Sustainability is about working towards a future in which all human beings can enjoy decent quality of life– good health, economic security, membership in strong and inclusive communities, the list goes on– while ensuring that we do not endanger the natural resources and environments upon which we depend. At its core, sustainability is about helping us live up to our fullest potential, as individuals and as a society. Making our way towards sustainability will involve addressing some very big and complicated problems– problems that will not have just single answers, or answers generated by single perspectives. Educating our students about sustainability means presenting them with multiple perspectives and teaching them how to critically evaluate the pros and cons, costs and consequences of the many options that lie before us. Sustainability is not about prescription, or about liberal or conservative points of view; it is about thoughtfully questioning, analyzing, and coming up with creative solutions. And isn’t this exactly what we want our students to be able to do?