The CLAS General Education CLAS Core is divided into four broad content areas, with a total of 11 requirements and with Sustainability counting for both Sustainability and as a second requirement noted on each General Education Sustainability course. The area learning outcomes are included at the link for each requirement.

Students who are continuing in CLAS and who entered UI before Summer 2022 will not be held to the Sustainability requirement; likewise, some students who entered before 2017 are not held to the Diversity and Inclusion requirement but instead complete the former Values, Culture, and Diversity requirement. The degree audit for each student indicates the particular CLAS Core requirements the student must complete.

Communication and literacy


Courses develop students’ recognition of their positions in an increasingly pluralistic world while fostering an understanding of social and cultural differences. Courses in this area are generally discussion based.

  • Students explore the historical and structural bases of inequality.
  • Students learn about the benefits and challenges of diversity.
  • Students reflect critically on their own social and cultural perspectives.
  • Students increase their ability to engage with people who have backgrounds or ideas different from their own.


Building on previously acquired skills of reading and writing, courses approved for the Interpretation of Literature area seek to reinforce in every student a lifetime habit of frequent, intelligent, and satisfying reading. These courses, taught in English in small sections, focus primarily on "ways of reading," asking students to become aware of themselves as readers, to learn how to deal with different kinds of texts, and to understand how texts exist within larger historical, social, political, and/or cultural contexts. These "ways of reading," while growing out of various critical approaches to literature, are also transferable to other fields of study.Texts must be chosen from several genres (fiction, drama, poetry, essay, etc.) and must span more than a single century. Diversity of race, gender, and social background among the authors read is encouraged. Courses must be taught in English.

  • Students refine their reading skills by the exposure to a wide variety of genres from multiple centuries.
  • Students improve their reading comprehension and analysis by using a range of strategies or “ways of reading” appropriate for the assigned texts.
  • Students strengthen their analytical and critical responses to texts through the intensive use of oral and written responses.
  • Through assigned readings, class discussion, and writing assignments, students begin to recognize the influence of a reader’s individual differences and experiences on interpretation and analysis.
  • In discussion and in writing, students consider and begin to understand the crucial connections between individual texts and cultural, historical, political, social, and other contexts.
  • Finally, students deepen their vision of themselves as readers, particularly as contrasted to beginning of the course.


Rhetoric helps students to develop skills in speaking, writing, listening, and critical reading. It also builds competence in research and inquiry as well as in analysis and persuasion, especially in the area of understanding public controversies in their social contexts. Rhetoric courses approved for the GE CLAS Core are sometimes organized around a special topic, but the primary emphasis is always on rhetorical practice and analysis. Some sections involve special activities, such as service-learning components, but the workload across all sections is comparable, with a fixed number of major assignments and a departmentally approved set of readings.

  • Students use writing and speaking to discover and explain, question and justify positions in a controversy;
  • Students use reading and listening to comprehend and consider arguments, both as separate constructs and in conversation with one another;
  • Students understand and use basic rhetorical concepts such as purpose and audience and use them in composing effective spoken and written communication; understand and use research as responsible inquiry.


Courses in this area help students to develop their communication skills in a language other than English and to explore the culture(s) and communities that use that language. Any language other than English (including American Sign Language) as well as languages not now spoken (for example, Ancient Greek) may be approved in this area. However, only languages for which the College can guarantee regular offerings of a complete course sequence which are taught on regular and recurring basis are approved in this area.

  • Students practice interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational communication skills at levels of increasing complexity as indicated by each course number and description.
  • Students engage with multiple perspectives while practicing linguistic skills and analyzing cultural items, such texts, art and other images, or film and music, for example.
  • Students develop intercultural competence, helping them to engage with those whose first language is other than English.


NOTE: Students entering UI starting with Summer 2022 and after must complete the Sustainability requirement if the student is in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Continuing students who entered UI before this date do not need to complete this requirement. Other UI colleges have different General Education requirements.


Courses study the interconnectedness of human actions across complex natural systems, focusing on the consequences of this interconnectedness and related ongoing effects over time and by place.

Students simultaneously fulfill the Sustainability requirement and one additional GE requirement, with this second GE companion area selected during the GE proposal process by faculty members and departments proposing GE status in Sustainability for a course. This "companion" GE area is added to course and will appear on the student's degree audit as a completed GE requirement along with Sustainability when the student successfully finishes the course.

Any of the GE areas listed following Sustainability on this page may be chosen by the instructor as a companion GE area for Sustainability. The areas listed before Sustainability on this page may not be chosen by an instructor because of related course complexities: Diversity and Inclusion; Rhetoric; Interpretation of Literature; and World Languages.

  • Students identify concepts and terminology associated with sustainability and systems-thinking.
  • Students investigate the interconnectedness of human and natural systems, applying systems-thinking and evidence-based approaches.
  • Students evaluate how their actions affect and are affected by society’s ability to meet sustainability goals AND students investigate institutional and/or cultural processes OR students investigate natural systems processes.

Natural, quantitative, and social sciences


Students achieve scientific literary, with each of these learning outcomes below contributing to this goal; the outcomes should be read in the content of the area of science studied, with various disciplines taking different approaches.


By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Explain foundational concepts, theories, processes, and the strategic questions important to a scientific area using the related scientific vocabulary.
  • Engage with the methodologies of scientific inquiry, such as identifying problems, making observations, gathering and analyzing data, proposing and testing/understanding hypotheses, and drawing conclusions.
  • Discuss how and why specific concepts, theories, processes, as well as scientific discoveries and innovations are important to society.
  • Analyze and synthesize information presented in introductory scientific literature.

If a course includes a lab, students also will be able apply methodologies of scientific inquiry, such as identifying problems, making observations, gathering and analyzing data, proposing and testing/understanding hypotheses, and drawing conclusions.


Courses in this area help develop analytical skills through the practice of quantitative or formal symbolic reasoning. Courses focus on the presentation and evaluation of evidence and argument, the understanding of the use and misuse of data, and the organization of information in quantitative or other formal symbolic systems including those used in the disciplines of computer sciences, linguistics, mathematics, philosophy, and statistics. Courses approved in this area have as their primary purpose the development of the analytical powers of the student as they might be exercised in presentation and evaluation of mathematical or other formal symbolic systems.

  • Students practice a method or methods of analytical or formal symbolic reasoning, such as a specific set of mathematical, statistical, computer programming, or logic skills.
  • Students evaluate arguments made in the symbolic system embodied in the course.
  • Students know the symbolic system's major concepts and ways of formulating questions.


Courses in this area focus on human behavior and the institutions and social systems that shape and are shaped by that behavior, providing an overview of one or more social science disciplines, their theories, and methods, helping students to understand at least one of the social science disciplines. Each course must achieve considerable breadth in presenting concerns of the social sciences, in one of these ways:

  • The course may survey an entire discipline in the social sciences.
  • The course may cover a major part of a discipline in the social sciences.
  • The course may address major aspects of human behavior as studied in several social sciences.
  • The course may provide an understanding of human behavior, institutions, and social systems that endows students with what a citizen should understand about these topics.
  • Students examine the strengths and weaknesses of at least one method of inquiry distinctive of the social sciences, and become familiar with its major assumptions, concepts, and ways of formulating questions.
  • Students evaluate data, generalizations, and hypotheses in the discipline. Students will have the opportunity to practice the methods of the discipline.
  • Students practice developing positions and supporting their ideas with evidence and reason.

Culture, society, and the arts


Courses in this area help students understand a period of the past in its own terms, comprehend the historical processes of change and continuity, sharpen their analytical skills in the evaluation of evidence and develop their ability to generalize, explain, and interpret historical change. Courses from any discipline or interdisciplinary unit that examine the broad history of any subject matter, people, or idea may be approved in this area. Courses may survey a single topic across time, or intensively cover a specific period, or study one or several issues in comparative perspective within or across time, or cover a topical problem from the perspectives of historical investigation.

  • Students understand one or more periods of the past in its/their own terms.
  • Students comprehend change and continuity in history.
  • Students improve their ability to evaluate evidence using the tools of historical investigation.
  • Students gain experience and improve their skills in generalizing, explaining, and interpreting historical change.


Courses examine contemporary international or global issues, introducing students to the perspectives of other nations or cultures. Courses in this area help students to understand contemporary issues from an international or global perspective by focusing predominantly on countries or issues outside of the United States. Courses studying a single country or using a historical perspective must place the subject within a contemporary international or global context.

  • Students develop knowledge of one or more global or international issues. 
  • Students demonstrate an understanding of different international and regional perspectives on complex global issues and the reasons for these differences.
  • Students know and are able to apply at least one method of analysis and critical inquiry.


These courses provide opportunities for students to appreciate art, to analyze art in historical and theoretical context, and in some courses to create works of art or performances.


Students develop the analytic, expressive, and imaginative abilities needed to understand and/or create art. Literary, visual, and performing arts courses may focus on artistic processes or on analysis of finished works, whether created by professionals or by students themselves. Courses emphasizing processes will provide ample opportunity for students to engage actively in producing art; courses emphasizing analysis will give students ample experience applying one or more methods of research and critical inquiry.

  • Students recognize constituent parts of an artwork and the processes of artistic production.
  • Students recognize how aesthetic and critical meanings are attached to artworks and understand ways quality can be evaluated.
  • Students relate art to the broader human context (e.g. historical, social, ethnic, economic, geographic) in which it is created, including, for example, how an artwork or form is linked to the artist’s culture and identity.


Courses focus on how culture shapes the human experience and on the role of values in society.

  • Students ask fundamental questions regarding the human experience.
  • Students become aware of the characteristics that define culture and values.
  • Students apply at least one method to analyze cultural value systems.
  • Students consider the complex origins of their own values and beliefs.