Cornerstones General Education Model

Cornerstones, a general education pilot program funded through a grant from The Mellon Foundation, will run from 2016 to 2020 with a first-year cohort of sixty-four students who self-select into this model through an application process vetted through the Office of Admission.

The PLU Cornerstones Learning Outcomes:

  1. Methods of Inquiry
    Students mastering outcome #1 will demonstrate understanding of a range of disciplinary methodologies and how these methods are used to create, evaluate, and make use of knowledge; they will account for the assumptions and consequences of different perspectives in developing answers to complex questions.
  2. Expression and Dialogue
    Students mastering outcome #2 will communicate clearly and effectively in oral, written, and digital modes, adapting their communications to various audiences using the appropriate media, convention and/or style.
  3. Citizenship and Community
    Students mastering outcome #3 will identify issues of public concern within specific cultural contexts, acknowledge conflicting ideas, principles, and values, and develop effective strategies for implementing cooperative actions that address local, national, and/or global circumstances.

The distribute core model is maintained through a set of Distributive Foundations courses.  Five courses representative of a broad liberal arts foundation (humanities, social sciences, natural science, mathematics, and courses from art, music, and theatre) are required.  In this pilot, students will choose from currently existing General Education introductory courses at the 100- and 200-level.

Foundational Courses

 13 semester hours

First Year

  • Fall Semester: First Year Experience Course: WRIT 101 (4)
  • J-Term: A J-Term course of their own selection; could be a FYEP 190*
  • Spring Semester: First Year Experience Course: FYEP 190 *
    *Note: FYEP 190 courses are included in the distributive foundations below.

Second Year

  • Fall Semester: Second Year Experience Course: Thematic Seminar (4)
  • J-Term: Study away, minor, or other opportunities (including General Education distributional courses)**
  • Spring Semester: Second Year Experience Course: Thematic Seminar (4)
    **Note: course is included in distributive foundations below.

Third Year

  • General Education Cornerstone Portfolio Assessment (1)

Distributive Foundations

20 semester hours

Students pursuing the Cornerstones model will choose from 100- and 200-level introductory courses currently carrying the discipline-specific requirement.

  • 1 course in natural sciences (NS, SM) (4)
  • 1 course in mathematics (MR) (4)
  • 1 course in social sciences (SO) (4)
  • 1 course in the humanities (LT, PH, RC, RG) (4)
  • 1 course in music, art, or theatre (AR) (4)


 16 semester hours

Cornerstones participants may choose a minor from:

  • Humanities
    • English
      • Literature
      • Writing
    • Philosophy
    • Religion
    • Languages and Literatures
      • Chinese
      • Classics
      • French
      • German
      • Hispanic Studies
      • Nordic Studies
      • Norwegian
    • Humanities-based Social Sciences
      • Anthropology
      • History
    • Interdisciplinary
      • Children’s Literature and Culture
      • Chinese Studies
      • Environmental Studies
      • Global Studies
      • Holocaust and Genocide Studies
      • Publishing and Printing Arts
      • Women’s and Gender Studies

Opting Out of the Pilot Program

In this pilot framework, the only courses different from the current General Education requirements are the sophomore-level courses. Depending on the faculty teaching the course and how it is designed, students may propose how this course may fulfill a requirement in the Distributive Foundations or in a major or minor. Should students opt out before the beginning of the sophomore year, they would transition to the current General Education curriculum.

Second Year Experience Program

SYEP 201 : Thematic Seminar

Sophomore-year "cornerstones" requirement for General Education. Introduction and exposure through "big enough questions" related to PLU themes of diversity, justice, sustainability; civic engagement; and discernment of vocation. Linked to specific SYEP 202 course in the Spring semester. (4)

SYEP 202 : Thematic Seminar

Linked to SYEP 201. Continuation of sophomore-year "cornerstones" requirement for General Education. Introduction and exposure through "big enough questions" related to PLU themes of diversity, justice, sustainability; civic engagement; and discernment of vocation. Prerequisite: SYEP 201 during Fall semester. (4)