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UNIV 200

Q: Why should I take UNIV 200?

UNIV 200 builds skills necessary for advanced work in every discipline, with special emphasis on developing written communication, argumentation, critical thinking, and information fluency proficiency. A central goal of the course is to provide you with the time and opportunity to develop the processes and strategies that characterize confident and successful researchers and writers. Course activities and assignments will allow for practice in critical reading and the research and writing process that will help you to claim your own authority as a writer and thinker.

Q: What should I expect to do in my UNIV 200 class?

Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of our work together in a UNIV 200 class. This class is a process of exploration—following your curiosity through your own systematic and sustained research and writing process. Rewriting, rethinking, and revising will be encouraged throughout the semester as you develop your own ways of thinking and your authority about an inquiry you design. You will participate in several “units” throughout the semester, developing and strengthening unique skills in each of these units. Each major course assignment will ask you to present your evolving thinking in various ways—anything from a traditional essay to content created using digital platforms—that will challenge you to think more creatively and expansively about the presentation of research and argument. You will also collaborate with your classmates in building and presenting your ideas. Ultimately, UNIV 200 provides you with the opportunity to develop the skills and strategies you need for success in your upper division research and writing challenges, as well as your professional and civic life.

Q: I have heard that UNIV 200 is a “process course.” What does this mean, exactly?

A process course is a course that relies on learning by doing. The units in UNIV 200 are progressive in design and build on material and skills developed in the preceding unit. Thus, you should expect to develop skills that you can practice and improve upon in each unit, in much the same way that serious athletes consistently work to learn new skills while simultaneously improving upon those already developed. While each specific section of UNIV 200 may engage in different learning activities on a day-to-day basis, all sections rely upon building a community of learners that draws upon the experiences and viewpoints of everyone in the classroom, not just the instructor. You can expect to participate in small and large group discussion, in or out-of-class activities, workshop and revision sessions, individual and group research, and a range of other activities that encourage active and thoughtful participation from all thinkers and learners in the room.

Q: When should I take UNIV 200?

The ideal time to take UNIV 200 is in your third semester, after you have successfully completed Focused Inquiry 111 and 112 (or the appropriate prerequisites), but before you begin to do intensive discipline-specific research in your chosen major or upper-level courses. The goal of such a structure is to allow you to continue to work on many of those same skills that you’ve begun to develop in your F.I. courses, while achieving even greater expertise with in-depth academic research, critical thinking, and argumentation.

Q: How do the various sections of UNIV 200 differ?

All UNIV 200 courses share a general curriculum, but each instructor may decide to develop his or her specific curriculum in the way that best suits a range of factors, including teaching style, student interests, the instructor’s own scholarly research, or classroom dynamics. Nonetheless, all UNIV 200 courses develop student skills in the areas of critical thinking, argument, information fluency, and written communication.

Q: Who are the Undergraduate Teaching Assistants that some sections have?

Faculty who participate in the UTA program can invite students who earned an A or B in FI or UNIV 200 to be undergraduate teaching assistants. A UTA models student engagement and can help to provide a new perspective on the class content from the perspective of one who has recently been through it him or herself. If you are interested in this opportunity, speak with your instructor or contact the UNIV 200 Coordinator for Undergraduate Teaching Assistants.

Q: How has UNIV 200 changed over the years?

While the goals of the course—to prepare students to engage in critical thinking, argumentation, information literacy, and written communication skills—have remained the same throughout the history of UNIV 200, the ways that we achieve these outcomes have changed over the years and will likely continue to develop. UNIV 200 is a class that has been at VCU—in one iteration or another—for quite a while. This doesn’t mean, though, that it has stayed the same over that entire time. The current curriculum reflects the belief that education needs to evolve in response to a number of factors, both academically and culturally, in order to best prepare students for that which they might encounter after leaving this course.