Essential Elements of a Montana State University Education

MSU students engage in learning through the MSU Core and their major areas of study. The Core integrates education in communication, thinking and problem solving, and local and global citizenship with knowledge and experiences in the natural, social and mathematical sciences, the arts, and the humanities. Through the MSU Core students develop an enhanced understanding of themselves, their effectiveness as communicators, thinkers and problem solvers, and their responsibilities as members of the larger local and global communities. These Core qualities deepen the experience of the MSU undergraduate education, enhance health and well-being, enrich disciplinary pursuits, and establish MSU’s graduates as lifelong learners and engaged citizens.


MSU CORE Qualities & Outcomes

MSU Graduates are Effective Communicators

Graduates use written, spoken, and visual communication to create meaning, build relationships, foster understanding, and persuade. They express their ideas in manners appropriate for their intended audience and for their intended context. Graduates collaborate with others by openly and constructively giving and receiving feedback, and use that feedback to revise and improve their own communication. They demonstrate facility in analyzing, interpreting, and understanding sources of information and in constructing persuasive arguments in ways that empower and challenge their own and other’s thinking.

MSU Graduates are Thinkers and Problem Solvers

Graduates reason using relevant evidence gathered through scholarly, disciplinary and interdisciplinary methods. They analyze, construct, or critique arguments taking into consideration premises, assumptions, contexts, and conclusions. Graduates will apply information literacy; the ability to skillfully consume (i.e. find, evaluate, and use) and meaningfully create information. They successfully anticipate counterarguments, but can respectfully consider, accommodate or incorporate opposing views as appropriate. Graduates independently, or collaboratively, demonstrate ethical, creative and innovative approaches to asking and answering questions, defining problems and identifying solutions, and creating knowledge or art.

MSU Graduates are Local and Global Citizens

Graduates demonstrate effective strategies to listen and respond to others. They act with integrity in establishing respectful relationships and productively manage conflict to reach ethical outcomes. Graduates understand sources of identities, their own and others, and how identities influence civic values, assumptions, responsibilities and community engagement. They apply knowledge of diverse cultures, histories, values, or conflicts that have shaped the US and other world societies to better understand current events, US democratic and other global political institutions, or social life. Graduates value the important role informed, engaged citizens play in democratic societies and can determine for themselves what political and social issues, problems or policies they wish to engage with as citizens. 

CORE Perspectives

Each perspectives course will integrate the teaching of all three core qualities, to the greatest extent possible, with an emphasis on the core qualities that most closely align with their course content. Each course will participate in assessment of the core qualities, as outlined below, in order to improve our graduates’ competency and capacity in communication, thinking and problem solving and local and global citizenship.

Contemporary Issues in Science (CS)

Rationale: Contemporary Issues in Science courses develop familiarity with how scientists apply methods to explore scientific questions and real-world problems, identify and reflect on ethical claims regarding scientific research and its applications to contemporary problems or challenges while acknowledging the conflicting values that underlie these claims, and engage constructively in open discussions about contemporary issues and ethical or moral dilemmas in science.

 “Thinker and Problem Solver” and “Local and Global Citizen” are assessed in CS courses.

Diversity (D)

Rationale: Diversity courses examine race, gender, sexuality, social class, ethnicity, nationality, indigeneity or other social differences and place them in their historical or contemporary contexts.

“Local and Global Citizen” And “Effective Communicator” are assessed in D courses.

Inquiry (IA, IH, IN, IS)

Rationale: Every Inquiry course develops familiarity with the methods used to discover and create the factual and theoretical knowledge of various disciplines. Each course will examine particular issues in the discipline while exploring its methodological and theoretical foundations.

Inquiry Arts

Courses in the Arts will explore the production and consumption of meaning and value through forms of expression that communicate, in both logical and emotional terms, the arts. 

Inquiry Humanities

Courses in the Humanities will explore ethical and moral, aesthetic and creative, historical and descriptive dimensions of human cultural traditions, emphasizing methods of reaching a conclusion, formulating an interpretation, or making a judgment in the discipline.

Inquiry Natural Sciences

Courses in Natural Sciences will emphasize a coherent body of scientific principles and the methods scientists use to create knowledge of the natural world.

Inquiry Social Sciences

Courses in the Social Sciences will emphasize methods and principles used by social scientists to systematically study human behavior.

“Thinking and Problem Solver” and either “Effective Communicator” or “Local and Global Citizen” are assessed in IA, IH, IN, IS courses.

Quantitative Reasoning (Q)

Rationale: Quantitative Reasoning courses develop computational and analytical skills, the ability to reason about and solve real-world problems, as well as create and critically evaluate arguments supported by quantitative evidence.

“Thinker and Problem Solver” is assessed in Q courses.

Research & Creative Experience (R)

Rationale: Research & Creative Experience courses are either 1) a lower-division research course that provides opportunities for learning research skills and developing the Core Qualities or 2) a culminating experience where seniors complete a project in their major program of study that integrates and synthesizes what they have learned in the Core.

Two of the three Core Qualities are assessed in R courses.

University Seminar (US)

Rationale: University Seminar introduces and develops all three Core Qualities through multidisciplinary readings and collegiate level discourse. The seminar is designed to engage students in meaningful and respectful knowledge exchange with others, help students develop a strong sense of self and self-awareness through an exploration of their own values and beliefs and the values and beliefs of their peers, and foster a commitment to learning and excellence.

All three Core Qualities are assessed in US courses.

Written Communication (W)

Rationale: Written Communication courses develop written and verbal communication skills in ways that will facilitate success at communicating knowledge, ideas and information clearly and effectively in academic, workplace and community settings.

“Effective Communicator” is assessed in W courses.