Provost's Messages

Undergraduate Education


Undergraduate education is an important part of Washington University’s mission, along with graduate and professional education, research and patient care. Several of our schools are currently rethinking their undergraduate curricula, and with the beginning of a new semester, it seems appropriate to ask ourselves what we want our students to know and be able to do.

What are the fundamentals of a Washington University education? That is, what are the knowledge, skills and values we want our students to learn? What sets us apart from peer institutions? How can our faculty use their research expertise to improve our students’ education? How do we combine our academic strengths in professional (and pre-professional) training with a distinctive liberal arts approach?

I have had numerous conversations with individual faculty and staff, and most agree that students should gain fluency in writing and speaking well, thinking critically, reasoning in a quantitative way and understanding people and cultures different from our own.

I would like to know your thoughts on these questions. I am especially interested in interdisciplinary responses that cross traditional boundaries. I would very much appreciate your input sent to me at I read and reply to all messages.

We are fortunate to operate from a position of strength — I think many of our peers recognize our leadership in undergraduate education — but I want us to take advantage of opportunities to build on that strength. How can we accomplish these goals? How are we doing now, and how might we do better?