Our Curriculum

While VCU’s general education program is coordinated across multiple colleges and academic units, The Department of Focused Inquiry is the home for its three foundational courses:

  • Focused Inquiry I and II (UNIV111 and 112): a year-long seminar for first year students oriented around a rotating theme.
  • Inquiry and the Craft of Argument (UNIV 200): a course introducing critical investigation and the written art of argument.

All three classes focus in part on on the skills the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia has identified as assessable outcomes for students at Virginia colleges and universities.

UNIV 111 and 112 are theme-based courses with a shared curriculum across sections. All sections of the course use a common course reader, compiled and designed by a faculty committee around the current theme and featuring both professional and student writing. Selections in the reader come from a variety of disciplines and publication types. In addition to the course reader, UNIV 111 and 112 classes read the University’s Common Book together in the Fall and another book-length reading selected by a Focused Inquiry faculty committee in the Spring. In addition to common readings, all sections of UNIV 111 and 112 share a common core of writing and oral presentation assignments and an active-learning pedagogy. 

In UNIV 200 students learn how to focus on and investigate a topic while developing their skills in critical thinking, research, composition, and argumentation. All sections of the course use a custom-designed textbook along with targeted process assignments and supplementary material to help students increase their proficiency in these skill areas that are fundamental to every discipline and field of work. While traditional academic research and writing are important aspects of the course, students will also explore other modes of inquiry, composition, and argument that are becoming crucial to a twenty-first century education.

We also teach a limited number of interdisciplinary courses that fulfill core and general education requirements for VCU students:

  • Food for Thought (UNIV 211)
  • The Truth About Lying (UNIV 213)
  • Finding Your Voice in Contemporary Society (UNIV 217)
  • Pseudoscience (UNIV 222)
  • What’s the Big Idea? (UNIV 299)

All of our courses are designed to encourage intellectual curiosity and support academic success.