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The Applied Liberal Arts (ALA) curriculum is a new academic initiative launched in Winter 2016. ALA provides opportunities for big-picture learning, professional development, and community engagement that complement the specialization students get from departments. It was created as a nondepartmental home for courses on essential skills for college success and other curricular and co-curricular opportunities, especially for first- and second-year students as they explore majors, minors, internships, and other options for education, leadership, and personal growth.
Applied Liberal Arts was also created as a space for broadly integrative, multi-disciplinary teaching and learning. Examples of this include the “22 Ways” sequence of courses (“22 Ways to Be Human,” “22 Ways to Think About Sport,” “22 Ways to Think About the History of the University of Michigan,” etc.), specialized Sophomore Seminars, and other kinds of curricular experiments and innovation.
This part of the LSA curriculum is still "under construction," but it has already begun to host courses associated with the LSA Opportunity Hub, the cross-campus undergraduate Minor in Entrepreneurship, and the Social Innovation Challenge sponsored by the student organizationoptiMize. For the 2016-17 academic year, those courses include “Critical Issues in Health Care,” “Critical Issues in Education,” “Critical Issues in Sustainability,” and “Critical Issues in Detroit.”
Applied Liberal Arts also allows students to explore the broader meaning of a liberal arts education in courses like “A User’s Guide to the Liberal Arts,” and to develop and hone a range of critical skills, from financial literacy, to digital research, to internship readiness. “Skills for College, Career, and Beyond” serves a similar function for more advanced, upper-division undergraduate students.
Finally, ALA is a laboratory for new directions in the LSA undergraduate curriculum, especially those that highlight student-led and student-designed initiatives such as the “How to Give the Talk of a Lifetime” mini-course that was originally designed by student members of TEDxUofM.