Leading WSU UCORE general education program

Clif StrattonHistory professor Clif Stratton has been named the new director of WSU’s University Common Requirements Program, known as UCORE.

“It’s a great honor to lead UCORE,” Stratton said. “It is central to the mission of the university. It touches virtually every student on every campus, regardless of their major, from their first-year through capstone courses.

“UCORE meets students’ academic needs by advancing knowledge, understanding, and skill development. It helps them make connections across disciplines. In many ways, UCORE provides a foundation for today’s students to become lifelong learners equipped to analyze, communicate, and solve tomorrow’s problems.”

Uniquely qualified

“Dr. Stratton will be an excellent program director because of his outstanding track record as a teacher, scholar, and academic leader. Undergraduate student learning and success are at the heart of his vision for the program’s future,” said Mary Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education.

Stratton has been closely involved with UCORE since he came to WSU in 2010. With four colleagues, he helped develop the Roots of Contemporary Issues program and was the first to pilot the History 105 course in spring 2012.  The Roots program is a one-course, first-year-experience cornerstone of the UCORE curriculum that looks at the historical roots of global contemporary issues relevant to students’ lives in the 21st century. He is currently chair of the UCORE Committee, which recently embarked on reviewing materials for course renewals.

He will continue to teach in the Roots program, for which he served as assistant director for five years, as well as courses on race and modern U.S. history in both the department and for the Honors College.

400-course responsibility

The UCORE course sequence is designed by faculty to help students acquire broad knowledge of the world that complements their specific areas of study. UCORE courses fulfill general education requirements for WSU baccalaureate degrees.

As the UCORE administrator, Stratton will be in charge of the coordination of 400 undergraduate courses across many disciplines. Courses in the curriculum must be proposed and approved. Each course considered must be strategically designed to promote critical thinking, communication, and other important skills, as well as further knowledge of human cultures, the arts, and the natural and physical world.

First tasks

UCORE was implemented in fall 2012, replacing a set of general education courses that had been in place for several years. The UCORE Committee and Wack have overseen the program operation since the former director of general education, Richard L. Law, retired in 2009.

As the new director, Stratton is already involved in course reviews, and has reflected on additional tasks. He would like to increase the “range of expertise on the committee,” adding members from areas and campuses not currently represented. He wants to “create a set of mechanisms” to communicate important UCORE news to students, faculty, and academic advisors. He plans to visit administrators, department chairs, and faculty to talk about designing new courses that align with UCORE standards.

Broad experience

An award in Law’s honor, the Excellence Award in Undergraduate Teaching, was presented to Stratton in 2014, one of his first awards at WSU. Most recently, he received the Provost’s Distinguished Teaching Fellowship in 2017; the President’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Clinical Faculty; and the College of Arts and Sciences award for Excellence in Teaching by Clinical Faculty in 2019.

A blogger and author, Stratton’s first book, Education for Empire: American Schools, Race, and the Paths of Good Citizenship, was published in 2016.  He is currently at work on one related to his hometown baseball team, Race and the Atlanta Braves from Summerhill to Cobb County; an effort supported by a fellowship from the WSU Arts and Humanities Center and the Office of Research Advancement and Partnerships.

Stratton and four Roots colleagues are under contract with Oxford University Press to develop a book series based on course themes. Tasked with the theme of environment, Stratton has recently completed a draft manuscript on the historical politics of carbon energy. The books are expected to be available in fall 2020.

Stratton earned his Ph.D. at Georgia State University, his master’s degree in history from Auburn University, and his bachelor’s from Presbyterian College in history and political science.

Top image: Clif Stratton

By Beverly Makhani for WSU Insider