5 things to know as Blazer Core Curriculum debuts for Fall 2023

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1. What is the Blazer Core Curriculum?

The Blazer Core Curriculum is the first complete overhaul of UAB’s core curriculum requirements since the university was founded in 1969. The curriculum focuses on providing competencies critical for the 21st century that will better equip students to meet their lifelong goals, including opportunities to develop as innovative thinkers, dynamic communicators, insightful researchers and reflective global citizens. Freshmen starting in the Fall 2023 semester will follow the Blazer Core Curriculum; students in previous class years and transfer students will follow the requirements of the traditional core curriculum, although they can opt to switch to Blazer Core if they choose.

“After a great deal of work from our entire community, this new curriculum is now successfully launched,” said Chris Minnix, Ph.D., director of the Blazer Core Curriculum. “Students are registering now, and faculty are very excited for the rollout as the fall semester begins.”


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2. What has changed?

erep bcc minnix 550pxChris Minnix, Ph.D., director of the Blazer Core CurriculumMinnix summarizes the Blazer Core Curriculum’s advantages:

  1. Choice
    There are roughly twice as many courses available in the Blazer Core Curriculum compared with UAB’s previous core requirements, with more than 190 courses now listed in the Blazer Core Curriculum in the UAB Catalog. “This increased choice means that students can explore the different areas of the core from a wider range of disciplinary perspectives and create a fascinating intellectual adventure from their first days as a Blazer,” Minnix said.
  1. Innovation 
    One of the signature elements of the Blazer Core is its City as Classroom courses. These courses — there are more than 20 — build on UAB’s tradition of working directly with local communities. “The thing I love about the City as Classroom courses is that they introduce students to how the knowledge they are gaining in class is applied to the challenges and opportunities that face real communities,” Minnix said. “In addition, the courses also engage students in learning from the community through dialogue, research and service. These are the types of courses that will lead students to majors, minors and even careers that they never contemplated before, as well as inspire them to be engaged citizens.”

Examples include (with quoted excerpts from the UAB Catalog):

    • PH 104 - Community Data Research, in which students will use “techniques developed in the fields of computational and data science and data-driven materials physics to understand social science, business and finance data.”
    • EH 203 - Writing in Birmingham, which includes an “emphasis on issues related to Birmingham's past and present, including the ethics and civic responsibilities of Birmingham residents.”
    • HY 200 - City as Classroom, which “uses Birmingham and surrounding communities as a lens through which to examine life, culture, history and religion in the American South.”
    • WLL 132 - Multicultural City: Heritage through Festivals, in which students will explore “the cultural impact of festivals around Birmingham…. [and] learn about the history and evolution of festivals, as well as their role in shaping cultural identity and community.”
    • EC 220 - Economic Impacts, Equity and History of Birmingham, in which students will “examine the unique economic history of Birmingham, the economic and social impacts of the ongoing effort for racial equity, and studies, initiatives and policies aimed for growth, as well as the challenges inherent in managing sustainable growth.”
    • ECY 200 - Disability in Society, which includes “discussion of the experience of disability in society; historical events, major pieces of legislation, social movements, and other contemporary issues addressed from multiple perspectives, including local community-based learning opportunities.”
    • NUR 201 - Health in the City, which explores “how environmental and social determinants contribute to health among urban dwellers…. [with a focus on] the impact urbanization has on the physical and emotional wellbeing of selected vulnerable populations.”
  1.  Impact 

As the course descriptions above make clear, Blazer Core emphasizes real-world opportunities to make a positive impact on local communities, Minnix says. Blazer Core’s unique course flagging program promotes students’ reflection on the impact of their education by capturing and representing key high-impact educational experiences that students encounter in their coursework. Each course in Blazer Core can bear up to two course “flags.” These flags “indicate that the course used high-impact educational practices, such as undergraduate research, service-learning or collaborative assignments, and/or engaged students in learning about key UAB commitments, such as wellbeing, sustainability and justice,” Minnix said. “These flags will fill out a digital crest that is unique to each student’s experience and direct students to information about how to take their interests further.”


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3. Why now?

Blazer Core was born from the strategic planning process for Forging the Future, UAB’s strategic plan. It became evident that the university’s core curriculum, which had changed only incrementally since it was established in the 1960s, must change to provide competencies critical for the 21st century and better equip students to meet their lifelong goals. Provost Pam Benoit convened a committee in 2017, led by Alison Chapman, Ph.D., professor and chair in the Department of English, and Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health, to draft a new core. The committee conducted surveys and focus groups among faculty and students to seek input and direction and articulate a set of guiding principles. In 2021, Minnix was named director of the Signature Core Curriculum, later renamed Blazer Core Curriculum.

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4. Who was involved?

“This has been a community-led effort from the ground up, based on a strong collaboration between faculty, administration, staff, students and local partners,” Minnix said. “This includes the tireless work of members of both the original Signature Core Curriculum Committee and the Blazer Core Curriculum Committee. That collaborative spirit has played a pivotal role in launching this Blazer Core Curriculum.”

The course submission process “asked faculty to define the contribution of their courses, even long-standing courses, to the vision of Blazer Core and submit these courses for review,” Minnix said. “The result was a campus-wide conversation about what we value in general education. We didn’t say, ‘Throw out what you have been doing, that you know works, in favor of the new.’ Instead, we brought the faculty into the conversation and created a set of courses that are united and connected by common learning outcomes. That led to really great conversations about how we can innovate the courses that were already on the books, add amazing new courses, and bring in departments and schools that have not participated extensively in the core in the past, or even at all.”

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5. What’s next?

The Blazer Core Curriculum will continue to grow and innovate, and courses can still be added, Minnix explains. “I think that we will continue to see significant innovation from faculty, staff and students,” he said. “As the core continues to grow, our goal is to continue to build a culture of faculty and student excellence through assessment of student learning. Students’ progress towards our shared course outcomes will be assessed every year in an effort to understand how we can better serve our students and faculty and ensure a continuous cycle of improvement.”