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How Stanford is reimagining the undergraduate experience

Stanford’s new first-year requirement, Civic, Liberal, and Global Education (COLLEGE), invites students to reflect on their own place and purpose at Stanford, in society, and in the world.

In fall of 2021, Stanford launched a new first-year requirement for undergraduate students that invites frosh to reflect on their own place and purpose at Stanford, in society, and in the world.

The program, called Civic, Liberal, and Global Education – commonly referred to as “COLLEGE” – is conceived as a three-course sequence, with students taking two quarter offerings.

In the fall quarter course, Why College? Your Education and the Good Life, students journey inward, reflecting on what they want to get out of their education but also what kind of person they want to be and what life they want to lead. In winter, students then consider their civic role and responsibilities in Citizenship in the 21st Century. Throughout the spring, students contemplate their relationship to the world and the planet in a Global Perspectives offering.

“What we’re trying to do with the COLLEGE program is recalibrate and reframe for our students what college was designed to do and how it connects to their education, work, but also lives,” said Dan Edelstein, one of the faculty directors for COLLEGE and the William H. Bonsall Professor of French in the School of Humanities and Sciences (H&S).

Stanford Report has been following the COLLEGE program to find out more about what students experienced in their seminars and other COLLEGE offerings, like the winter quarter collaboration with the Department of Theater & Performance Studies (TAPS) that saw a new interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar being staged.

Here are some of these stories in Stanford Report’s COLLEGE series.

COLLEGE replaces the Thinking Matters requirement. The program grew out of the Long-Range Vision and is in a pilot phase through the 2025-26 academic year.

COLLEGE prepares students for a lifetime of inquiry

Stanford’s newly restructured undergraduate requirement program encourages students to think critically across disciplines, reflect on their values, and consider how their education can lead them to purposeful lives.

‘Why College’ sparks an unexpected journey

After taking the undergraduate class, Why College, Daniel Gaughran took a leave of absence from Stanford to extend the course’s goals of contemplation and self-discovery. He is now back at Stanford, energized and ready for whatever is next.

100 years ago, Stanford’s first general education requirement was a course on citizenship

In 1923, Stanford introduced its first required class to its incoming frosh: Problems of Citizenship. The course was part of a series of changes that have shaped what undergraduate education at Stanford looks like today.

COLLEGE students explore concepts of citizenship

Frosh tackled some big questions about the ideals of citizenship and democracy for their second course in COLLEGE, Stanford’s newly restructured undergraduate requirement program.

Panel advises students on strengthening democracy

In an event for COLLEGE students, Stanford scholars Condoleezza Rice and Pamela Karlan, and Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway, ’89, spoke about actions students can take to strengthen democracy and make the most of their undergraduate studies.

Learning from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Stanford frosh read, attended, and discussed William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as part of their COLLEGE winter course, Citizenship in the 21st Century.

How to tackle the world’s biggest sustainability challenges

A spring-quarter course taught by Stanford professors William Barnett and Chris Field asked students to consider solutions to global predicaments. “This new generation will be known as the greatest generation ... they will be building sustainability into everything they do.”

COLLEGE takes students on a journey of discovery

Stanford’s newly restructured undergraduate requirement program kindles students’ curiosity about ideas in the world, and also about themselves and each other.