Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 3, 2023

Hopkins proposes changes to distribution requirements beginning next year

By ANNA MINTZER | November 2, 2023



Students expressed mixed feelings about the proposed changes in distribution requirements in both KSAS and WSE.

The Office of the Provost will implement a new plan to alter the University’s distribution requirements for the incoming Class of 2028. The previous distribution requirements will be replaced by Foundational Abilities (FA) requirements, which encompass the six categories of languages and writing, scientific and quantitative thinking, creative expression, citizenship within global diversity, ethical reflection and impactful projects. 

These changes were spurred by a report released in 2020 from the Second Commission for Undergraduate Education (CUE2), an organization formed in 2017 to interpret and subsequently carry out the ideal undergraduate education model. The report consists of three years of findings from CUE2 based on peer practice, recommendations from experts and institutional data.

The FA requirements will look different for the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS) and the Whiting School of Engineering (WSE), as the two schools will implement these changes separately. The proposed changes will not affect currently enrolled students.

KSAS is planning to use the FA requirements to introduce a new General Education model, developed by the Krieger CUE2 Advisory. The General Education model will be shaped by input from more than 150 faculty members in over 30 departments. In the new model, students will be required to complete coursework in the aforementioned six categories, which aims to foster cross-disciplinary exploration and broadened education.

Clare Levine, a freshman studying Political Science, expressed her enthusiasm for a broad General Education model in an interview with The News-Letter.

“Not only does [the General Education model] allow you to complete whatever you need for your major, but it's also the idea that it [...] can allow people more experiences to take classes in something that's not necessarily aligned with their major but that interests them and also could count as a credit,“ Levine said.

The WSE is also developing its own set of FA requirements that are best suited for all engineering majors based on the CUE2’s recommendations. WSE requirements are anticipated to include a variety of mandatory coursework common to all majors, in addition to the required work within each major. Students would have the option to showcase their learning of FA with either coursework or an electronic portfolio separate from their classes, which is meant to maintain flexibility for WSE students.

Some students feel that the current course requirements for many WSE majors are substantial and time-consuming, and they are concerned about completing additional required courses across the school. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major Caden Lipsky described his frustration with the rigid major requirements he encountered in his first semester.

“There is not as much room for flexibility up until you're doing your last two years,” he said. “So the first two years you come here, you're just cramming a ton of intro classes, which is very stressful and not necessarily manageable, especially if you're coming from somewhere not expecting that.”

Yet, WSE students found the option to choose between electronic portfolio and coursework to be an appealing attribute of the plan. Freshman Applied Math and Statistics major Lucy Malmud explained her preference in an interview with The News-Letter. 

“If the University is looking to impose more requirements in order to ensure that its student body is well-rounded and articulate, particularly within the realm of writing, I would prefer, even if it is more work, to have that as something I can manage on my own time, separate from my course registration,” she said. “I only have four years here, and I want to make sure that I'm able to maximize the time here by taking classes that I'm truly lucky to be able to take about things that I'm so passionate about.”

On the other hand, some KSAS students expressed that they found sufficient flexibility within the existing Hopkins curriculum. In an interview with The News-Letter, junior Psychology major and Theater Arts and Studies minor Asa Woo explained that she was able to take a variety of classes that she was interested in, which transferred for some credit when she switched her major from Environmental Studies.

“It's a very Hopkins thing to switch your major at some point during your stay here,” she said. “That's very telling [in regard to] the flexibility [we have]. What happened was I took a lot of political science type classes, because those are some of the major requirements for Environmental Studies, but they still ended up counting towards my QE [mathematical sciences (Q) and engineering (E)] requirements.”

While the opinions about course requirements at Hopkins differ tremendously from major to major, there was a shared anticipation for future improvements.

“I'm happy with how it is now, but I'd be interested to see how they improve upon it, because there could always be improvement,” Woo said.

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