A Reference Guide to Understand, Review and Record Connections

What are they?

Under Wheaton’s Connections Curriculum (which applies through the Class of 2023), the flagship Connections program encourages students to explore different areas of knowledge and different approaches to problems. Wheaton students graduating under the Connections curriculum must take one 3-course or 2-course Connection in different academic areas. The areas are:  creative arts, humanities, history, math and computer science, natural sciences, and social sciences.

Where are they?

Faculty-Designed Connections

A list of faculty-designed Connections are available through the Course Catalog. Connections are designated by number and title.

Student-Initiated Connections

Students are also invited to discover their own links among courses, and to approach the faculty and propose a Connection.

How do we track them?

Faculty-Designed Connections

Once you select a faculty-designed Connection that you plan to work on, we urge you to inform the Office of the Registrar by filling out the Connection Form through insideWheaton.  By reporting your Connection, (you are not obligated to complete it; you may certainly change your mind) your selection will be reflected on your degree audit.  In this way, you and your advisor have the ability to track your progress toward degree completion.

Student-Initiated Connections

Students are also invited to discover their own linked courses, and to approach the faculty and propose a Connection. Students are encouraged to think about possible connections early on, though many will prefer to fulfill this requirement in their sophomore year. If this is your choice, be sure to complete the proposal form in a timely manner.  Refer to the academic calendar for the specific deadline date for proposals each semester.

You are encouraged to discuss proposing a Student-Initiated Connection between two or three courses with the relevant faculty, and then to propose a connection to the Committee on Educational Policy, if the following conditions are met:

  • All courses involved in the connection have been or will be taken at Wheaton.
  • A proposed two-course Connection must link courses from two different Areas; a three-course Connection must link courses from three different Areas. [The six areas are Creative Arts, History, Humanities, Math & Computer Science, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences.] Refer to the Course Catalog or consult with the faculty teaching the courses to ascertain the area of each course
  • Neither English 101 nor First Year Seminar is one of the courses you plan to connect.

Note: The deadline to submit a proposal for consideration in any given semester is the same as the last day to drop a course without record. Refer to the academic calendar  for the specific date.

How to prepare and submit a proposal for a Student-Initiated Connection

If the above are satisfied, then you may propose a two-or-three course Student-Initiated Connection by following these steps. Please read this list through before beginning the process to be sure you understand the timeline.

    • At least 2 weeks before the deadline to submit the proposal (see above), read the Student-Initiated Connection Form (pdf) and these guidelines for what defines a strong connection between courses: it is not as simple as the courses covering similar material.
    • Verify that the courses you want to connect all come from different areas. Refer to the Course Catalog to find a particular course’s area; if it is not listed consult with the faculty member for that course or the chair of that department to ascertain the area.
    • Read the examples below of how students have successfully applied these guidelines to their proposals.
    • A minimum of 2 weeks before the deadline, consult with the faculty teaching all the relevant courses. [If this is impossible, consult with the chair of the relevant program.]
    • Collect the supporting material listed in the Student-Initiated Connection Form (pdf) and write your proposal.
    • At least 1 week before the deadline, submit your proposal to the faculty teaching each course in the Connection for their endorsement.
    • Revise as necessary based on the faculty’s suggestions.
    • If the faculty members decide to endorse your proposal, print out  the Student-Initiated Connection Form (pdf), fill it out completely. Choose a title that reflects the connection(s) that you’ve identified. It is your responsibility to ascertain in which area each course lies, to include the correct course number, name, and semester, and to obtain faculty signatures.
    • Submit your proposal along with Student-Initiated Connection Form (pdf) and supporting materials by the deadline described above.
    • Instead of submitting the form, you may include the relevant information at the beginning of your proposal. Faculty may signify their support over email.

Guidelines for Student-Initiated Connection Proposals

Goal of the proposal: convince the approval committee that you have made substantive connections between courses.

There are three main aspects to convincingly establishing such a connection: identifying and describing a meaningful connection, illustrating the connection(s) through specific examples, and explaining how the connection(s) you’ve identified enhances your experience of the courses involved, creating a whole that is stronger than its individual parts.

  1. Identify a Connection: Connected courses do not need to contain common content. Look for a meaningful, deep connection between the courses. For example, do the courses address similar questions using different methods of analysis, or approach very different questions in similar ways? Where there is common content, the overlap can be one facet of your proposal, but you will need a deeper connection as well. Note: if there is already an existing connection between courses similar to those in your proposal, mentioning that fact is not enough to convince the committee of your connection
  1. Illustrate the connection through specific examples: Support your rationale for the proposed connection with specific examples in your essay. For example, which assignments in either course could be used to demonstrate the connection between courses? Common content between the courses can play a role here, but will not be enough.
  1. Explain how the connection has enhanced the courses within it:

    a)  Be sure to reflect on the connection in both directions. There should be a synergy between courses that enhances the overall experience; the sum is greater that the individual parts. How is your view of each course influenced by the other(s)? What more can you get out of taking “course A” once you have also taken “course B”—and vice versa?
    Note:
    We do not consider two courses to be connected simply because one course provides tools to help you understand the other. For example, Microeconomic Theory is built upon Calculus, so explaining in your proposal that Calculus 2 helped you understand Microeconomic Theory is insufficient motivation. How else did the Calculus course enhance your Economics course, and how can the Economics course strengthen your experience of Calculus?

    b)  If you are proposing to connect a course that contains a practicum experience, be sure not to neglect discussing the remainder of the coursework; that is, the reading and discussion that you do in the classroom and away from your field placement site. While the experiential component may be the larger part of the course, do not disregard other course material.
  1. It is hard to convince the committee of a substantive connection between two broad survey courses. The scope of such courses is so large that some overlap in content between two survey courses is almost inevitable, but finding convincing evidence of a deeper connection can be challenging.

In summary: Connections should provide breadth across the liberal arts curriculum more than depth in a particular subject area. Strive to do more than simply showing how a tool, idea, or concept learned in one course is applied in another.

Examples of Student-Initiated Connections Proposals

Here are a few examples of well-constructed and convincing Student-Initiated Connection proposals to illustrate various ways students have put the above guidelines into practice

If you have any questions regarding Connections, please contact the Office of the Registrar for assistance.

Related

Connections FAQs