Core Competencies | College of Arts and Sciences | The University of Vermont(title)

Liberal arts graduates are in more demand than ever because of the broad range of skills they acquire—no matter what major they choose. These core competencies help enumerate the skills imparted by the liberal arts curriculum and those valued by employers in any industry.

“It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”― Steve Jobs

Intercultural/global fluency and foreign language skills

The ability to value, respect, learn from, and communicate with diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions.

“As a lawyer with an international focus, I have been able to work seamlessly with clients around the globe by being cognizant of the distinct cultures and histories that have shaped their laws today. The depth of knowledge and insight into world affairs I developed as a history major has been invaluable to my career today.” - Bibal Sultan '07, attorney (history)

Skills that express this core competency:

  • Adapt concepts and behaviors to changing conventions and norms.
  • Identify and communicate value judgements effectively.
  • Acknowledge and honor cultural differences.
  • Explain new information to others without assuming their level of prior knowledge. 
  • Recognize others' unique histories. 
Ethical reasoning and decision making

The ability to recognize ethical issues and act accordingly by assessing one’s own personal and moral values and perspectives as well as those of other stakeholders, and integrating them into an ethical framework for decision making.

"I think studying philosophy has helped me be a better person, both in my professional and personal life. I learned that it is much easier to pick apart the ideas of others than it is to come up with good ideas of your own, and I think that humility has made me kinder." - Kari Dalane '16, (philosophy) Ph.D. student in public administration and policy at American University

Skills that express this core competency:

  • Analyze interrelationships of events and ideas from several perspectives.
  • Include others who will contribute to the solution of a problem or task.
  • Identify resources and materials useful in the solution of a problem.
  • Express needs, wants, opinions, and preferences without violating the rights of others.
Analytical and critical thinking

The ability to explore issues, ideas, knowledge, evidence, and values before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion as well as building awareness of one’s personal biases.

"The program is a crash course in critical thinking, complex writing, intense reading, and always interesting group discussion. I can truly say that 'Understanding Critical Social Problems' has greatly prepared me for the rest of my college career and beyond." - Student in a recent CAS Social Science Scholars course.

Skills that express this core competency:

  • Identify quickly and accurately the primary issues when making a decision or solving a problem.
  • Define the parameters of a problem.
  • Find and identify a principle that explains related experiences or factual data.
  • Take premises and reasoning to a logical conclusion.
  • Create innovative solutions to complex problems.
Quantitative reasoning/applied data interpretation

The ability to apply basic mathematical skills to the interpretation of data to solve a disciplinary problem.

“I've learned that science is not a series of isolated Eureka! moments. Instead, good science takes time and involves failure, troubleshooting, discussions, re-evaluations, and—yes—frustration. Good science is always challenging; that’s what makes it fascinating." - Biology Professor Laura May Collado.

Skills that express this core competency:

  • Identify problems and needs.
  • Use a variety of sources for information and evaluate validity of sources.
  • Design an experiment, plan or model to define a problem.
  • Apply a variety of methods to test validity of data.
  • Formulate questions relevant for clarification.
Creative expression and innovation

The ability to generate new, varied, and unique ideas; make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas; propose alternatives without being constrained by established approaches; and take risks and overcome internal struggles to expose one’s creative self in order to bring forward new work or ideas.

“You can find a lot of people with nice equipment and an education in filmmaking who don’t necessarily know how to tell a story. You can learn how to use equipment by watching tutorials and just experimenting. What’s harder is to create convincing narratives. The social science background I had at UVM was essential to that.” - Filmmaker Tyler Wilkinson-Ray ’13 (anthropology).

Skills that express this core competency:

  • Assess needs.
  • Identify alternatives.
  • Set goals and prioritize.
  • Follow through.
  • Predict future patterns.
  • Accommodate multiple demands for time, energy, and resources.
Teamwork, collaboration, and leadership

The ability to build and maintain collaborative relationships based on the needs, abilities, and goals of each member of a group.

“My research involvement has been a life-changing experience, and that’s not an exaggeration. I really feel like part of the team—they include me in conversations and treat me as a person who can contribute ideas and suggestions." - Natavan Dudkina '19 (biochemistry), Yale Ph.D. program in chemistry.

Skills that express this core competency:

  • Analyze tasks and set priorities.
  • Meet deadlines.
  • Delegate responsibility for the completion of a task.
  • Motivate and lead others.
  • Accept responsibility.
  • Organize people and tasks to achieve specific goals.
Written, visual, and oral communication

The ability to listen and observe with objectivity and communicate effectively in writing, visually, and orally.

"UVM offered a place in the philosophy department where I was forced to think. The honors thesis I did at the time was one of the hardest things I did in my life. Analytical thinking, storytelling and writing are all things you can learn well here if you apply yourself." - Eric Lipton '87, New York Times Reporter.

Skills that express this core competency:

  • Listen with objectivity.
  • Paraphrase the content of a message.
  • Use various forms and styles of written communication.
  • Speak effectively to individuals and groups.
  • Use a variety of media formats to present information imaginatively.
  • Describe objects or events neutrally and factually.
  • Convey a positive outlook to others.
Information and digital literacy

The development of the ability to recognize when information is needed and to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the information.

"Learning how to design experiments, research scientific literature, and use a variety of analytical instruments at UVM has set me up for a smooth transition from academia to industry. With the skills obtained from my UVM experience, I can use the same approach to answering scientific questions to create better, more consistent products for our customers." - Dan Depuccio '16, Materials Scientist at Superior Technical Ceramics.

Skills that express this core competency:

  • Sort data and objects.
  • Compile and rank information.
  • Apply information creatively.
  • Synthesize facts, concepts, and principles.
  • Understand and use organizing principles.
  • Evaluate information against appropriate standards.
  • Audit, inventory, and keep appropriate records.

Central liberal arts goals

In addition to the core competencies above, students in the College of Arts and Sciences will practice and become experts in these central goals:

Active citizenship and community engagement

The development of consciousness about one’s roles in and active engagement with one's communities and building an awareness of how communities and individuals impact, serve, and shape each other.

"One of the most influential classes I took was a First Year Seminar called Street Children taught by (Professor of Anthropology) Jonah Steinberg. The class examines the desperate experience of children around the world who are abandoned by society . . . That opened my eyes to the importance of global and community health. Jonah had this phrase ‘If other people have to live it, we should have to learn about it.’ That’s always stuck with me.” 

-  Lauren Trumble '19 (biology, pre-med)

Life-long learning

The continuous pursuit of knowledge to benefit one’s personal and professional growth.

"I realized that what was rewarding to me about philosophy was not actually answering the big questions, but the process philosophers used to get there . . . From my first day of law school and through almost 15 years of practice, I have applied the tools I learned as a philosophy student, and I get much the same pleasure applying those tools to my legal work as I did applying those tools in my studies." 

- Rachel Wertheimer ‘93 attorney (philosophy)

Future readiness

The active engagement in the process of exploring possible careers, gaining meaningful experience, and building skills that help one excel after college and lead to employment or other successful post-graduation endeavors.

"I worked very closely with press and media in my internship—these interactions prove to be really valuable as I continue my current trajectory as a journalist.” 

- Shanti Boyle '21, of her internship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum