Enhancements FAQs  

For more information on how the new Mason Core Enhancements impact you, please review the frequently asked questions below. Reach out to us at masoncor@gmu.edu with any remaining questions.

What is the timeline for implementing the enhanced Mason Core?  

These enhancements will be adopted over the next few catalog years. The transition from Western Civilization/World History to Global History takes place in academic year 2023-2024, and the remaining category changes will take place in academic year 2024-2025, as illustrated below. 

What’s the difference between the current “Global Understanding” category and the new “Global History” and “Global Contexts” categories? 

The Global History category updates our current history requirement to focus on historical experiences that reflect the diversity of Mason’s student body. Students will be able to see how their families and communities fit within, and contribute to, global history from the pre-modern period to the present day. The course will offer a long-term historical perspective on structural issues challenging our world today, including demographic and environmental changes, national and global inequalities, and the underrepresentation of marginalized groups. Students will gain an understanding of how interconnections and inter-dependencies have been forged through the global movement of people, pathogens, goods, and ideas. HIST 125 has been updated with these learning outcomes and remains the default course for incoming first-year students to fulfill the requirement. 

The goal of the Global Contexts (GC) core requirement enables students to explore global contexts through a disciplinary lens and to understand how global systems have created both interdependence and inequalities that engaged citizens must understand in order to work toward an equitable and sustainable future. Courses take a depth approach (examination of one particular region or society) and/or a breadth approach (comparative examination of different regions or societies). While similar to the Global Understanding category, Global Contexts clarifies the learning outcomes for students and focuses more on the interconnectedness between global systems and societies and less on the individual experience. 

I was teaching a class that was part of the Global Understanding designation.  What did this turn into?  Do I need to do something now?  

The Global Understanding category will be gradually phased out and replaced by Global Contexts starting in academic year 2024-2025. All current Global Understanding courses will need to be resubmitted for Global Contexts approval, and not all current Global Understanding courses will meet the new Global Contexts outcomes without substantial revision. To help with the revision process, we strongly recommend faculty participate in a course development and proposal workshop, available in collaboration with the Stearns Center, prior to completing the proposal. 

Can you explain how the Just Societies requirement works? 

The goal of Exploration courses (Arts, Literature, Natural Science (lab or non-lab), Global Contexts, and Social and Behavioral Science) with a Just Societies flag is to enable students to directly address questions about diverse perspectives and inequity as they engage with one another, and to identify how they can participate in processes for making change. Students will meet the Just Societies requirement by taking two courses that are flagged with the Just Societies attribute. This means that a particular course in the Exploration category includes content and assignments that map to the Just Societies learning outcomes. We are not currently accepting Just Societies proposals for Foundation or Integration level courses.  

What is the difference between Global Contexts and Just Societies in terms of content and within the Mason Core?   

Just Societies is a flag that sits on top of the main course category, and Global Contexts is a new category set to replace Global Understanding. A course cannot obtain the Just Societies flag unless it also meets the learning outcomes for another Exploration category within the Mason Core. A Global Contexts course may also meet the Just Societies requirement if the learning outcomes are appropriately met for both areas. 

How do I get my course approved for the new categories, and how do I add Just Societies to a new or existing Exploration course? 

The course submission process is largely the same for new courses and existing Global Understanding courses moving to Global Contexts. We have updated our required documents to a condensed proposal worksheet, available on the appropriate category page of our website, which will include a rationale, assignment map, and sustainability plan. Review our Course Submissions page for a detailed overview of how to submit a course for approval.  

As for the Just Societies flag, an additional proposal worksheet must be submitted to earn this designation. If your course is already a part of Mason Core, you will need to submit the course using the Just Societies proposal worksheet, with an updated syllabus reflecting the Just Societies learning outcomes. If your course is brand new, or a current Global Understanding course seeking the Global Contexts designation, you will need to submit two proposal worksheets, which can be done simultaneously: one specific to Global Contexts category and one for the Just Societies flag. Please ensure your syllabus clearly includes learning outcomes for both Global Contexts and the JS flag. 

What is the new Mason Apex category? 

Beginning Fall 2024, Capstone and Synthesis courses will be merged into a new category — Mason Apex. All students admitted Fall 2024 and beyond will be required to complete a Mason Apex course as part of the Integration tier of Mason Core.   

 The newly named Mason Apex courses or in some cases, sequence of courses, will provide Mason students with a high-impact culminating experience, requiring students to utilize critical thinking skills and preparing them for life-long learning. Students are challenged to draw connections across their Mason undergraduate academic experience. Mason Apex courses provide students opportunities to apply and communicate their knowledge, and involve integrative, applied or experiential projects. Mason Apex courses have a clearly defined set of learning outcomes, which will help streamline the culminating experience for Mason students.

Why does the culminating experience need to be part of the Mason Core, as they are already in majors? 

While many majors include a required disciplinary capstone, not all do. Students who participate in high impact experiences (and Mason Apex courses are examples) demonstrate higher levels of critical thinking, among other important outcomes. The Mason Apex category incorporates both disciplinary capstones and interdisciplinary senior-level courses (the synthesis-type experience). Additionally, since many of our students transfer to Mason, it provides an opportunity for all students to have an integrative experience that reinforces the value of their education and helps them to see how it applies (in either a disciplinary or broader way).   

Why do Mason Apex courses have to be at the 400-level, excluding some existing 300-level Synthesis courses? 

Culminating Experiences are valuable high-impact practices that need to occur later in the students’ undergraduate experiences, so they can integrate and apply their knowledge. There are only a handful of programs that still have 300-level synthesis courses, and we will work with these programs to support them as they adjust their programs to help students meet the requirement. 

What happens to my current Capstone or Synthesis course? 

Nothing right away. All current students will have to meet the requirements of the current Mason Core, so they will need to take a Capstone or Synthesis requirement. As we phase in the Mason Apex category for future students, we will add the designation to the existing Capstone/Synthesis courses. If the existing course does not meet the basic requirements, we will work with your department to adjust your offerings. Review the Mason Apex learning outcomes to determine how your current course compares with the newly defined standards.  

Moving forward, all new courses will be approved by the Mason Core Committee using the updated Mason Apex criteria. Refer to the Course Submissions page for a detailed overview of the approval process.  

What are the support resources for putting these proposals together?  

Mason Core will be partnering with the Stearns Center to conduct workshops to help you plan, develop, and strengthen your courses. To explore options and register, please visit the Stearns Center website. Faculty can also reach out to masoncor@gmu.edu with questions or to request a meeting with the Mason Core Director for more guidance on their course proposal.