Competencies at Wesleyan

Once you’ve declared a major, you’ll engage in the deep study of an academic field while developing academic breadth through your general education coursework. In addition, you’ll also build broad interdisciplinary skills through all of your curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities.

To help you identify and describe the skills you’ll gain on your journey through Wesleyan’s open curriculum, we’ve developed a flexible framework of four competencies to reflect on and consider as you build—and share—your own personal narrative about your Wesleyan experience.


  • Mapping: Navigating complex environments
  • Expressing: Writing and communication
  • Mining: Empirical analysis and interpretation
  • Engaging: Negotiating cultural contexts

Mapping: Navigating Complex Environments

Mapping is defined as the ability to examine the relationship of objects, concepts, spaces, and environments in the material and imagined worlds. It involves developing tools to create, manipulate, and navigate constructed and natural environments and charting movement through and interactions with space and its consequences.

Mapping courses can be found across the curriculum, from the arts (e.g., dance, studio art, and art history) to the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as in interdisciplinary programs, including geographical information systems (GIS) and the new minor in Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences (IDEAS). Mapping skills include typography, computation, material science, modeling, and, of course, mapping.

Expressing: Writing and Communication 

Expressing is defined as the ability to express thoughts, ideas, and emotions to others effectively and concisely through various mediums and modalities.

Most expressing courses are found in the humanities, arts, and social and behavioral sciences. These courses assign written, verbal, and creative projects, and may include performance opportunities, to help you develop your ability to express your thoughts and ideas to others. 

Mining: Empirical Analysis and Interpretation

Mining is defined as the ability to use logical and empirical reasoning and methods to explicate, analyze, and quantify one's material and social realities. It involves learning about the measurement, analysis, summary, and presentation of information, including about the natural world, as well as answering questions, solving problems, making predictions, and testing and constructing theories by employing mathematical, statistical, logical, and scientific reasoning.

Most mining courses are found in mathematics, the natural sciences, and in social and behavioral sciences.

Engaging: Negotiating Cultural Contexts

Engaging is defined as the ability to comprehend, appreciate, and negotiate human and cultural differences as well as the complexity of one's own relation and accountability to wider sociohistorical dynamics. It involves reading, speaking, or understanding a second or third language (contemporary or classical); gaining experience working, studying, or traveling abroad, or in other unfamiliar cultural contexts; and participating in the political and social life of local and global communities.

Engaging courses are found across the curriculum, from language, literature, and culture to history, science in society, religion, government, and philosophy, among other areas.

What’s the difference between the competency framework and Wesleyan’s General Education Expectations?

The competency framework differs from the General Education Expectations (Gen Ed) in several ways.

  • The Gen Ed Expectations help illustrate pathways through Wesleyan’s open curriculum. Further, you are asked to reflect on the ways the expectations illustrate liberal arts learning. Admission to some majors, and to some departmental honors programs, depends on compliance with the expectations.
  • Assessing competencies, on the other hand, has no bearing on admission to majors or honors. Rather, competencies offer a mechanism for you to identify and describe the capabilities you’ve gained on your journey through the open curriculum.

Wesleyan students are encouraged to reflect on both the competencies and the Gen Ed Expectations. The narrative that can issue from this process may be of great help to you in understanding, and explaining to others outside of the University, the paths you’ve charted through the curriculum.

Departmental Learning Goals

Separate from the University-wide competencies that can help students articulate the broad skills they have developed at Wesleyan, each department and program has its own departmental learning goals that are specific to the major.