A Wesleyan Education for the 21st Century describes the University's vision for an education in the liberal arts and sciences: "The task of a liberal education is to instill a capacity for critical and creative thinking that can address unfamiliar and changing circumstances, to engender a moral sensibility that can weigh consequences beyond self, and to establish an enduring love of learning for its own sake that will enable graduates to refresh their education throughout their lives."

The University aims to accomplish this by a three-pronged approach that exposes students to the most essential issues in broad areas of knowledge; enhances our students' skills in interpreting, communicating, and creating knowledge; and allows them to explore one area of knowledge more deeply. The first component is fulfilled by means of the general education expectations, the second by taking courses that will enhance the students' essential capabilities, and the third by completing a concentration requirement (a major). We believe that this combination of breadth, depth, and skills prepares our students to meet the challenges they will face throughout their lives, to continue to be lifelong learners, and to grow as productive, creative, and ethical human beings.

On March 1, 2005, the faculty updated the essential capabilities, with the understanding that some, such as critical thinking and analysis, are deeply embedded in all or most of our courses and in Wesleyan's interactive and diverse community. Their pervasiveness makes the unsuitable for labeling particular courses. Others capabilities, however, lend themselves to labeling individual courses or clusters of courses. They are:

The ability to write coherently and effectively. This skill implies the ability to reflect on the writing process and to choose a style, tone, and method of argumentation appropriate to the intended audience.

The ability to speak clearly and effectively. This skill involves the ability to articulate and advocate for ideas, to listen, to express in words the nature and import of artistic works, and to participate effectively in public forums, choosing the level of discourse appropriate to the occasion.

The ability to understand, evaluate, and contextualize meaningful forms, including written texts, objects, practices, performances, and sites. This includes (but is not limited to) qualitative responses to subjects, whether in language or in a non-verbal artistic or scientific medium.

Quantitative Reasoning
The ability to understand and use numerical ideas and methods to describe and analyze quantifiable properties of the world. Quantitative reasoning involves skills such as making reliable measurements, using statistical reasoning, modeling empirical data, formulating mathematical descriptions and theories, and using mathematical techniques to explain data and predict outcomes.

Logical Reasoning
The ability to make, recognize, and assess logical arguments. This skill involves extracting or extending knowledge on the basis of existing knowledge through deductive inference and inductive reasoning.

Designing, Creating, and Realizing
The ability to design, create, and build. This skill might be demonstrated through scientific experimentation to realize a research endeavor, a theater or dance production, or creation of works such as a painting, a film, or a musical composition.

Ethical Reasoning
The ability to reflect on moral issues in the abstract and in historical narratives within particular traditions. Ethical reasoning is the ability to identify, assess, and develop ethical arguments from a variety of ethical positions.

Intercultural Literacy
The ability to understand diverse cultural formations in relation to their wider historical and social contexts and environments. Intercultural literacy also implies the ability to understand and respect another point of view. Study of a language not one's own, contemporary or classical, is central to this skill. The study of a language embedded in a different cultural context, whether in North America or abroad, may also contribute to this ability.

Information Literacy
The ability to locate, evaluate, and effectively use various sources of information for a specific purpose. Information literacy implies the ability to judge the relevance and reliability of information sources as well as to present a line of investigation in an appropriate format.

Effective Citizenship
The ability to analyze and develop informed opinions on the political and social life of one's local community, one's country, and the global community, and to engage in constructive action if appropriate. As with Intercultural Literacy, study abroad or study in a different cultural context within North America may contribute to a firm grasp of this ability.