Core Competencies

CLA’s Core Competencies reflect the very essence of a liberal arts education, bridging academic and professional life. As student learning outcomes, they represent the complex and sophisticated intellectual and procedural knowledge that results from extensive and intensive engagement with one’s liberal arts education. Unlike job skills that may become outdated, these ten competencies prepare students for long-term success in an unpredictable and dynamic future.


graphic with names of ten core competencies

Definitions for Each Competency

Comprehensively explores issues, ideas, knowledge, evidence and values before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion.

Those competent in Analytical & Critical Thinking:

Recognize there may be more than one valid point of view.
Evaluate an issue or problem based on multiple perspectives, while accounting for personal biases.
Identify when information is missing or if there is a problem, prior to coming to conclusions and making decisions.

The process of designing, evaluating and implementing a workable strategy to achieve a goal.

Those competent in Applied Problem Solving:

Recognize constraints.
Generate a set of alternative courses of action.
Evaluate alternatives using a set of criteria.
Select and implement the most effective solution.
Monitor the actual outcomes of that solution.
Recognize there may be more than one valid point of view.

Recognizes ethical issues arising in a variety of settings or social contexts, reflects on the ethical concerns that pertain to the issue, and chooses a course of action based on these reflections.

Those competent in Ethical Reasoning & Decision Making:

Assess one's own personal and moral values and perspectives as well as those of other stakeholders.
Integrate these values and perspectives into an ethical framework for decision making.
Consider intentions and the short-and long-term consequences of actions and the ethical principles that apply in the situation before making decisions.

Generates new, varied and unique ideas, and making connections between previously unrelated ideas.

Those competent in Innovation & Creativity:

Challenge existing paradigms and propose alternatives without being constrained by established approaches or anticipated responses of others.
Employ their knowledge, skills, abilities, and sense of originality.
Have a willingness to take risks and overcome internal struggle to expose one's creative self in order to bring forward new work or ideas.

Leverages knowledge of information and communications technology and media literacies, and utilizes the interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in a digital space.

Those competent in Digital Literacy:

Assess sources of information.
Use technologies responsibly.
Adapt tools to new purposes.
Keep up with the evolving technology landscape.

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 outcomes.

Those competent in Career Management:

Understand their values, interests, identity, personality, skills, strengths, and Core Career Competencies.
Are able to articulate how those characteristics, combined with and shaped by a liberal arts education, lead to career success.

Cultivates awareness of one’s own identity and cultural background and that of others through an exploration of domains of diversity, which may include: race, ethnicity, country of origin, sexual orientation, ability, class, gender, age, spirituality, etc. This requires an understanding of historical and social contexts and a willingness to confront perspectives of dominant cultural narratives and ideologies, locally, nationally, or globally.

Those competent in Engaging Diversity:

Understand how culture affects perceptions, attitudes, values, and behaviors.
Recognize how social structures and systems create and perpetuate inequities, resulting in social and economic marginalization and limited opportunities.
Commit to the fundamental principles of freedom of thought and expression, equality, respect for others, diversity, and social justice; and to participate in society as conscious global citizens.
Are able to navigate an increasingly complex and diverse world by appreciating and adopting multiple cultural perspectives or worldviews.

Develops a consciousness about one's potential contributions and roles in the many communities one inhabits, in person and online, and takes action accordingly.

Those competent in Active Citizenship & Community Engagement:

Actively engage with the communities in which they are involved.
Build awareness of how communities impact individuals, and how, in turn, an individual impacts, serves, and shapes communities.
Evolve their awareness of culture and power in community dynamics.

Builds and maintains collaborative relationships based on the needs, abilities, and goals of each member of a group.

Those competent in Teamwork & Leadership:

Understand their own roles and responsibilities within a group, and how they may change in differing situations.
Are able to influence others without necessarily holding a formal position of authority, and have the willingness to take action.
Leverage the strengths of the group to achieve a shared vision or objective.
Effectively acknowledge and manage conflict toward solutions.

Intentionally engages with an audience to inform, persuade, or entertain.

Those competent in Oral & Written Communication:

Consider relationships with the audience and the social and political context in which one communicates, as well as the needs, goals, and motivations of all involved.
Have proficiency in, knowledge of, and competence with the means of communication (including relevant language and technical skills).
Ensure that communication is functional and clear.


Every CLA student develops all ten core competencies from the breadth of their coursework and experiences in the College of Liberal Arts. Taken together, these core competencies give students a practical framework for understanding their liberal arts education and articulating its relevance to any career field.

How We Introduce Students to the Core Competencies

Our student-facing website features alumni, employers, faculty, and current students explaining how CLA's Core Competencies encompass the intellectual tools to adapt and advance professionally; how students can intentionally strengthen their competencies and accelerate their development through a broad range of experiences inside and outside the classroom; and how our graduates can stand out as candidates for jobs and graduate programs by connecting what they've experienced across their liberal arts education and translating its value into any professional context.