• Shared Capacities Initiative

    Shared Capacities underlie The New School’s distinctive approach to general education. More than a set of course requirements, Shared Capacities are the competencies or skills that undergraduates develop over the course of their education. Rather than isolating these abilities in core or distribution requirements, we weave them into every student’s course of study throughout their undergraduate education, linking them with specific outcomes that students are expected to achieve in their coursework. This ensures that students develop the capacities that will enrich their lives intellectually and prepare them for the demands of the 21st century. 

    The university community has identified 11 Shared Capacities, which range from basic skills, such as writing and oral communication and quantitative and scientific literacy, to competencies that are particularly emblematic of The New School, such as creative making, cross-disciplinary thinking, and flexibility and resiliency. These skills serve the University’s intellectual mission, with its historic strengths in design and social research, as well as its commitment to sustainability, civic engagement, and social justice. 

  • List of Shared Capacities

    The list of 11 Shared Capacities below includes five that represent excellent undergraduate education across the country and six additional capacities that are emphasized specifically at The New School. Each category is dynamic and fluid, as no single class can address each and every capacity. A concern with fundamental values — social justice and sustainability, for instance — underlies many of these Shared Capacities.  

    Critical Analysis

    Assess concepts, arguments, and data to develop or revise opinions or judgments.


    Present information and express ideas, judgments, values, and opinions using writing, speech, data visualization, creative composition, or performance.

    Quantitative Reasoning

    Evaluate evidence and arguments by gathering and interpreting numerical data and applying mathematical approaches to natural and social phenomena.

    Research Literacy

    Recognize the kind of evidence that is needed to support a claim and advance a project; know how to find and use evidence effectively while utilizing a variety of methods and skills.

    Scientific Literacy

    Apply empirical approaches to test hypotheses; pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence; develop projects through iterative experimentation and design processes.


    Develop new works, find appropriate audiences for them, and explain how they fit into a larger context; contribute to discussions with other makers, thinkers, and communities; cultivate an awareness of learning processes.

    Creative Making

    Create and interpret new works; produce and organize forms of social and cultural life; develop imaginative and intellectual projects as tools for fostering shared experience and communication.

    Cross-Disciplinary Thinking

    Use a variety of methods to solve problems, design projects, understand complex concepts and situations, analyze and interpret information, develop ideas, formulate arguments, and present data.

    Flexibility and Resiliency

    Foster the skills and agility to adapt to changing circumstances and settings, identify approaches for solving problems, and persevere through difficult situations.

    Working in Complex Systems

    Communicate across fields of thought; adapt to various norms and practices across diverse communities and institutions; use the urban environment as a laboratory for navigating, engaging with, and affecting complex systems.

    Ethical Reasoning

    Examine ethical questions in broad contexts; explore diverse cultures and value systems; articulate and defend judgments in an informed, thoughtful way.


    Each of these capacities has its own learning outcomes.

    Shared Capacities Faculty Task Force

    2017-2018 Membership

    1. ERIN CHO

      Associate Professor of Design and Management
      University Faculty Senate, representative
      School of Design Strategies, Parsons School of Design


      Associate Professor of Techniques of Music
      Mannes School of Music, College of Performing Arts


      Associate Professor of Economics and Urban Policy
      Director of Milano Doctoral Program
      Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy
      Schools of Public Engagement


      Associate Professor of Design
      Director of the Center for Data Arts
      Parsons School of Design


      Professor of Economics
      Chair, Department of Economics
      The New School for Social Research


      Associate Professor of Chemistry
      Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts


      Associate Professor of Literary Studies
      Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts
      Associate Dean, School of Art and Design History and Theory
      Parsons School of Design 

    8. MAYA WILEY 

      Henry Cohen Professor of Urban Policy and Management
      Senior Vice President for Social Justice
      Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy
      Schools of Public Engagement


      Assistant Professor of Diversity and Inclusion
      Director of Parsons Scholars Program
      School of Art, Design, and Technology, Parsons School of Design

    10. Administration

      LAURA AURICCHIO (chair)
      Professor of Art History             
      Vice Provost for Curriculum and Learning

      LARRY JACKSON (co-chair)
      Assistant Provost for University Curriculum

      MICHAELA ROME (ex officio)
      Associate Provost for Assessment

      COLLEEN DAVY (ex officio)
      Director of Assessment

      LES GORSKE (coordinator)
      Operations Coordinator for Academic Programs and University Curriculum

    History of Shared Capacities

    During the 2013-2014 academic year, a faculty subcommittee of the University Curriculum Committee led a university-wide conversation, both on campus and online, to determine what capacities all undergraduate students should be expected to develop by the time they graduate, regardless of college or program. Although curriculum development was understood to be primarily the responsibility of faculty, the subcommittee encouraged students, alumni, and staff to contribute to the discussion.

    The original working list of Shared Capacities, developed during spring 2013, outlined 14 possible capacities. During spring 2014, these were amended and debated, and two short lists of Shared Capacities (featuring ten and eight categories) emerged. In June 2014, the faculty subcommittee concluded its deliberations and presented a recommended list of 11 capacities to the academic leadership of the university. In February 2016, a final list of ten Shared Capacities (with five primary and five new categories) was posted on the university’s website.

    In fall 2016, a new Shared Capacities Faculty Task Force of 11 senior faculty from throughout the university was convened by the Vice Provost for Curriculum and Learning with input and approval from the deans. During 2016-2017, the Shared Capacities Task Force revitalized the initiative and took next steps in its development and implementation: It reviewed the list of Shared Capacities and added Ethical Reasoning as an 11th category; it simplified and broadened the definition of each capacity; it developed student learning outcomes for each capacity; and it engaged in updates and discussions about its work with individual faculty, undergraduate directors and program chairs, the University Faculty Senate, and the university’s academic leadership. 

    Research, Resources, and Best Practices

    General education at The New School is based on our Mission and Vision Statements, which were developed by the president, provost, and deans and are supported by current research and best practices in undergraduate education.

    Useful guides to the development of Shared Capacity definitions include research conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), particularly its Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP)  Initiative and Essential Learning Outcomes.

    Further discussions regarding the nature and scope of liberal education can also be found at AAC&U

    For further feedback, comments, and questions about Shared Capacities, please email Laura Auricchio, vice provost for Curriculum and Learning.