Cluster One: Skills for the 21st Century (3 courses, 1 test)

Cluster One Coordinator: Dr. Sarah Brooks

Cluster One brings together the basic skills in reasoning, writing, and oral communication. Since ancient times, these skills have been recognized as the fundamental skills of educated persons and responsible citizens. Cluster One specifically emphasizes the critical knowledge and skills that students learn through the study of human discourse, argumentation, reasoning, and persuasion. As students examine issues they gain insight and understanding that knowledge rarely develops in isolation but within a larger interactive, and often complex, context. Cluster One also responds to the contemporary need for effective information literacy within diverse contexts of human communication and decision making.


Cluster One consists of nine credits covering three areas, Critical Thinking, Human Communication, and Writing. Students complete one course in each area and the courses may be taken in any order. The MREST information literacy competency exam is a non-credit carrying requirement.

If a student seeks to re-take any Cluster One course for repeat-forgive (having earned a D- or higher) or to take a second critical thinking class, he or she must have permission from the Cluster One coordinator. If you are an upperclassman needing a permission into a Cluster One course for Spring or Summer please contact Sarah Brooks ( Upperclassmen will not receive a permission to enroll in a Cluster One class in the fall unless there is an available seat during open enrollment in September. 



After completing a Critical Thinking course, students should be able to:

  • Identify the basic components of arguments, including premises, supporting evidences, assumptions, conclusions and implications.
  • Evaluate claims and sources for clarity, credibility, reliability, accuracy and relevance.
  • Evaluate arguments for soundness, strength and completeness.
  • Demonstrate an intellectual disposition to be fair-minded in considering evidence, arguments and alternative points of view.

COURSE OPTIONS (complete one of the following)

  • BUS 160: Business Decision Making in a Modern Society
  • EDUC 102E: Critical Questions in Education
  • HIST 150: Critical Issues in Recent Global History
  • ISAT 160: Problem Solving Approaches in Science and Technology
  • PHIL 120: Critical Thinking
  • PHIL 150: Ethical Reasoning
  • SMAD 150: Mediated Communication: Issues and Skills
  • UNST 300 & other Integrative options (for students who have 49+ credits)


After completing a Human Communication course, students should be able to:

  • Explain the funadmental processes that significantly influence communication.
  • Construct messages consistent with the diversity of communication purpose, audience, context, and ethics.
  • Respond to messages consistent with the diversity of communication purpose, audience, context, and ethics.
  • Utilize information literacy skills expected of ethical communicators.

COURSE OPTIONS (complete one of the following)

  • SCOM 121: Fundamental Human Communication: Presentations
  • SCOM 122: Fundamental Human Communication: Individual Presentations
  • SCOM 123: Fundamental Human Communication: Group Presentations


After completing the Writing course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an awareness of rhetorical knowledge, which may include the ability to analyze and act on understandings of audiences, purposes and contexts in creating and comprehending texts.
  • Employ critical thinking, which includes the ability, through reading, research and writing, to analyze a situation or text and make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis.
  • Employ writing processes.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of conventions, the formal and informal guidelines that define what is considered to be correct and apporpriate in a variety of texts.
  • Compose in multiple environments using traditional and digital communication tools.

COURSE OPTIONS (complete the following)

  • WRTC 103: Rhetorical Reading and Writing


  • Recognize the components of scholarly work and that scholarship can take many forms.
  • Demonstrate persistence and employ multiple strategies in research and discovery.
  • Identify gaps in their own knowledge and formulate appropriate questions for investigation in academic settings.
  • Evaulate the quality of information and acknowledge expertise.
  • Use information effectively in their own work and make contextually appropriate choices for sharing their scholarship.
  • Use information legally and ethically.

EXAM (complete the following according to admit term requirements)

  • MREST (Madison Research Essentials Skills Test) 

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