Residential Curriculum Element #1: Directly Connects to the Institutional Mission

Curriculums do not exist in a vacuum. They exist on college campuses which have unique histories, traditions, contexts, cultures, and demographics. To this end, a well developed residential curriculum should be built not only off of peer-reviewed research and national and international standards, but also on the unique aspects of an institution.

Many institutions starting a curriculum for the first time may skip over this step, but it is critical to ensure that a curriculum is built off a solid foundation. A curriculum is not merely a schema of categories and check boxes. It is a researched, developed, and scaffolded system that can take years to develop and hone. Although you shouldn’t get so bogged down in the details that it prevents you from launching a curriculum, a proper curriculum requires months and perhaps even a year of planning.


When developing a residential curriculum on your campus, ask yourself some of the following questions and identify documents and artifacts that can help inform your curriculum:

  • What is your institutional mission? Divisional mission? Departmental Mission?
    • Is you institution private? Public? Religiously affiliated? Liberal arts-focused? Career-focused?
    • Does your institution, division, or department have a strategic plan?
  • How is your academic curriculum structured?
    • Are there general education or liberal arts distribution requirements?
    • What types of knowledge domains does it prescribe?
    • What are the most popular majors at your institution?
    • Are you preparing students for a specific career?
  • What are the demographics of your institution?
    • Are certain populations represented more than others?
    • Are there certain vulnerable populations that require specific focus or attention?
  • What is your campus climate?
    • Are certain issues more pressing on your campus?

Doing local research, engaging in these topics with stakeholders, and making sure your staff members are fluent in these materials can help ensure a well-grounded and successful curriculum at your institution. Rather than collecting this information, using it once, and letting sit on a shelf, knowledge and use of these materials should be infused into your staff orientation and training processes. Additionally, missions, demographics, and campus issues can change over time. Ensure that you are constantly reviewing this information and adapting your curriculum as your institution, division, and department evolves.

Key Questions:

  • How can you ensure that the unique aspects of your institution are represented in the curriculum you develop?
  • How can you engage staff in the vision and mission of your institution, division, and department?

Reference: Kerr, K. G., Tweedy, J., Edwards, K. E., & Kimmel, D. (2017, March-April). Shifting to curricular approaches to learning beyond the classroom. About Campus, 22(1), 22-31. doi:10.1002/abc.21279


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