As a basis of a Wartburg College education, the Essential Education (Ess Ed) plan comprises a series of challenges that help create liberally educated, ethically-minded citizens for the 21st century.

Value of the Liberal Arts

The National Association of Colleges and Employers ranks the top five employee attributes as communication skills, analytical skills, teamwork, technical skills, and strong work ethic.

The Wartburg Plan of Essential Education helps develop those skills by emphasizing:

  • Critical inquiry.
  • Written and oral communication.
  • Information literacy.
  • Mathematical and scientific reasoning.
  • Critical reflection on faith and values.
  • Lifetime wellness.
  • Intercultural understanding.

The introductory level 
IS (Inquiry Studies)
 Courses look at problems/ situations with the point of modeling how educated people formulate and respond to questions of personal and social importance. Designed as “pre-disciplinary” courses, IS courses favor broad processes of inquiry and articulation over narrow content and responses.

The second level 
IC (Interconnected)
 Courses introduce students to the unique contributions of disciplines to our understanding of themes, issues, and fields of knowledge. These courses also connect a unique disciplinary understanding to another discipline’s perspective (upon the same object of study), thus allowing students to experience how varied approaches and vocabularies provide new and useful insights.

The third level
ID (Interdisciplinary Courses)
 require students to synthesize knowledge. Students draw upon the work in their major(s) and experiences in IS and IC courses as they integrate knowledge across the humanities/fine arts, social sciences, and natural sciences. Such integration serves the understanding of a complex social, historical, or philosophical issue.

EssEd: Reasoning
EssEd approaches the challenges of thinking/expressing skills via three components: verbal reasoning (writing and speech), mathematical reasoning, and scientific reasoning. Wartburg believes that competency in these three areas is central to producing the cognitive outcomes of liberal learning, which are in turn central to good citizenship and career success.

EssEd: Literacies
Wartburg College’s EssEd plan integrates into specific courses those literacies required of a liberally educated person. These include information literacy (ILAC); cultural competence across the curriculum (CCAC), including foreign language; oral communication across the curriculum (OCAC), and writing across the curriculum (WAC). Such courses reinforce skills introduced at the IS level (above) as well as in composition, scientific reasoning, and oral communication courses.

EssEd: Faith and Reflection
As a college of the ELCA, Wartburg College takes seriously its duty not only to foster spiritual as well as intellectual growth, but also to help students integrate the two. To this end, EssEd asks students to take two religion/philosophy courses, the first in years one or two and the second in years three or four. The first of these courses provides students with the opportunity for in-depth study of the Biblical tradition. The second course, chosen among a number of options, will concern how Christian traditions or the Western philosophical traditions have addressed ultimate questions of Being and value in human experience.

EssEd: Health and Wellness
Wartburg College prides itself in its nurturing of the body, mind, and spirit of each of its students. To that end, each student is expected to complete a half-term course concerned with promoting life-affirming choices regarding physical health.

EssEd: The Capstone
The capstone, the only course required in EssEd specifically included in students’ majors, completes the process of integration. In the capstone, students are expected to synthesize the various intellectual strategies and forms of knowledge that they have been exposed to in their majors.

Candidates for the BACHELOR OF ARTS (B.A.) degree take courses that fulfill the Wartburg Plan of Essential Education and courses that complete a major as listed by each academic department.

Candidates for the BACHELOR OF MUSIC EDUCATION (B.M.E.) degree take courses that complete a music education major and all but three courses required to fulfill the Wartburg Plan of Essential Education.

Candidates for the BACHELOR OF MUSIC (B.M.) degree take courses that complete a music major and all but three courses required to fulfill the Wartburg Plan of Essential Education (see chart on page 34).

Candidates for the BACHELOR OF APPLIED ARTS (B.A.A.) or BACHELOR OF APPLIED SCIENCE (B.A.S.) degree take courses to fulfill the Wartburg Plan of Essential Education EXCEPT IS 101, IS 201, and one Faith and Reflection course. The Associate degree substitutes for the major.

Essential Education Courses
Thinking Strategies
Total cc = 
1cc Inquiry Studies 101 Asking Questions/Making Choices
1cc Inquiry Studies 201 Living in a Diverse World
4 cc 
1cc Natural Science with laboratory
1cc Social Science
1cc Humanities/Fine Arts 
1cc Humanities/Fine Arts or Social Science
1cc Interdisciplinary Studies course
Reasoning Skills
Total cc = 3.5
1cc Mathematical Reasoning 
1cc Scientific Reasoning 
1cc Verbal Reasoning (English 112)
1/2cc Oral Communication (Communication 112)
Total cc = 2
1cc 1 Foreign Language
2 Writing Intensive courses during years 3 & 4*
1cc Cultural Competence*
Oral communication proficiency within the major*
Information Literacy proficiency within the major*
Faith and Learning
Total cc = 2
1cc RE 102 The Bible in a Diverse World
1cc – Faith and Reflection course
Health and Wellness
Total cc = .5
1/2cc PE 100 Lifetime Wellness
The Capstone
Total cc = .5 to 1
.5 – 1cc Select the course associated with the major
Total 14.5 – 15

* These requirements are embedded into general education, electives, and/or the major.

Essential Education (Ess Ed) will provide students with:

thinking strategies in developmentally appropriate levels

college-level competencies in fundamental thinking and communication skills

knowledge of the uniqueness as well as connectedness of academic discipline(s)

ability to integrate faith with learning

In addition, Ess Ed provides special emphases (across the curriculum) in:

information literacy (finding and evaluating information).

diversity (appreciating diverse ideas, peoples, and approaches to problem-solving)

speaking (articulating orally one's ideas and beliefs persuasively, cogently, and authoritatively)

writing (achieving mastery in various rhetorical situations)

ethics (understanding the ethical dimensions of ideas and their consequences).