What is Civitae?

Civitae is the curriculum that all Longwood students complete to earn a degree. It’s rooted in the liberal arts, which traditionally gives students a broad base of knowledge in a number of disciplines from math and science to history and English, but Civitae is different in a number of important ways.

  • Emphasis on citizenship. Longwood’s mission is to create citizen-leaders, people who are prepared to contribute to their communities.
  • Developing 21st-century skills. Every Civitae course is designed to develop communication and critical thinking skills, through collaborative assignments and undergraduate research projects.
  • Four years of classes. Learning how to be a citizen doesn’t happen in one year or one class. By extending the curriculum across all four years of your college education, skills build off one another, culminating in an in-depth symposium where seniors explore a civic issue together.

Why does Longwood believe this is the best approach to higher education?

Civitae really reflects who we are at Longwood: creative, forward-thinking, and focused on questions of citizenship. We aren’t just preparing students for a great, fulfilling career--though that is a priority--we are preparing them for a full and rewarding life as active citizens.

We built Civitae so that students come together with a common purpose, building the skills needed for the essential work of citizenship.

What makes Civitae different from other liberal arts educations?

Most approaches to a general curriculum consist of a series of boxes you have to check--most often in your first and second years of college--so that you can get to the classes you really want to take.

Here, Civitae is much more than a set of check-boxes. These are classes that build on skills as they develop and push students to consider a wide variety of perspectives. In fact, some of the best teaching and most memorable classroom moments students report are in Civitae classes. What that means is that instead of taking Western Civ for a semester and forgetting it as soon as it’s finished, those classes combine to form a powerful, deep understanding of the world.

What if I change majors?

We know that most students will change majors at least once during their four years in college--that’s normal, and we encourage you to explore different academic paths to find the one that fits your interest. With this in mind, we designed Civitae to be flexible, so several of the classes that you’ll take as part of the curriculum can also be counted toward your major.

What if I’m undecided?

If you’re undecided, you have some time to explore different courses of study, and the way Civitae is structured you’ll be able to take some time to consider options while still staying on pace to graduate in four years.

Does every student have to take the same courses?

No. All freshmen will take the Introduction to Citizenship and Rhetoric and Writing classes, but that’s it. Students will then follow different paths through Civitae, but the program as a whole is an experience that binds students in common intellectual purpose and identification with Longwood.

What do I have to do to get through Civitae?

Every student goes through the four stages of Civitae over their four-year career: Foundations, Pillars, Perspectives, and Symposium. These classes will combine over our time at Longwood to form a powerful understanding of citizenship, while developing skills you will rely on in the workplace. You can find more about these stages here.

Why is it called Civitae?

Powerful new ideas deserve names that are instantly recognizable and evokes several key elements of the curriculum. Its “civic” root it emphasizes civics education and Longwood’s mission of educating “citizen leaders.” “Vitae” – Latin for “life” -- reinforces that the curriculum serves as preparation for all aspects of a full life, including citizenship and work. Vitae also evokes “curriculum vitae” – a synonym for resumé in academic and professional circles. This highlights the value of the curriculum’s focus – in particular on oral and written communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork – not just as preparation for citizenship but as important skills for a successful career in any field.

How will Civitae help me prepare for my career?

National surveys show the skills employers are looking for in new employees are effective communication, problem-solving, and the ability to work collaboratively. That is why Civitae was designed so that students are in writing- and speaking-intensive classes that emphasize integrative learning, broadened perspectives, and developing effective communication techniques.

We hear it from alumni and employers all the time: companies are dependant on employees with a diverse range of skills who can understand complex problems and find creative solutions. That is what we teach in Civitae, so students emerge not only prepared for a successful career, but also ready to make positive contributions to their community.

Do you have additional questions?

  headshot of Dr. Heather Lettner-Rust       Heather Lettner-Rust, PhD
Professor of Rhetoric & Professional Writing
Director of Civitae Core Curriculum
Grainger Hall G10
(434) 395-2162