A student must take a 3 credit course designated as an Essential Studies Synthesis Experience (ESSE). The purpose of the ESSE is, as its name suggests, to synthesize the learning in all six pathways and apply it at the practicing level in a single course, preparing students for the capstone experience within their major.  At least one foundational course in each pathway must be completed prior to a student taking an ESSE course.

To qualify as an ESSE, a course must: 

  • Address an interdisciplinary question using the full inquiry process
  • Involve team collaboration
  • Demonstrate and synthesize all 6 ISLO’s
  • Include an information literacy component
  • Allow student choice, not prescribed by the major and open to enrollment for students from at least two different departments
  • Involve faculty from two different departments, including a general education department 
  • Include both instructor-directed time and experiential student-directed time


As a signature element of Oregon Tech’s proposed Essential Studies Model for general education, the General Education Review Task Force proposed the ESSE (Essential Studies Synthesis Experience): an integrative, interdisciplinary, project-based course. As a new idea for Oregon Tech rich in opportunity, we are seeking to test models for delivering such an experience that make sense given our student population, resource constraints, and community and industry connections.

To test a diverse range of models for creating a 3-credit junior-level experience in which students work in teams to tackle challenging interdisciplinary problems and integrate disciplinary and interdisciplinary skills, the Provost’s Office is offering support for up to four pilot ESSEs, to be developed and taught by interdisciplinary faculty teams (i.e., two or three faculty). 


To support the collaborative development of ESSEs by interdisciplinary faculty teams, the Provost’s Office is offering the following workload model for these four pilot ESSEs only. For approved official ESSE pilots, the faculty team would share the following WLU based on student enrollment:

  • 6-9 students: 3 WLU (would normally be 2.25 WLU)
  • 10-14 student: 4.5 WLU (would normally be 3 WLU)
  • 15+ students: 6 WLU (would normally be 3 WLU).

(Note: This workload model is experimental and applies only for 2017-2018 pilot ESSEs. WLUs may be split between the faculty team in whatever manner they and their departments decide.)


Faculty teams interested in teaching an official pilot ESSE should submit: a 1-2 page proposal for a three-credit course experience. Within this proposal should be a tentative week-by-week outline of course structure and some description of major student/work assignments.

Submit proposals to oae@oit.edu


Essential components of pilot ESSEs:

  • Course must involve students working in teams to tackle challenging problem(s) that crosses disciplinary boundaries.
  • Faculty from different disciplines must be involved in the development and delivery of the pilots.
  • Faculty must make all their course materials freely available to future ESSE instructors.
  • Faculty must participate in (and make their students available for) a post-course debrief developed by the ESSE pilot committee.
  • All members of the faculty team must have the approval of their department chairs.

Desirable components:

  • Academic department or external partner provides half funding for the WLU above normal load (allowing us to increase the number of official pilots).
  • Course must be open to all students of junior standing (no technical or major-dependent prerequisites).
  • Course must be able to “count” for students as meeting a current general education requirement.
  • Student work exhibits integration of as many Oregon Tech ISLO’s as practical.
  • Faculty articulate plans or opportunities to disseminate results of course development or course activity beyond the university (publication, conference, community, etc.)

Selection criteria:

  1. Contains essential components listed above
  2. Maximizes the variety of ESSE models piloted.
        - Variety in mode/site: Klamath Falls, Portland-Metro, online, mixed.
        - Variety in “nature”: 
               - e.g. centered around competitions (e.g. Catalyze);
               - centered around “big problems” (e.g. global poverty); 
               - centered around local issues/service learning; 
               - connected with industry partners, etc.
  3. Contains the desirable components listed above.
  4. Proposals that show potential to spur faculty/student engagement beyond the scope of the course are especially welcome.

More Information

Submissions will be reviewed by the ESSE pilot committee (an ad hoc subcommittee of GEAC); their recommendations will be forwarded to the Provost for final approval. Proposal review and decisions will be made within 7-10 days of the submission deadline. 

Faculty members who have been involved in developing the ESSE concept and who may be able to provide additional information or guidance include: Aaron Scher (EERE), Kristy Weidman (Management), and Terri Torres (Mathematics).