REAL Curriculum

Innovative new curriculum helps undergraduates make the most of their education

By Chad Osborne

Helping students explore their purpose and find their passion — that’s what Radford University faculty had in mind three years ago when they began developing a new approach to general education, the REAL Curriculum.


The primary focus was not only on improving student learning, but also questioning the ways general education had operated in the past. The three-year process included the work of nine committees comprising faculty, staff, alumni and students and hundreds of hours of meetings, presentations and conversations, resulting in the launch of REAL in the fall 2021 semester.

Most general education programs, Hendrix said, are centered on a menu of courses in a wide range of disciplines. But REAL is truly different. Instead of using menus of individual classes, REAL emphasizes the skills and learning embedded within Radford University’s majors and minors, helping integrate general education courses smoothly into students’ academic plans. REAL is a new way to consider undergraduate education and the value of study in diverse disciplines.

Students fulfill requirements in the REAL curriculum by completing majors and minors in four knowledge areas: scientific and quantitative Reasoning; humanistic or artistic Expression; cultural or behavioral Analysis; and applied Learning. This ensures a broad and focused education that helps students succeed far into the future while also allowing students to go deeper than a traditional menu-based general education.

Instead of taking one or two classes from a set of menus, Radford students can now use their general education to acquire depth of learning and credentials that can serve them for a lifetime.

“REAL empowers students to customize their academic journey,” said interim President Carolyn Ringer Lepre, Ph.D.

Students have more autonomy and choice over their education as they focus on expanding their knowledge and skills in disciplines that cover REAL areas. For example, a traditional major in psychology covers R and A, while minors in ethics or professional writing cover E. L minors in disciplines like entrepreneurship and music business help students connect to professions and consider other career fields for their future.

“REAL arms students with the knowledge, skills and credentials needed to make true change and pursue lifelong success, happiness and health.” Nicole Hendrix

Some minors cover two areas, such as biology (R and L) or international studies (E and A). Some programs cover three areas, like many of the teacher education programs, Davis College Bachelor of Business Administration programs and College of Visual and Performing Arts programs in art, design and music.

This flexibility gives students choices that help them engage more deeply with their studies and maximize the investment in their education. Because students can begin taking classes that lead to majors and minors in their first semester, REAL ensures students connect with faculty earlier in their education journeys.

Integrating general education requirements into majors and minors is not just innovative, Hendrix said. It gives Radford graduates a distinctive set of credentials to enhance their transcripts and resumes. REAL sets Radford students up for success and ensures every course they take counts toward a bright future.

REAL also showcases the diversity of academic experience available to Radford students. The REAL curriculum features majors in 43 areas of study and more than 90 minors. At Radford, every student can find courses of study that will ignite their passion for learning.

The REAL curriculum helps students accumulate experiences to build their beginnings and prepare for their first jobs, while also preparing them for a lifetime of opportunities and challenges.

“REAL arms students with the knowledge, skills and credentials needed to make true change and pursue lifelong success, happiness and health,” Hendrix said.

Those collaborations that led to REAL, Hendrix continued, “more than anything in my career, demonstrate the amazing possibilities that exist at Radford University. This innovative curriculum sets us apart in the commonwealth and in the nation, and I am excited to be bringing it to life with our faculty and students!”


In this example, Student A selected a major with complementary minors.

AL of the REAL Curriculum

B.S. in Criminal Justice fulfills A and L

R of the REAL Curriculum

Forensic Science Minor fulfills R

E of the REAL Curriculum

Ethics Minor fulfills E


In this example, Student B selected a minor that pursues an area of interest instead of directly complementing the major. Some minors can fulfill two areas of knowledge.

R and L of the REAL Curriculum

B.S. in Biology fulfills R and L

A and E of the REAL Curriculum

History Minor fulfills E and A

Explore REAL! Build your own curriculum using the REAL Navigator!