Cavalier Education Program


Student Council is offering you the chance to create a totally new course – your own – with the CavEd Program. Take a look; your course could appear on SIS!

The Cavalier Education Program, listed as ‘Student-Initiated Courses’ on SIS, is a Student Council initiative that allows UVa students to create and teach their own CR/NC courses to their peers. The goal of the CavEd program is to give students the opportunity to take charge of their academic experience – to allow them to share their passion for and knowledge of subjects outside the traditional curriculum.

The CavEd program is run by the Academic Affairs Committee of Student Council. In addition to facilitating the program, committee members review all CavEd applications and make recommendations to the INST subject area faculty, ensuring the role of student self-governance in the program. Cavalier Education courses for Spring 2019 are now listed on SIS and Lou’s List.

Contact Information:
Director: Josie Suddeth

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 Spring 2019 courses

INST 1500-002 with Neah Lekan

This course will explore the work of a variety of screenwriters whose screenplays became
immensely influential films that defined the American cultural discourse and reflected its motifs and mores. Through viewings and evaluations of ten influential films of the 20th and 21st Centuries along with the contemporaneous and modern commentaries on them, we will endeavor to explore how the screen has reflected our nation’s triumphs, travails, and sentiments. From the most stunning romanticization to the most sharp critique, screenwriters and filmmakers have told and retold the American story. That story is one we are a part of, and one we will partake in through this course.

INST 1500-001 with Will Norton

What do Sufi mystics, trekkies, Filipino guerrillas, Rastafarians, and Japanese anarchists have in common? That’s right: all have invented or made use of artificial languages. In this class we will trace the development of constructed languages from the twelfth century to the modern era. Our overarching theme will be the myriad ways people have tried to tap in to the mysterious and alluring power they see in language. We will devote particular attention to Esperanto, the most successful constructed language to date, and to the contemporary rise of “conlanging” as a cultural phenomenon.


Start a Course: The Application Process

With the CavEd program currently capped at eight courses per semester, the application process is competitive. The Academic Affairs committee is committed to a thorough and balanced review of all applications. The review is split up into two parts: (1) a review by and recommendation from the Academic Affairs CavEd committee and (2) a final review by the INST faculty.

Start a CavEd Course
Have an interesting or unique idea for a course? If you’re serious about initiating it with care, commitment, knowledge, and passion, we are interested in working with you to make it happen.

  • Step 1: Take the CavEd pedagogy seminar, listed under INST 3150.
    Students wishing to apply for the CavEd program must take the pedagogy seminar before they can apply to teach a CavEd course. The pedagogy seminar will not only provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to teach a course but also provide guidance on how to craft a quality CavEd application.The pedagogy seminar can be taken the semester prior to the semester during which the applicant hopes to teach. For example, a student can take the pedagogy seminar Spring 2013, apply in March 2013, and teach a course Fall 2013. The pedagogy seminar can also be taken well in advance of the semester during which the applicant hopes to teach.

  • Step 2: Decide what kind of course you want to initiate and teach. Do you want to…

    • Initiate a Seminar-Style Course?: If you have a passion and are qualified to spend a semester passing it onto your peers, then consider the challenge of initiating and teaching a course. Maybe you just spent a semester studying art in Italy and want to bring your knowledge back to Grounds. Or maybe you’re a History major who dabbles in Egyptology on the side. Or maybe you just love video games and want to share their social context with your fellow Hoos!

    • Initiate a Survey Course?: A survey course is generally a one-credit course that is an overview of a broad topic. Maybe you’re a psychology major who wants to see what your professor researches in the lab after leaving the lecture hall. Or an English major who wants to listen to what the faculty writes in their spare time. Or you just want to know just what kind of crazy discoveries are being made in the UVa biology department. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at UVa, and past courses that have coordinated professors to share their research and outside-the-classroom work have been a big hit.

    Each course caters to its own style of teaching, pick what would work best for you! The course type has no bearing on the application process.

  • Step 3: Find a Faculty Sponsor
    In the application process, the role of your faculty adviser is to write you a letter of support and to work with you as you craft your course syllabus. The faculty sponsor is responsible for grading any assignments and for awarding final CR/NC for the class. You should stay in contact with your faculty adviser over the semester and keep them informed about the progress of the class.Start looking for a faculty sponsor early; sponsorship is a big time commitment for busy faculty and you want to make sure you’re not looking for someone last-minute. Also, talk to your sponsor about how you will work with each other throughout the semester – this will help when it comes to answering one of the questions on the application!Try to pick a professor with whom you are close and/or who has an interest in the topic that you chose for your class. Remember, it is a time commitment for the faculty sponsor as much as it is for you. Furthermore, the letter of support that they submit is a very important part of the application.If your course is accepted and appears on SIS, your faculty sponsor’s name, not your own, will appear as the instructor. However, while the faculty sponsor may come and sit in on the class, or even act as a “guest lecturer,” his/her duty is not to teach the course.The faculty sponsor CANNOT be a graduate student or non-faculty administrator; he or she must be an actual faculty member at the University.

  • Step 4: Apply!
    The complete CavEd Application consists of:

    • Proposed course information

    • Responses to the application’s bullet-point response question

    • Your course syllabus, including a course description, an explanation of the course requirements and expectations, and a list of readings and lecture and/or discussion topics for the entire semester

    • A letter of support from your faculty sponsor

    • A budget proposal, or a note stating that such a proposal is not applicable

    • A copy of all student-initiators’ transcripts (unofficial is fine)

    • A copy of all student-initiators’ resumes

    In addition, please be ready to answer any questions the CavEd committee may have about your application during the review process.

    Some things to think about when applying:

    • The Pedagogy Seminar: All student-teachers are expected to attend a one-credit Pedagogy Seminar (INST 3150) prior to the semester in which they are teaching. There are no exceptions to this requirement, so please know that you will have to schedule other activities around this required class. The course will improve the ability of student-teachers to effectively teach and promote student learning. Here is the Spring 2012 Pedagogy Seminar syllabus. (Note: this syllabus is from a previous semester and is subject to change. It should only be considered as a guide to the expectations and topics covered.)

    • The Syllabus: Your syllabus will be the centerpiece of your application. Past successful syllabi have included a course description, class expectations, and a grading system, as well as a week-by-week schedule of classes, readings, and assignments, though please feel free to include any and all relevant information. Though we understand that your syllabus may change between the time you submit your application and the time your course begins, please be as thorough in your syllabus as possible. For example, if you want to bring outside speakers into your course but can’t finalize them by the application deadline, make sure it’s clear on your syllabus that you have contacted the speaker about coming to your class, have a tentative date and subject matter, and have a backup plan in case the speaker falls through.

    • The Budget Proposal: Line items of your budget may include handout printings, selected textbooks, and other relevant course materials. If approved, Student Council will compensate you for these materials on a reimbursement basis. The application review is need-blind, that is, the budget review is separate from your course review. In the case that your course is accepted but your budget is denied in part or in full, we will help you to find alternative sources of funding.

    The best way to learn about what makes a successful syllabus or application is to check out the “Past Successful Courses” section of our website.

    • Due dates:

      • Application opens: September 13th, 2019

      • Application closes: October 14th, 2019

      • Interviews: October 19-20, 2019

      • Dean Hadley gets all applications: October 23rd, 2019

      • Final decisions: week of November 5th

  • Step 5: If Your Course is Selected…
    Congratulations! You’ve initiated a course! Now what?The practical stuff: The office of the University Registrar (UREG) will handle room and scheduling assignments. Contact Pam Lawson at UREG to complete your room and scheduling information. Decide early on if you will need a room with a projector or any other equipment.Getting the word out: Student Council will help you advertise your courses to the student body, but feel free to spread the word yourself as well. Targeting publicity to departments and student groups you think will be especially interested in your course is a good place to start. While advertising your course, please keep in mind that the faculty sponsor – not the student-teacher – is listed as the instructor on the SIS. Students will initially enroll in CavEd courses through the SIS, not through Course Action Forms, although once the semester begins you can let students in off the wait list (if applicable) via Course Actions Forms.Accountability: Student Council will hold several evaluations over the semester to make sure everyone stays at the top of their game. Faculty sponsors are required to be actively involved with you throughout the semester. Students enrolled in the course will also be asked to submit a midterm evaluation.

Past Successful Courses and Examples

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who can initiate or instruct a course?
    A class can be initiated by any currently-enrolled undergraduate student, group of students, or organization (for example, the Global Development Organization initiated a class for Fall 2008). It may be instructed by one to four students (all of whose names must appear on the application). Just remember – it is a serious commitment, so be selective in choosing a partner.The CavEd program is open to students from any school.

  2. What kind of credit will my students get for taking my course?
    All CavEd courses are given the INST distinction in the College of Arts and Sciences. INST courses count among the 18 hours of non-CLAS credits students may include in the 120 total credits required for a CLAS degree. CLAS students may count no more than two INST courses, or a total of 3 credits, toward their degree.INST courses are taught on a CR/NC or Not Graded (NG) basis. This means that students who take the class can only get credit(s) from it; it will not count towards their GPA. CavEd courses can count for anywhere from 1-3 credits, as determined by the instructor and faculty adviser. CR/NC classes cannot be taken to fulfill requirements for a degree. For more information, visit UVa’s page on Grading Options.

  3. What is INST?
    INST is a subject area (formerly mnemonic) in the course catalog that stands for Interdisciplinary Studies. Courses identified as INST are administered by the College of Arts and Sciences, with the authorization for them delegated by the Committee on Educational Policy and the Curriculum (CEPC). Information about the CEPC is available here. Questions about INST or the CEPC may be directed to Associate Dean Mark Hadley (mah2ar, Monroe Hall 204).

  4. What does a faculty adviser do, and what should I look for in a faculty adviser?
    Please see the “Application Process” section of our website for more information on the role of the faculty adviser.

  5. How will I make sure my course fits with my schedule?
    The application includes a request for the day and time when you would like your course to be held, as well as how many credits you would like your course to count for. These requests are usually honored by the University Registrar.If something comes up and you need to change the date/time when your course will be held, please contact the University Registrar in order to make the necessary changes.

  6. What makes a successful CavEd application?
    Please see the “Application Process” section of our website for more information on what is required of applicants.

  7. Can I teach a course again?
    The same course idea can be submitted anew each semester, although it will be subject to the same application process as new courses and thus is not guaranteed a spot.Individual students are limited to teaching twice.

  8. Will I get credit for teaching a course?
    Student-teachers receive one credit for teaching their CavEd course via the Pedagogy Seminar (INST 3150), which is taken at least 1 semester prior to the semester in which they are teaching. Student-teachers may not enroll in their own courses.
    For additional credit, it may be possible to establish an independent study in a department relevant to you or your faculty sponsor that relates to the course you are teaching. If this is something in which you are interested, please speak with your faculty sponsor as early as possible after your course has been accepted to begin developing your independent study. Please also notify us of your intentions.

  9. How specific should my syllabus be with regard to reading assignments? 
    In the syllabus, we mostly want to see that you have thoroughly thought about the semester and what content you would like to cover. Having a good sense of the reading schedule is one way to show that. A good syllabus will outline weekly readings, along with other relevant assignments. Remember: your CavEd course will be taught for credit, so you want your syllabus to reflect that you expect your students to earn that credit.

  10. To what extent can a syllabus be modified after my application has been accepted?
    While we understand that you may want to make modifications in terms of specific reading assignments between the time that you submit your application and the beginning of the following semester, we would like the syllabus you submit to be as close as possible to what you will use during the semester. We would also suggest that once the semester starts and you have distributed a syllabus to the students in the class, you stick to that syllabus.

  11. What if I take the pedagogy seminar and apply to the program, but my course is not selected?
    The pedagogy seminar is intended to help you craft a quality syllabus, and we believe it will be helpful to students applying to the CavEd program, as we look for high-quality syllabi when selecting applications. If your course is not selected, we encourage you to edit your syllabus and apply again for the following semester! Feel free to reach out to our committee members ( if you would like to ask questions related to improving your application.


Take a CavEd Course

  • CavEd courses are a great opportunity to learn from your peers, explore a new subject, and get degree credit along the way!

  • CavEd courses are graded Credit/No Credit and count for anywhere from 1-3 credits depending on the course (for more information on the CR/NC grading system, click here). CavEd credits are in the INST subject area and count among 18 non-College credits students may include in the 120 total credits required for a College degree. College students may count no more than two INST courses for a total of 3.0 credits.

  • Bottom line: CavEd credit cannot be put towards a major or towards College requirements, but it does count towards your degree.

  • CavEd course offerings are listed as the sections of INST 1550-“Student Initiated Courses” under the INST subject area and registered for on SIS just like any other class.

  • NOTE: On SIS, the faculty sponsors are listed alongside the student teachers as the course instructors.