Civics & Individual Ethics

Students will demonstrate an ability to engage in ethical reasoning about civic and individual life.

Learn more about the Civics and Individual Ethics graduation requirement.

The Value of Civics & Individual Ethics

Moral judgments confront us everywhere. Ethical reasoning provides students foundational skills to reflect rigorously on ethical issues and to apply ethical reasoning in civic and individual life. It allows students to identify their own ethical convictions, think self-critically about them, and reflect on their merits. This is a key component of a liberal arts education.






Student Learning Outcome

Students will demonstrate the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation necessary to contribute to the civic life of communities

Fulfill Civics & Individual Ethics by:

Students may use pre-matriculation transfer coursework to satisfy Graduation requirements. The coursework must be college-level, credit-bearing work, taken and passed for a letter grade. Students must receive SMU transfer credit for the course.

Courses that transfer in with an SMU equivalent number (for example FREN 2401) will automatically satisfy any Proficiency & Experience requirements fulfilled by the course. The same is true for many courses on the listed on the SMU Transfer Equivalency Guide

Courses that transfer in with generic course numbers (for example, ENGL 10XX) will not automatically satisfy Proficiency & Experience requirements and must be petitioned using the Proficiency & Experience (PE) Fulfillment Verification petition.


Students must submit one petition for each graduation requirement, even if they are using a single course to petition multiple requirements. Students may use a single course to satisfy up to three Proficiency & Experience requirements (assuming the course meets the criteria for all three).  


How to petition generic transfer coursework:

  1. Fill out the Proficiency & Experience (PE) Fulfillment Verification petition, selecting the requirement they are hoping to fulfill and checking the second option that says “A transfer (non-SMU) course that I completed after high school and prior to matriculation at SMU.”
  2. Attach a complete syllabus which includes a daily schedule, grade breakdown, assignments, and assigned readings.
  3. Attach a copy of the Transfer Evaluation Report (TER), showing that the course being petitioned has transferred to SMU for credit. Visit my.SMU > Academics > Request Transfer Evaluation
  4. Attach a brief supporting statement, using the provided template, that explains how the course fulfills the Proficiency & Experience being petitioned.

Petitions are electronic and are usually reviewed within two weeks of receipt. Students should not assume that a petition has been completely processed until they receive a formal notification of approval or denial from the Office of General Education via The Common Curriculum email ( The formal notification, in cases of approval, follows the formal update to the students Degree Progress Report (DPR), noting that the petitioned requirement is satisfied.

Use the course search options below to find Civics & Individual Ethics-tagged courses at SMU. Following successful completion of the course, your Degree Progress Report (DPR) will be updated to reflect satisfying this graduation requirement. Learn how to find tagged courses below via one of two means. 

Search courses on the Common Curriculum website:

  1. Go to Course Search on the SMU Common Curriculum website
  2. Click Filter by Graduation Requirements and select Civics & Individual Ethics

Search courses in my.SMU:

  1. Go to and select “Students”
  2. Login using your username and password
  3. Once logged into your Student Dashboard, select Class Information on the left-hand side bar
  4. Under Class Information, select Advanced Class Search
  5. In the Search Criteria boxes:
    1. select the term you want to take the class
    2. in Course Attribute, select Common Curriculum P & E
    3. in Course Attribute Value, select Civics & Individual Ethics
  6. Select Search and the available courses will be displayed

Students may apply to fulfill the CIE requirement through a co-curricular activity. These criteria apply to experiences that meet the CIE curricular requirement and describe the characteristics of the experience, the steps a student must follow to petition the experience for approval, and the number and types of assignments students must submit to satisfy the requirement. Some activities that have been previously approved include:

  • Volunteering in "Feed My Starving Children" program
  • Volunteering with Jubilee Park and Community Center
  • Dallas County Public Defender's Office Internships
  • SMU-led trip to Spain, with civic and institutional field visits
  • Organ Scholar at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church
  • Pony Connect

Before the Individual Activity:

  1. Write up a narrative summarizing the plan to fulfill all Civics & Individual Ethics Experience Criteria requirements.
  2. Submit a Common Curriculum Proficiency and Experience Pre-Approval Petition with your plan.
  3. Once approved, begin the individual activity.

During the Individual Activity: 

  1. Complete at least 15 hours of engaged interaction in a context in which students are explicitly concerned with concepts such as justice, freedom, fairness, privacy, security, tolerance, equality, rights, or concern for the general welfare. Students wishing to use the same activity for both Community Engagement and Civics & Individual Ethics must complete a total of 30 hours of engaged interaction.
  2. Ensure the engagement with the community must be such that it provides a tangible benefit to the community in question.

After the Individual Activity:

  1. Students must submit a reflection of at least 1000 words that responds to the following prompt:


    Please write a reflection that describes in detail the activity you used to complete the Civics and Individual Ethics requirement. In your reflection, answer the following questions, how did you, through this activity, come to reflect on questions of such as justice, freedom, fairness, privacy, security, tolerance, equality, rights, or concern, for the general welfare? In what context did you reflect upon these questions? How did your experience during this activity change or reinforce your understanding of these concepts? What, based on your experiences, do you believe constitutes a good life or a good society?


  2. Request third-party verification of hours in the form of a letter, engagement portal screenshot, etc.
  3. Submit the Common Curriculum Proficiency and Experience Fulfillment Verification petition with the above.


Sometimes students complete, or desire to take, an SMU course which was not tagged with the desired Proficiency & Experience, but after reviewing the Student Learning Outcomes, Supporting Skills, Course Content Criteria, they believe they may have satisfied the requirement. Use this process below to petition credit for the graduation requirement. 

Current SMU students who wish to take an SMU course that they believe has activities that satisfy this Proficiency & Experience, must submit, prior to beginning the course:

  1. The Proficiency & Experience (PE) Pre-Approval petition and request individual activity-based fulfillment.
  2. Attach a complete syllabus which includes a daily schedule, grade breakdown, assignments, and assigned readings.
  3. A detailed supporting statement, using the provided template, of how the activities in the course meet the requirements for Civics & Individual Ethics.

Upon completion of the course and a posting of the student's grade, students must submit:

  1. A Proficiency & Experience (PE) Fulfillment Verification petition.
  2. A copy of the student's Degree Progress Report (DPR) with the letter grade of the course. 
  3. A complete syllabus which includes a daily schedule, grade breakdown, assignments, and assigned readings.
  4. A final supporting statement, using the provided template, on how the course achieved the Student Learning Outcome. Supporting Skills, and Course Content Criteria. When possible, providing specific examples.

There are a number of pre-approved clubs or organizations which can fulfill the Civics & Individual Ethics and Experience. Review them below and get in touch with their organizers to begin.

Engage Dallas

Engage Dallas is a place-based community engagement initiative via SMU’s Residential Commons to address community needs focusing on South and West Dallas. The initiative is a long-term, university-wide commitment led by students to partner with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to positively impact the community. There is equal emphasis on campus and community impact stemming from the initiative. Engage Dallas accepts new members anytime. Follow the get started instructions on their website.