Organic First Curriculum

The UWRF Chemistry Department is starting a new chemistry sequence for the first and second years as an alternative to the current two-year general chemistry / organic chemistry sequence.  The new sequence is designed to better meet the needs of students in the sciences (Biology, Animal Science, Chemistry, pre-professional tracks) who typically require two years of chemistry.  Our objectives in offering this new sequence include increasing student recruitment, retention, and progression in science and technology majors and increasing student learning in chemistry.

The alternative and traditional sequences will be offered in parallel.

Concept.  The organic first curriculum replaces the current two-semester general and organic chemistry courses with four one-semester courses which cover similar content but in a different order.  Each sequence is an entry point for professional schools or for further study in chemistry.


The first two courses will not be the traditional organic courses.  Those courses presuppose a thorough grounding in chemical principles.  Instead, our first course, Organic Introduction to Chemistry, Chem 130, will use examples from organic chemistry to teach fundamental chemical concepts.  The second course, Foundations of Organic Chemistry, will more closely follow traditional organic chemistry ideas but will emphasize chemical properties and the relationship between structure and function instead of organic synthetic methods.

More mathematical and physical concepts now taught in the first year general chemistry course will now be covered in the second year courses, Foundations off Inorganic Chemistry and Foundations of Analytical Chemistry.

Advantages of the organic first curriculum.  We anticipate the new sequence will have several advantages for many of the students now taking chemistry.  These include:

The material will be more relevant to the majority of students, who are majoring in biological fields.

The material will be a better match for the requirements of the student’s majors (the programs whose students we serve).

For well prepared students, the course will not be a repeat of high school chemistry.

For less prepared students, the course will be less reliant on mathematics background and more appropriate for their cognitive developmental levels.

The content is still consistent with professional school requirements.

We hope the course sequence will increase student recruitment, performance, and retention in SMET (science, mathematics, engineering, and technology) fields.

Many students who are now in one- or two-semester chemistry programs may also benefit from the first course or two in this sequence. 

Students who might not be a good fit for the organic first curriculum.  There are some students who might not benefit from the options afforded by the new curriculum.  These include:

Students who plan on transferring to another institution after one year. 

Students in fields that require one year or semester of chemistry and require an emphasis on inorganic compounds.  These topics will be treated in the third semester of the new curriculum.

We will still teach the traditional curriculum alongside of the organic first curriculum.