The Core: Six pathways to self-discovery

Submitted by Carolyn Arnold on September 22, 2011

What is the core and why is it required? Sometimes students see it merely as a set of obligatory classes they must take in order to graduate. Yet, by the end of their four years at Fairfield, many seniors have come to appreciate how the classes have added breadth to their college experience, and years later, alumni look back fondly at the core.

But how do first-year students see the core? Is it only something appreciated in hindsight? How can faculty and administration show that integration of the core is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for students?

These are the questions that Dr. Kathy Nantz, associate professor of economics and the facilitator of the Core Integration Initiative, is determined to answer. “There have been many conversations among faculty about what it means to have an integrated core, what it should do for students, and how it should complement their major and minor courses,” says Dr. Nantz.

The point of an integrated core curriculum is to present interesting opportunities to students. “The Core isn’t a chore,” says Dr. Nantz. “It’s an opportunity to learn, to be broadly educated, and to find passion in places where you might not have thought to look.”

In the past year, faculty have been working on the integration of the Core, one of Fairfield’s three main goals in its strategic plan. They have discovered that several recurring themes – touchstones that lead to self-discovery – kept appearing in courses. The six “Core Pathways,” as they are being called, include engaging traditions, creative and aesthetic engagement, global citizenship, rhetoric and reflection, quantitative reasoning, and scientific reasoning.

These are outcomes that students should be introduced to in their early days at Fairfield, and then as they complete courses for their major and minors, they should think about how the learning outcomes under each pathway are a part of all the classes that they take, Dr. Nantz explains.

Now that faculty and administrators are giving more attention to the Core, students are beginning to see its opportunities. “We have preliminary evidence that students are recognizing the role of the core and its importance earlier, by sophomore and junior year,” Dr. Nantz notes. “It used to be that seniors and alumni would have lots of positive things to say about the core. Now first-year students are beginning to understand the role of core courses in helping them to shape their intellectual interests.”

Want to learn more? Explore the core!

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