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VALUE OF LIBERAL ARTS AT THE CORE OF NEW CURRICULUM

There’s a change in the air. This fall, the Class of 2021 will choose their coursework based on USD’s new core curriculum, the most significant adjustment to the classes required by undergraduates since 1986. 

Representing five years of work by faculty, students and the Board of Trustees, the new core is a student-centered recommitment to the value of a liberal arts education for all undergraduates, regardless of major. The impetus for the change was to give students fewer required classes outside of their chosen field of study, providing them with more space for electives and/or classes within their major or minor.

In the end, the focus remains squarely on the Catholic intellectual tradition, which is centered on the belief that serious, sustained intellectual reflection is essential to our lives.

“Our new core curriculum is the embodiment of our commitment to the liberal arts at USD. I am truly appreciative of our faculty for their tireless work to craft our new San Diego core,” says College of Arts and Science Dean Noelle Norton. “Our students will greatly benefit from the deliberate attention to the integration of ideas, diversity and inclusion. The skills students will acquire by completing the core will lead to meaningful, successful lives after graduation.”

A majority of faculty approved the new curriculum last spring; the University Senate subsequently made it official. Integrating learning goals across requirements and disciplines was a driving factor in the core revision. First-year students will participate in a yearlong living learning course experience and upper-division students will now take a course that integrates material from more than one discipline. 

Another goal of crafting a smaller but more vibrant core inspired changes to English, logic, theology, social science and science requirements. The First-Year Writing Experience replaces the Composition and Literature requirement, and critical thinking is embedded throughout the entire core, instead of in just one logic course. While there is one less theology requirement, one of the remaining two must explore Catholic-christianity. The natural science requirement now incorporates a laboratory experience, and students must take two courses that explore issues of diversity, inclusion and social justice.

Special Assistant to the Dean Kristin Moran, PhD — who directed the efforts of the Core Planning Committee — is excited about the new direction. “What employers want to see most are students who can think critically, communicate efficiently and solve problems. Our students will have the ability in the new core to practice those skills.”

School of Business Dean Jaime Alonso Gómez concurs. “A foundation in liberal arts education is essential for our business students,” he says. “They gain multidisciplinary knowledge and critical thinking skills in addition to learning how to communicate effectively in dynamic contexts and situations, which helps them to develop as leaders. All of this enables business students to enrich their judgment and decision-making capabilities, forge a robust moral character and become responsible citizens.” — Julene Snyder

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