By Danny Whirlow
Ever since its inception in May 2019, the professors and administrators of the Core Curriculum Committee have been deliberating on how the fundamentals of students’ education should be updated. Spirited deliberations have even taken up some students into a dialogue that played out on the pages of this newspaper. The current core curriculum has been described as outdated, excessive, and especially hard on students with large majors (in terms of credit hours).
Additionally, according to Julia Cavallo, a committee member and the director of assessment and institutional research, “our current Core Curriculum has posed challenges in assessing its effectiveness for some time.” So while students cannot reap the full benefits of a quality education, faculty likewise cannot gauge the impact of their work.
In an effort to change how the effectiveness of the core curriculum is evaluated, the committee’s top priority was Student Learning Objectives. Cavallo relayed that she and her colleagues sought to pare down the number of objectives, a process that took a year to complete. After countless interviews with faculty and administrators, as well as meetings with several groups of constituents, the committee got six objectives passed in the spring of 2020 and approved in June. The committee believes that these six objectives, under the headings of “Listening, Learning, Loving,” precisely articulate the provisions of every Saint Vincent undergraduate’s general education.
Unlike most of 2020, the mission to revamp the core has not become bogged down by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dr. Margaret Watkins, chair of the committee and dean of arts, humanities, and social sciences, the group remains on track.
“We are exactly where we planned to be at this stage of the process. The faculty have been great about staying engaged and involved in a difficult time,” Dr. Watkins said. The stage in question pertains to the core structure and how it can be refined over time.
Dr. Watkins noted that the ongoing pandemic will have no effect on the structuring of the core itself. She stressed that the core curriculum is meant to be “a long-lasting solution that builds in mechanisms for change over time.” And she hopes that the new core curriculum “will cultivate the habits of mind and heart that will enable students to better meet such challenges in the future.” These habits include reasoning well, understanding historical contexts, and responding with charity and integrity; habits that are not just important in strife, but “perennially valuable.”
Once the committee finalizes the new core’s structure, it will enter into the final stage of the revamp process: the full core development stage, slated to take place between October 2020 and June 2021. Readers can view Core Curriculum Committee material in detail on the MySV Portal by searching “Core Curriculum Home” in the menu.