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Crash Course in Core Curriculum

By Erin Brody, News Editor

Originally Published October 3, 2023

Saint Vincent College’s (SVC) class of 2025 was the first to experience the new core curriculum under the direction of theology professor Dr. Jason King. King, however, in spring of 2023, received the opportunity to oversee a Catholic Studies program at Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX, which meant a new director for the core curriculum had to be chosen. That new director is Dr. Jerome C. Foss, Professor of Politics and Endowed Director of the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture.

Originally, King was elected to be Director of Core (DC) for a five-year term, and Foss was elected to finish that term. After fall of 2025, Foss’ term will end, and SVC will look for a new director. While this is Foss’ first semester as DC, he is very familiar with the curriculumsince he was on the committee that created the curriculum and taught Core classes.

“But,” Foss said, “there are many administrative duties that I have had to learn since the election. My colleagues and several students have been graciously kind as I have tried to figure out all the ropes. I’m thankful to them.”

Before being elected, Foss was part of the Core Governance Committee. This Committee is composed of two teams whose members are faculty members within each of SVC’s schools. There is the Core Course Approval Team (CCAT) and the Core Assessment Team. The former proposes classes that should be taught within the Core, and the latter gauges the effectiveness of the curriculum.

Being DC means Foss must ensure that the Core Governance Committee is running as smoothly as possible. “In addition to working with the Core Governance Committee, the DC has to make sure there are sufficient sections of Core Seminars, Core Writing, and other Core courses being offered each semester,” Foss said. “The DC also provides training for those faculty teaching the Core Seminars. And if anyone encounters a problem or a discrepancy, the DC is called upon to try and fix it.”

Of course, as with anything, there will be a few hiccups along the way, and the Core Governance Committee is constantly looking for ways to improve the curriculum. Currently, the committee is looking for ways to “better align to the standards of liberal education at a Catholic, Benedictine institution.”

One way Foss is better aligning the Core with a Benedictine education is proposing certain curricular and managerial changes. One of these managerial changes will be allowing academic departments to have more supervision in the Core curriculum. For example, a department may have more oversight when it comes to scheduling. However, it should be noted that these changes are not in effect and still need to be voted on by the Core Governance Committee.

“More importantly for students, I would like to see a clearer set of required classes in Tier I, which should enrich Tier II and make the overall Core experience more coherent and straightforward,” Foss said. “If we take this step, it will also make it easier to allow courses to double count for Core and major or minor requirements.” Once again, this is not currently in effect and will need to be voted on.

Of course, no matter the decisions made, some students will feel disappointed by certain Core classes, but Foss said he hopes students will be able to trust the Core Governance Committee and realize that because they have more experience in education, they will provide classes that will be helpful to the students.

Foss added, “But just because faculty have more experience thinking about education doesn’t mean we always get it right. Students have insights about the Core, and I want to hear them. The very first lesson of the Core is the importance of listening—we've named a whole seminar in honor of this important word that begins the Rule of Saint Benedict—and we need to practice what we preach. Be assured that I will listen to students who believe they see ways of improving the Core.”


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