New core curriculum in practice

By Erin Brody

The new school year is already a few weeks underway, and it’s an experimental start featuring Saint Vincent College’s new Listening, Learning, Loving core curriculum. The core curriculum at Saint Vincent has been developed through several iterations, as Dr. Tim Kelly, chair of the history department, described. Kelly was a part of the core revision process in the early 2000s. “When I arrived at Saint Vincent, there was a new core curriculum, and that was in 1995,” said Kelly. “Then about five years later...maybe my second year of reviewing the core¬– [the process] culminated in the construction of a new core.” Dr. Jason King, professor of theology and director of the new Listening, Learning, Loving core, explained the reasoning behind the latest curriculum. “The old core ran into problems because it proved impossible to access. This situation led to the 2018 Middle States Accreditation problems,” King said. These problems led to an expedited timeline for the new core to be revised and implemented. However, the new core will be put into practice gradually, according to King. “It’s only being implemented this semester for the first time, then it’s going to roll out kind of in sequence or steps. So next semester, there will be more core classes, then in the fall, there will be more,” King said. According to Kelly, the new core will include interdisciplinary classes, where faculty co-teach a course that focuses on a question or student experiences from multiple perspectives. While these interdisciplinary courses have not yet been implemented, Kelly reported that he hopes to see them put into practice in the near future. Dr. John Smetanka, associate professor of physics, expressed his approval for the new curriculum, saying that he is “energized by the Listening, Learning, Loving Core Curriculum” and “delighted to see that excitement in my faculty colleagues and the students in core classes”. Smetanka reported that he is particularly excited for the Listening Seminar that he is currently teaching this semester because the class serves as an introduction to Saint Vincent’s values, both intellectual and Benedictine. While several new courses have been added to the core curriculum, others have been removed from core requirements. Sophie Bringman, a freshman philosophy major whose older brother— Sam—also attends Saint Vincent College, remarked on the smaller amount of classes the new core requires, compared to her brother’s experience with the old core. The old core required students to take more courses relating to the liberal arts such as language classes, but the new core has eliminated the language requirement. Sam Bringman, a sophomore physics major and Sophie’s older brother, voiced his disapproval for the new core. “My general view of the new core curriculum is that it is inferior to the old core because it reduces the liberal arts aspect of the college,” Bringman said. “These humanities courses, such as philosophy, anthropology, theology, foreign language, and English, are essential to being a well-rounded and educated person in society.” Sam also claimed that due to the lack of humanities now being offered, some of the Saint Vincent College professors “are forced to compete for students in order to keep their classes running”. But Sophie reported that there are perks to the new core curriculum design. “As a liberal arts college, I do think it’s an essential part of education to get the liberal arts no matter what your major is,” said Sophie. “But at the same time, I’m glad I’m not doing certain classes, such as languages.” King expressed that he believes the core has not been instated long enough to tell how the new core is going, but he plans to reassess it at the end of the semester. King’s message to the students, faculty and staff still adjusting to the semester is that the new core’s benefits will be more visible over time as the core continues to be built, assessed, and refined. While Sam is unsure about how effective the new core is, he said he still wants the best for Saint Vincent College. “Hopefully, the college will positively adapt to this drastic change to the core curriculum,” Sam said.

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