The faculty of St. Mary's College shares a commitment to provide students with a broad grounding in liberal learning. The Core Curriculum represents our endeavor to give this commitment practical form. Our curriculum should stimulate a spirit of inquiry about a range of intellectual issues and develop students' ability to think creatively and critically, with reason and imagination.
Because students must develop the intellectual and ethical resources to flourish in our complex world, the Core Curriculum engages students in different modes of knowledge and learning. Through the Core Curriculum our students develop four liberal arts skills as they take a variety of courses-they are introduced to, practice and develop the skill to speak and write with clarity and precision; construct sound arguments; apply theoretical concepts and integrate knowledge; and use information and technology resources effectively and ethically. Students practice and develop these abilities across all disciplines, through creative production in the fine arts to scientific method in the sciences.
Our vision of learning at St. Mary's College includes, welcomes, and depends upon many voices and viewpoints. The Core Curriculum begins the process through which faculty and students participate in on-going conversations about value, meaning, understanding, and action. A student's intellectual growth will therefore entail a deepening global awareness. The Core Curriculum lays the foundation that will enable St. Mary's College students to develop a sense of social and civic responsibility and be prepared to participate ethically and intelligently as informed citizens of the communities in which they work and live.
The College implemented the new Core Curriculum in the Fall of 2008.
The features of the new Core Curriculum are these:
- an introduction to the liberal arts in a first-year seminar,
- opportunities to hone the four fundamental liberal arts skills in a variety of courses through the majors and minors,
- an international language course beyond entering competency,
- development of breadth through courses in various liberal arts approaches to understanding the world, and
- an academic experience outside the classroom (international study abroad or service learning).
Introduction to the Liberal Arts: First-Year Seminar
This course will introduce students to academic culture and expectations, including critical thinking, written expression, oral expression, and information literacy. The content or themes of these seminars will vary depending on the expertise and interests of the individual faculty member.
4 Skills all 4 Years
In order to graduate, a student must achieve competence in critical thinking, written expression, oral expression, and information literacy. Students will be introduced to these skills in their first-year seminars and the other courses in the Core Curriculum. Then the College calls on the majors and minors to continue to teach these skills; paired with the Core Curriculum, the faculty is essentially saying that students will excel in writing, speaking, thinking, and gathering information in many disciplines but will hone those skills as biologists, economists, arts scholars, historians, etc. Finally, these skills find their ultimate expression during the student's college years in carrying out a St. Mary's Project (SMP) or other senior capstone experience.
Experiencing the Liberal Arts in the World
The new Core Curriculum requires students to have an academic experience (4 credits' worth) outside the classroom. Few experiences are as powerful as taking one's knowledge and applying it in the world through direct participation in life events. Students may do this in one of four ways:
1. Study abroad: Students attend a semester-long SMCM study-abroad program or a study-tour course taught by SMCM faculty. Other study-abroad programs require pre-approval to ensure they fulfill all requirements.
2. Complete a course that has a significant experiential or service learning component. These courses are approved by the Core Curriculum Committee and will have a special designation.
3. Participate in a work experience: Students organize an internship (credit, paid or volunteer) in cooperation with the Office of Internships, or participate in a work experience that has been pre-approved by the Dean of the Core Curriculum.
4. Complete an independent study under faculty direction in a community organization: In cooperation with a faculty member, students organize an independent study that has been pre-approved by the Dean of the Core Curriculum.