A Shared SMCM Experience
The Liberal Arts Seminars (CORE 101 and CORE 301) are an integral part of the Core Curriculum at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. This year, the College is also piloting a new approaching to the Liberal Arts Seminar: CORE 102.
In CORE 102, students will focus on how data and other forms of numerical information are shaped by the contexts in which they are produced– and then reshaped by the rhetorical contexts in which such information is recounted, explained, or otherwise deployed to make an argument. As in CORE 101 and CORE 301, seminar topics will vary, but in each seminar, students will gain an understanding of how data are generated and the impact of how data are presented, and at times manipulated, both through textual explanations and through visualization strategies. In so doing, CORE 102 students will consider digital and traditional forms of media that circulate data–and the impact of these circulations–on shared understandings of information, that is, on what we have often considered to be “facts.” CORE 102 is not required, but it does satisfy the mathematics requirement for the Core Curriculum.
All Liberal Arts Seminars are small, discussion-focused classes taught by professors from every discipline at the college. They represent the first classroom-based opportunity for new students to get to know each other, and to meet upper-class students serving as Peer Mentors. While the CORE 101 and 301 courses share the same mission, each is tailored to fit the unique needs of two distinct student types:
First-year students (defined as students with 24 or fewer credits) are required to take CORE 101 or 102 in their first fall semester on campus. Students who opt to take CORE 102 must complete CORE 101 in the spring semester of their first year.
Transfer students (defined as students with more than 24 credits) are required to take CORE 301 during their first semester, whether spring or fall.
CORE 101 and 301: Seminar Skills
The fundamental liberal arts skills (critical thinking, information literacy, written expression, and oral expression) are the cornerstones of a traditional liberal arts education and are essential to an integrative curriculum. All students in all majors employ them throughout their academic careers.
Each course offering is designed to cultivate autonomous thinking, enabling the full exercise and expression of one’s thoughts and self-hood. As such, these fundamental skills do not mark mere technique, but represent some of the core capacities shaping human intelligence.
Critical thinking describes the capacity to recognize and appreciate the context of a line of thought (e.g., a rhetorical argument; a mathematical proof; a musical composition, etc.); the capacity to evaluate its consistency, coherence, importance, and originality; and the capacity to create an independent line of thought.
Information literacy describes the capacity to identify the need for information and to locate, analyze, evaluate, and effectively use all forms of information (e.g., written, oral, visual, quantitative, etc.).
Written expression describes the capacity to clearly articulate a coherent, creative, and compelling line of thought in writing exclusively, with attention to the power of both language and images.
Oral expression, in practice, seeks to recreate the mental acuities of written expression, only out loud, in clear speech. As many well know, it is one thing to put thoughts to paper, and another thing entirely to give voice to one’s thoughts aloud, in front of the many, or even the few.
A Never-ending Process
Although each skill maintains its identity as the definitions above signify, these skills inextricably inform one another. These skills will be introduced and practiced in the Core Curriculum, but as students matriculate beyond the Core Curriculum the outcomes for these skills will expand, multiply, and diverge.
In other words, the idea of “all four skills in all four years” will form an integral part of the academic culture at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Students will begin to understand this culture before they arrive on campus, become immersed in it during their time on campus, and further develop these skills after they leave the campus. Assessment of these skills will take place in a variety of ways in the Core, in the majors, and in the senior capstone experiences.
Beyond the Seminar: The 5th Hour
Students are required to participate in at least five extra-curricular events or activities on campus over the course of their first semester on campus. This 5th Hour of participation on campus is designed to assist new students with their transition to college life and the campus community at St. Mary’s.
Events and activities that qualify for the 5th Hour are at the discretion of the Seminar instructor. Whether it involves attendance at an athletics event, a concert, or a coffee house, the 5th Hour is intended to help students become active on campus and integrated into our community.