Santa Clara University

University Core Curriculum

A university expresses its most basic values in its core curriculum, that part of an undergraduate education required of all students. The Santa Clara Core Curriculum, adopted in fall 1996 after four years of University-wide discussion, combines traditional core strengths with a new emphasis on curricular integration, world cultures, and technology. It stems from the University Mission, which states “Santa Clara University is a Catholic and Jesuit institution that makes student learning its central focus.”

Within this framework, the Santa Clara Strategic Vision declares the University’s intention “to excel in educating men and women of competence, conscience, and compassion.” In pursuit of this aim, the University emphasizes the Catholic and Jesuit traditions of spirituality, intellectual excellence, study of Western and world cultures, internationalism, the promotion of faith and justice, and leadership as service to others. The University Core Curriculum seeks to further these values by fostering the strengths of a liberal education, including religious studies and ethics.

Accordingly, the Core seeks to create a University learning environment that enables students to achieve intellectual excellence, live as responsible citizens, and seek to be of constant service in creating a more just and humane society. The Core encompasses three thematic course clusters: Laying Foundations, Reaching Out, and Integrating for Leadership.

The progression of these clusters is not strictly chronological, nor will all students study Core courses in exactly the same sequence. They will, however, study the same courses based upon the same sets of criteria for inclusion in the Core. It is hoped students will not just experience Core requirements as individual courses but as related educational experiences that help structure the students’ whole University study. The Santa Clara Core Curriculum expresses the psychological dynamics of building on the foundation of one’s developing identity (Who am I?), then moving out to encounter new realities (What is the world like?), and then returning to oneself to integrate these new realities into one’s world view as a basis for serving others (What is my relationship to the world? How should I act?). All of these stages, of course, take place every day for all learners. Thus, while each cluster has a primary theme, all three themes ought ultimately to find expression in each cluster. Senior Capstones, departmental majors and minors, and University interdepartmental programs are other important ways of assisting students to integrate their complete University experience.

Laying Foundations

The first cluster of core courses prepares the foundations for the competence and excellence that the University hopes will mark all of its graduates. The traditional building blocks of liberal education—language, culture, and mathematics—challenge students to reflect upon the diverse communities they have experienced in their own lives and to begin to sharpen the analytical tools they will need for whatever paths they choose.

Reaching Out

The second cluster of core courses expands students’ perspectives in two ways. First, students are immersed in the methods of inquiry that a citizen of the 21st century requires to participate in a civic dialogue that is increasingly global in scope. This participation will entail an ability to understand an expanding range of complex topics, including political, religious, scientific, ethical, and social concerns. Second, students are challenged to begin to understand the diverse cultures and societies with whom they share this fragile planet. The expansion of horizons in these ways is intended to encourage the continuing development of intellectually grounded moral compassion in the Santa Clara graduate.

Integrating for Leadership

The third cluster of core courses are transition courses that straddle both the core and the focused areas of study that comprise students’ majors, minors, and other academic and cocurricular programs. They seek to complement these other areas of study by encouraging disciplined reflection on the moral stance those who have earned Santa Clara degrees will adopt in their lives as a result of their engagement with this University’s learning environment. Graduates will leave the University as life-long learners, with consciences that are at once both critically formed and always in the process of being critically re-formed.

First Theme: Laying Foundations
  • English Composition
  • Religious Studies (first course)
  • Mathematics
  • Second Language
  • United States
  • Western Culture
Second Theme: Reaching Out
  • Natural Science
  • Social Science
  • Technology
  • Religious Studies (second course)
  • World Cultures/Societies
Third Theme: Integrating for Leadership
  • Ethics
  • Religious Studies (third course)
  • Third Writing Course

The courses the University prescribes to realize these themes vary slightly among the College of Arts and Sciences and the Schools of Business and Engineering and among their various degree and disciplinary programs. A college or school may impose a specification on the more general University requirements for a certain type of course. In many cases, because of the importance of one of these themes to the school’s fields of study, the school also imposes a supplementary requirement in that area by requiring students to take more of these courses. For example, most students are required to take only two courses in Western culture, the College of Arts and Sciences requires its students in the humanities and arts to take a third course in the same sequence because a deeper historical understanding of Western culture is vital for study in these disciplines.

Each particular school also requires other distinctive courses that reflect additional educational objectives beyond those described in the themes of the University Core Curriculum. For example, the business school requires all its students to take a two-course sequence in accounting
to prepare them for the business environment, and the College of Arts and Sciences requires its students to take courses in ethnic studies or women’s and gender studies and in fine arts. The additional college or school requirements are discussed in the School Requirements section on page 5.

Some students—for example, international students, students in the University Honors Program, and students majoring in certain disciplines —satisfy the University Core Curriculum or school requirements by taking special sections of the courses discussed below, special equivalent courses, or special courses in their major. Students are encouraged to check with their advisors to ascertain if such exceptions apply to them.

A Note to Undeclared Students

Students who have not declared a major should aim to meet the general requirements for the school in which the expected major is located. The minimum number of classes required in each area of the University Core Curriculum is indicated in both the table that follows and in the discussion of each requirement. In many cases, students throughout the University take the same courses. Undeclared students can begin to complete these common requirements until their interests are more settled.

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