The Core Curriculum

A university expresses its most basic values in its Core Curriculum that is part of an undergraduate education required of all students. Santa Clara's Core Curriculum explicitly integrates three traditions of higher education. As a Catholic university, it is rooted in the tradition of pursuing an understanding of God through the free exercise of reason. As a Jesuit university, it promotes a humanistic education that leads toward an ethical engagement with the world. As a comprehensive American university committed to liberal education, Santa Clara seeks to prepare its students for intelligent, responsible, and creative citizenship. Reflecting these traditions, the Core Curriculum provides every undergraduate with the common learning that all students need to become leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion.

The distinctiveness of a Santa Clara education emerges in the Core Curriculum, both in its sense of purpose rooted in the University's traditions and in its commitment to a breadth of learning for the 21st century that complements and supports all majors. The Core Curriculum opens students to the study and practice of the arts, humanities, mathematics, technology, natural sciences, and social sciences. It educates students for interdisciplinary understanding and ethically informed participation in civic life.

Opportunities for experiential learning foster the development of compassion and attention to the ways human suffering can be alleviated. Reflecting the University's founding mission, the Core Curriculum includes a disciplined and critical reflection on the religious dimensions of human existence. In addition, because the Core Curriculum continually highlights the critical and compelling questions facing individuals and communities, the Core Curriculum supports students both in making professional career choices and in discerning their larger vocation---their life's purpose in the world.

Learning Goals: What will students learn in the Core Curriculum?

Because a liberal education in the Jesuit tradition is oriented toward particular ends, the Core Curriculum affirms a set of central learning goals. These goals are divided among three broad categories---Knowledge, Habits of Mind and Heart, and Engagement with the World.


To be prepared for well-informed engagement in society, students must comprehend the forces that have shaped the world they have inherited and the ways the world is interpreted and understood. They must also understand how they might transform the world for the better. The Core Curriculum deepens students' knowledge of the ideas and ways of knowing that emerge from the arts, humanities, and natural and social sciences.

Global Cultures: The intertwined development of global ideas, institutions, religions, and cultures, including Western cultures

Arts and Humanities: The production, interpretation, and social influence of the fine and performing arts, history, languages, literatures, philosophy, and religion

Scientific Inquiry: The principles of scientific inquiry and how they are applied in the natural and social sciences

Science and Technology: The formative influences, dynamics, social impacts, and ethical consequences of scientific and technological development

Diversity: Diverse human experiences, identities, and cultures within local and global societies, especially as formed by relations of power and privilege

Civic Life: The roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizens and institutions in societies and in the world

Habits of Mind and Heart

To contribute to a rapidly changing, complex, and interdependent world, students must develop ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that allow them to educate themselves for the rest of their lives with passion and purpose. By attending to the cognitive and affective dimensions of human experience, the Core Curriculum enables students to think more deeply, imagine more freely, and communicate more clearly.

Critical Thinking: The ability to identify, reflect upon, evaluate, integrate, and apply different types of information and knowledge to form independent judgments

Mathematics and Quantitative Reasoning: Analytical and logical thinking and the habit of drawing conclusions based on quantitative information

Complexity: An approach to understanding the world that appreciates ambiguity and nuance as well as clarity and precision

Ethical Reasoning: Drawing on ethical traditions to assess the consequences of individual and institutional decisions

Religious Reflection: Questioning and clarifying beliefs through critical inquiry into faith and the religious dimensions of human existence

Communication: Interacting effectively with different audiences, especially through writing, speech, and a second language

Engagement with the World

To engage with the world in meaningful ways, students need opportunities to explore and refine self-knowledge in relation to others. The Core Curriculum enhances students' understanding of the integrity of their own lives and the dignity inherent in the lives of others, especially the impoverished, suffering, and marginalized.

Perspective: Seeking out the experience of different cultures and people, striving to view the world through their eyes

Collaboration: The capacity to collaborate intellectually and creatively with diverse people

Social Justice: Developing a disciplined sensibility toward the causes of human suffering and misery, and a sense of responsibility for addressing them

Civic Engagement: Addressing major contemporary social issues, including environmental sustainability and peaceful resolution of conflict, by participating actively as an informed citizen of society and the world

Each course in the Core Curriculum addresses at least three of the learning goals listed above. Students have multiple opportunities to encounter, practice, and master each learning goal. In addition, specific learning objectives for each area of the Core Curriculum have been developed by faculty Core Curriculum committees. These learning objectives are associated with particular learning goals and describe the knowledge, skills, and values students will be able to demonstrate after completing the courses in the Core Curriculum. The learning objectives are posted on the Core Curriculum website and published annually in the Core Curriculum Guide.

The structure of the Core features two phases of coursework designed to foster developmental learning and curricular coherence. The first phase, Foundations, consists of six to nine courses normally taken in the first year, introducing students to the processes and expectations for university-level education:

  • Critical Thinking & Writing 1 and 2

  • Cultures & Ideas 1 and 2

  • Second Language (level required varies by major)

  • Mathematics

  • Religion, Theology & Culture 1

This phase helps students begin to set their own goals for learning, preparing them to make thoughtful choices in the Core Curriculum, their majors, and co-curricular activities.

The second phase, Explorations, offers students the opportunity to choose among courses that will expand and deepen their understanding of a broad range of subject areas needed for effective participation in contemporary life. The 10 Explorations requirements---Ethics; Civic Engagement; Diversity: U.S. Perspectives; Arts; Social Science; Natural Science; Science, Technology & Society; Cultures & Ideas 3; Religion, Theology & Culture 2; and Religion, Theology & Culture 3---include many courses that also satisfy requirements in students' majors.

Students in Arts and Sciences and Business satisfy their Core Foundation and Exploration requirements with one course per Core area. Engineering students may satisfy more than one Core requirement with a single course when the course has been approved for those Core areas.

The Integrations requirements---Experiential Learning for Social Justice, Advanced Writing, and Pathways---are often components embedded in other courses rather than additional courses. Pathways foster integrative, intentional learning, complement the majors, and encourage the application of knowledge to real problems in the world. Students select one of 24 different Pathway themes before they attain junior status and take courses that demonstrate thematic connections across at least two different disciplines. Students in the College of Arts and Sciences and Leavey School of Business must complete four Pathway courses (minimum of 16 units); students in the School of Engineering must complete three Pathway courses (minimum of 12 units). Beyond the coursework, all students must earn a passing grade on a Pathway reflection essay.

Student progress through the structure of the Core Curriculum is not strictly sequential, from Foundations through Explorations to Integrations. While some courses (e.g., Critical Thinking & Writing 1 and 2; Cultures & Ideas 1 and 2; and Religion, Theology & Culture 1, 2, and 3) must be taken in sequence, all students have the opportunity to discover other sequences that are best for their individual undergraduate experience while engaging in coursework designed to address the shared set of learning objectives for each component of the Core Curriculum. Furthermore, the Experiential Learning for Social Justice, Advanced Writing, and Pathways components of the Core Curriculum help students experience requirements not only as individual courses but as related educational activities that help structure and integrate their entire experience of university study.

The Core Curriculum Guide provides more detailed information about each component of the Core Curriculum, the learning goals and objectives associated with each component, and the courses from which students may choose. An online version is available at []{.underline}. Students are encouraged to check their degree audit in eCampus regularly to determine their progress in the Core Curriculum and other academic requirements.

The Core Curriculum and the College of Arts and Sciences

Students in the College of Arts and Sciences should consult Chapter 3 for the requirements for their majors. There are no additional college-wide requirements beyond the requirements for the Undergraduate Core Curriculum.

The Core Curriculum and the Leavey School of Business

Leavey School of Business requirements determine how students in the business school satisfy some Undergraduate Core Curriculum requirements---some Core Curriculum requirements must be fulfilled with specific courses. Students in the Leavey School of Business should consult Chapter 4 for a complete list of requirements for their majors and the school. The Core Curriculum Guide provides additional information.

The Core Curriculum and the School of Engineering

Students in the School of Engineering satisfy their mathematics and natural science requirements with courses required by their majors; their second language requirement is met by Santa Clara's entrance requirements. Some Core courses in Social Science, Diversity, Cultures & Ideas 3, and Religion, Theology & Culture 2 and 3 will allow engineering students to satisfy two requirements with one course, with the understanding that other coursework for the major will complete the acquisition of knowledge and skills required in the Core. Engineering students will complete their Pathways with three courses (minimum of 12 units). Students in the School of Engineering should consult Chapter 5 for a complete list of requirements for their majors and the school. The Core Curriculum Guide provides additional information.

Transfer Credit and the Core Curriculum

Transfer credit earned from courses completed after initial enrollment at Santa Clara may not be used to fulfill Core Curriculum or other requirements.

Transfer credit earned from courses completed before enrollment at Santa Clara are governed by two sets of rules, one for students admitted as first-year students and another for transfer students. All students must satisfy the following Core requirements at Santa Clara University: Civic Engagement; Science, Technology & Society; a minimum of two Religion, Theology & Culture courses; Advanced Writing; Experiential Learning for Social Justice; and Pathways.

Students admitted as first-year students must also satisfy Critical Thinking & Writing and Cultures & Ideas 1 and 2 with courses completed at Santa Clara University. In contrast, students admitted as transfers are encouraged to complete Critical Thinking & Writing and Cultures & Ideas 1 and 2 before their first quarter at Santa Clara. For transfer students only, transfer credit for Critical Thinking & Writing may include exemptions granted at other schools and credit granted through Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test scores. Information about possible substitutions for Critical Thinking & Writing and Cultures & Ideas courses is available in the Registrar's Office.

Transfer students who enter the University with fewer than 44 units must take all three Religion, Theology & Culture courses in the required sequence. Students matriculating with 44 or more units of transferable college credit, which does not include any Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test credit, must complete two courses from the Religion, Theology & Culture sequence in any order. However, all students except Religious Studies majors and minors must complete 88 units before enrolling in Religion, Theology & Culture 3 courses.

Transfer students must declare their Pathways by the end of their third quarter at SCU. Transfer students in the College of Arts and Sciences and Leavey School of Business who matriculate with fewer than 44 units must take four courses (minimum of 16 units) to fulfill the Pathways requirement. Transfer students in the College of Arts and Sciences and Leavey School of Business who matriculate with more than 44 units must take three courses (minimum of 12 units) to fulfill the Pathways requirement. All transfer students in the School of Engineering must take three courses (minimum of 12 units) to fulfill the Pathways requirement. More detailed Pathway guidelines are available at []{.underline}.

Students who transfer to Santa Clara University should consult Chapters 7 and 8 as well as the chapters relevant to their school or college.

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