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Core Curriculum

Core Curriculum

Santa Clara University's Core Curriculum provides a humanistic education that leads toward an informed, ethical engagement with the world.

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.

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.

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.

The Structure of the Core Curriculum

The Core consists of three phases of academic work: Foundations, Explorations, and Integrations. The first two phases are designed to deepen knowledge, habits of mind and heart, and experiences engaging with the world. The third phase, Integrations, is designed to help students reflect more deeply on connections among courses in the Core, and between the Core and their major. The table below provides a visual representation of this structure and the corresponding course requirements within each phase.

Within the three phases of the Core Curriculum are eighteen narrower, subcategories. Each subcategory has its own overarching goals and specific learning objectives.

For more detail and information, students and faculty can review the current Core Curriculum Guide  

All students begin the Foundations component with a Critical Thinking & Writing sequence during their first year, and most also complete a Cultures & Ideas sequence in the first year. At least one of these sequences is linked with the student’s Residential Learning Community. Both Foundations sequences are carefully designed and selected for first-year students on the basis of student interest and requirements for majors when students have declared a major. These sequences introduce students to university learning in the context of complex, multidimensional topics and a rigorous intellectual environment in and outside the classroom. They provide students with opportunities to study diverse as well as shared human experience across historical periods and emphasize the relationships among global cultures, including cultures in Europe and North America.

The other Foundations courses, Math, Second Language, and the first course in the Religion, Theology & Culture sequence, emphasize the knowledge and skills central to liberal education. Small classes create opportunities for mentoring relationships with professors, build communities among students, and promote intentional, reflective learning. All of the Foundations courses provide a shared intellectual foundation, challenging students to sharpen the reflective and analytic skills they will use throughout their studies and in whatever personal and career paths they choose.

Explorations courses, taken throughout the four years of study, build on the Foundations component of the Core and foster the breadth of knowledge, habits of mind and heart, and values needed for contemporary life. This component of the Core includes courses on ethics, arts, diversity, natural and social sciences, civic engagement, global cultures, religion, and the interrelationship of science, technology, and society. In these courses students also explore the range of majors available and connections between the major and other areas of learning. By engaging in the learning offered in these courses, students prepare themselves for civic dialogue in an increasingly global and technological world and challenge themselves and others to ask how to transform the world for the better.

Integrations courses reemphasize engaged learning, critical thinking, civic life, communication, and intentional learning. They help students discover and explore additional connections among courses in the Core or major and are most often components embedded in other Core courses and courses required for majors. For example, students will encounter Experiential Learning for Social Justice through study abroad, community- based learning in a course for the major or another Core course, and immersion experiences. Advanced Writing classes are often discipline-specific courses that give students the opportunity to gain further mastery over crucial learning objectives and to build on their knowledge about the rhetorical situations of major disciplines. Pathways provide students an additional opportunity to make intentional and reflective choices about their own education as they study a theme or topic from a number of disciplinary perspectives and identify connections and relationships among ideas.