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Core Curriculum

Pathway Reflection Essay Instructions

As of December 2022, students no longer have to write a Pathway essay to complete their Undergraduate Core requirements at SCU. This update goes into effect immediately, including for those who petitioned to graduate in Fall 2022.

This change will not affect the courses you have taken or are planning to take, as the Pathway course requirement has not changed and is still in effect.

For more information, read the full update.


Pathway Essay Assignment: Prompt, Criteria, and Submission Details

Purpose of the Pathway Essay

Integrative learning is a hallmark of twenty-first century education, a critical component of a Santa Clara University education, and a crucial skill for addressing real-world problems. The Pathway requirement encourages such integrative learning and engaged thinking since it provides students with the opportunity to consider how issues or problems related to a Pathway's theme are so complex that they need to be approached and understood from different disciplinary perspectives. 

In this essay, which is the culminating learning experience of your Pathway Core Curriculum requirement, you will demonstrate your ability to engage in multidisciplinary analysis by combining knowledge, theories, and/or methods from different disciplines in order to show how you have gained a deeper understanding about a specific issue or problem related to your Pathway’s theme. 

Essay Prompt

Identify an issue or problem connected to your Pathway’s theme and use multidisciplinary analysis to demonstrate a deeper understanding of it. 

In order to compose a successful essay, you will need to:

  • Identify a specific, meaningful issue or problem connected to your Pathway’s theme.
  • Analyze this issue applying theories, ideas, or methodologies from different disciplines within your Pathway courses to demonstrate your deeper understanding of that issue. 
  • Write a carefully drafted 750- to 1000-word thesis-driven essay that uses coherent organization, effective transitions, and clear sentences. 

Identifying the Issue:  Identify a specific issue or problem connected to your Pathway and explain how the issue or problem relates to that particular Pathway’s theme. Be sure to identify your Pathway by name. (Note: the issue or problem you select can be one you explicitly studied in your Pathway courses or may be a connection between Pathway courses that became evident only after you completed your classes. This section should show readers that you have a clear understanding of your Pathway's theme and scope.) 

Analyzing the Issue: Analyze this issue or problem from a multidisciplinary perspective by integrating theories, ideas, and/or methodologies from at least 2 fields of study. For example, a student in the Sustainability Pathway might identify the availability of clean water as a problem. The writer might integrate theories, ideas, or methodologies from a Pathway course in engineering with those from a Pathway course in sociology to show how the problem of supplying clean water can be better understood or addressed by taking into account both fields of study. Be sure to identify the associated Pathway courses you are using within your analysis by name. A successful analysis will demonstrate how multiple disciplinary perspectives, whether they agree or differ, yield deeper insights about a specific issue or problem.

Writing the Essay: The goal is not to summarize your learning; rather, use specific examples of theories, ideas, or methods you studied in your Pathway courses in order to demonstrate how you have gained a deeper, more complex understanding of an issue or problem by considering that issue or problem through more than one field of study.

Criteria for Success

To pass, an essay must earn a “pass” on all sections of the rubric pertaining to the Pathway learning objectives and the standards for written communication. Use the 2021-22 Pathway Essay Evaluation Rubric to plan your writing and to review your essay before submitting it. An exemplary pass will represent a substantial achievement and will showcase your ability to engage in multidisciplinary analysis. 

Important Information as You Prepare to Write

  1. Review and reflect on your Pathway’s description.
  2. Identify an issue or problem related to your Pathway’s theme that you will analyze in your essay. This issue or problem should be sufficiently complex so that it can be analyzed through a multidisciplinary perspective. 
  3. Reflect on the assignments and learning you completed within your Pathway courses, and analyze how those connected to your Pathway’s theme and to the issue or problem you will analyze. 
  4. From your Pathway courses, select at least two from different disciplines that will help you to develop your multidisciplinary analysis of the issue or problem you selected. The goal is to avoid summarizing these courses; rather, analyze how the different disciplines help you to better understand a complex issue or problem. Be sure to name the courses (department & title) from which you’re drawing information for your analysis. NOTE: Students may refer to any classes in their Pathway for their reflection essay, even if those courses are not listed under the Pathways section of the degree audit.
  5. Consider your audience carefully. Imagine your reader is someone who values multidisciplinary thinking but is not an expert on your topic and may not be familiar with the particular Pathway, courses, issue, approaches in your analysis.  Pathway readers are, in fact, faculty members from a variety of departments across campus. 
  6. NOTE: No additional research is expected. Your analysis will draw upon the learning you have already done. If, in drawing upon your learning in Pathway courses, you quote or use ideas from other texts, you must provide proper citations (using APA, MLA, or CSE format) in keeping with Santa Clara University’s Academic Integrity Pledge.

Formatting and Submission Details

  • Your essay should be a cohesive text with a clear thesis, and multiple paragraphs, but without separate sections/headers.
  • Your essay must identify your Pathway by name in laying out the relevant issue or problem and the specific Pathway courses you are using within your analysis.
  • You may use the first-person in your Pathway essay, since you are writing about your own analysis of your learning experiences.
  • The essay can be either single- or double-spaced.
  • Include a descriptive title and the submission date at the top of your essay. Any resubmissions should be identified as a “REVISION” and include the revised date.
  • All words (e.g., the content of your essay, its title, any citations) count towards the 750- to 1000-word count (about 3 to 4 double-spaced pages).
  • Submit your Pathway Reflection Essay through Camino. 
  • Deadlines for submitting Pathway Reflection Essays are available on the Pathways Website.  You can submit your Pathway Reflection Essays prior to the deadline if you have completed at least 100 units and have no more than one pathway course still to take.  For more details see
  • Review the Essay Submission Checklist before submitting.

Additional assistance

For help planning, writing, and revising, visit the HUB writing center to consult with a writing partner. The HUB is open Sunday-Thursday, 4:00-10:00 p.m. in the lower level of the Learning Commons.