The University Core at Saint Louis University prepares all students to be intellectually flexible, creative, and reflective critical thinkers in the spirit of the Catholic, Jesuit tradition. SLU’s new University-wide undergraduate curriculum nourishes students’ minds, hearts, souls, and well-being and guides them in discerning how to use their talents for the good of others and find God in all things.
Saint Louis University approved our new University Core in the spring of 2020. This University-wide approval was the culminating event in a two-and-a-half year collaborative process that involved faculty, students, alumni, staff and administration—all working together to envision what a shared undergraduate experience at SLU could and should encompass. The University Undergraduate Core Committee (UUCC) led this initiative, and will continue to work on implementing our new University Core with a pilot year in 2021-22 and full Core rollout for all entering students anticipated in 2022-23.
Until our new University Core curriculum was approved in March 2020, Saint Louis University lacked a common undergraduate general education curriculum across all colleges and schools. Why was this the case?
SLU is the second-oldest Jesuit university in the United States, but we were the first Jesuit institution of higher learning to offer our students curricular choice: by 1858, students were able to choose between a “classical curriculum” and a “commercial curriculum.” On the one hand, this made SLU distinctive: we were the first Jesuit university to offer both professional preparation and a liberal arts education. However, in practice this meant that as SLU developed, different general education curricula were maintained by each college or school. Before SLU developed and approved our University Core, the college and school curricula that did exist – even the large core in the College of Arts and Sciences – were not designed to foster student agency in integrating knowledge across disciplines.
This lack of integration both within and between colleges/schools created a range of challenges. Students whose interests and goals change found it difficult to change majors across colleges/schools without delaying graduation. Within colleges/schools, many students and faculty complained that requirements are both too numerous and lack coherence. Faculty did not share a collective vision of or goal for what a SLU undergraduate education can and should impart, and many of our students likewise graduated without a clear conception of what sets them apart as graduates of a 200-year-old Jesuit university. Finally, because we were not assessing student learning across our multiple cores, we had no mechanism to use collected data to improve the Core educational experience.
The UUCC’s work on a shared undergraduate SLU core was informed by the work of the 2015-16 Task Force on Becoming a SLU Baccalaureate, the 2016-17 College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Core Curriculum Working Group, and the 2016-17 Joint Faculty Senate - Provost Task Force on the University Core Curriculum and Shared Undergraduate Experience. The 2015-16 Task Force responded to a charge from Provost Nancy Brickhouse and the Faculty Senate to “develop a vision statement that articulates what is distinctive about a SLU undergraduate education.”
The vision statement then informed the work of both the 2016-17 CAS Core Curriculum Working Group and the University Core Curriculum Task Force, charged by President Fred Pestello to determine “[w]hat institutional structures are needed to house and maintain an excellent university-wide undergraduate core?” This Task Force recommended the creation of a University-wide undergraduate Core committee that would be charged with the development and implementation of a common SLU Core. This committee, the UUCC, delivered its final Core Proposal to the SLU faculty on January 31, 2020; the faculty voted to approve this Core on March 20, 2020; SLU’s Council of Deans and Directors and Dr. Chester Gillis, Interim Provost, followed suit on March 31, 2020.
- Development of a Governing Vision Statement for the SLU Baccalaureate (2015-2016)
- Preliminary Crafting of University Core Student Learning Outcomes (2016-2017)
- University-wide Review, Editing, and Approval of New Core Student Learning Outcomes & Founding of University Undergraduate Core Committee (2017-2018)
- Core Curriculum Architecture Design (2018-2019)
- New Core Proposed to the SLU Community (January 2020)
- Approval of University Core (March 2020)
- Appointment of Associate Core Directors (July 2020)
- Faculty Development and New Course Development (2020-2022)
- Piloting of Key Core Components (2021-2022)
- Implementation for All New First-Year Students (Fall 2022)