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University Undergraduate Core

Beginning in the Fall of 2022, the University Core at Saint Louis University will prepare 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 will nourish SLU students’ minds, hearts, souls, and well-being, and guide them in discerning how to use their talents for the good of others and find God in all things.

View Approved University Core (adopted March 2020 by SLU community)

 

University Core Mission Statement

The Core invites discovery by asking students to investigate where their individual passions and vocations lie, and to encounter and appreciate the same in others. In the Core, students are confronted with multidimensional problems and concepts, and are encouraged to respond by asking innovative questions, making inventive connections, and envisioning new ways forward.

The Core promotes integrity by strengthening the intellectual and interpersonal tools that prepare students to lead purposeful lives. Students learn to understand human cultures and the natural world, to obtain and evaluate evidence, and to integrate multiple modes of inquiry to address complex questions. They also practice listening carefully and communicating lucidly in order to examine their values and beliefs, learn from others, and form ethical commitments.

The Core inspires courage by cultivating students’ agency in their own intellectual transformations and helping them become informed citizens who create positive change. The Core calls on students to envision a just society, recognize how and when injustice is institutionalized, and identify conditions that promote the dignity and equity of all. The Core compels students to reflect upon and step outside of themselves to navigate cultural and national boundaries and act as stewards of our planet. 

The Core fosters connection by placing the acquisition and application of knowledge in context at the center of a holistic, mutually-transformative education. The Core educates the whole person by enabling students to integrate knowledge gained from both the Core and the major, and then apply that knowledge both within and beyond the University. By providing collaborative and community-based opportunities for students to act in solidarity with others in pursuit of truth, the Core makes visible SLU’s mission of educating people for and with others in the service of humanity and the greater glory of God. 

Background

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.” This 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 31st, 2020.

Timeline
  • 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)