North Park University Faculty Revises Core Curriculum for Fall 2013

General Education at North Park University
North Park University Core Curriculum requirements have been revised for undergraduate students beginning with the fall semester, 2013.

Curriculum revision groups courses in tiers

CHICAGO (April 8, 2013) — The faculty of North Park University approved a revised Core Curriculum—the University's general education requirements—for new students entering the University this fall. The revision will better align the liberal arts character of the University's academic mission, Core Curriculum learning outcomes, and academic requirements, according to a report from a committee that developed the revision.

"We want to communicate to students how valuable their liberal arts and sciences education will be for enriching their lives after college and for preparing them for a variety of careers,” said Dr. Karl Clifton-Soderstrom, assistant professor of philosophy and director of general education. "Such an education is essential because, most of the time, complex, real-world problems are not solved by one discipline alone but by people working across disciplines." 

The revision consists of 46 semester hours, and groups current Core Curriculum courses into three tiers: Foundations, Explorations, and Capstones. In Foundations, courses will provide literacies, skills, and values basic to a Christian liberal arts education, and are ideally taken in a student's first three semesters, Clifton-Soderstrom said. The signature course in this sequence is "Cornerstone Seminar: A Life of Significance," in which students explore the big questions of "What does it mean to be human?", "Who am I?", and "How does the answer to these questions help me think about what I want out of my advanced education?"

Other Foundations courses include topics such as writing, math, biblical studies, modern languages, and a new global histories course. "Early in a student's career, this history course gives students a global and multicultural perspective on how key themes in human societies can be compared across time and cultures," Clifton-Soderstrom said.

In Explorations, courses are focused in certain disciplines, such as art, theology, the sciences, culture and society, and ethical reasoning. In Capstones, students will take two courses, usually in the junior or senior year. One course, "Capstone Seminar: A Life of Service," brings together different skills and values and applies them to real-world settings. A second capstone is a course, project, or performance that integrates advanced learning to the student's major.

The Core Curriculum revision places greater emphasis on writing and ethics, which, in most cases, can be taken up in a student's major, or in other departments. Faculty report that improved writing is critical for upper-level students, and employers say they want students who possess good writing skills. Ethics-related courses will be available to most students in their majors.

The Cornerstone Seminar and Capstone Seminar cross academic disciplines, engage the perspectives of many cultures, and emphasize writing and critical analysis. The courses are important to the University's Core Curriculum, said Dr. Reinhold Dooley, professor of English and a committee member. Students should consider the Core Curriculum their "first major," before they move into a specific degree program, he added. "You want to make a living, but you also want to make a life," said Dooley.

Faculty will benefit from a clear set of expectations and ways to achieve desired outcomes in the new Core Curriculum, said Dr. Mary Trujillo, professor of communication arts, and a committee member. "The revision also provides increased opportunities for faculty collaboration across disciplines. For example, we are already seeing increased opportunities for service-learning courses and synthesis-type courses that engage faculty and students," she said. The revision, developed in collaboration with the faculty, also brings North Park into closer alignment with peer colleges and universities, Trujillo said.

The Core Curriculum revision took more than two years to develop, and involved extensive research into current trends in higher education, post-college employment, and the North Park community’s own academic vision. In September 2011, the University faculty asked for a revised set of common Core Curriculum learning outcomes. A committee was appointed, which proposed changes endorsed by the faculty in April 2012. The faculty asked the committee to determine how to implement the revised curriculum, and secure departmental commitments and funds. The committee's proposal was adopted overwhelmingly at the faculty's February 2013 meeting.

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Next Steps

Learn more about Core Curriculum requirements and options.