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University Undergraduate Core

One of the top current initiatives at Saint Louis University is the creation of a distinct and shared undergraduate experience.

As the second oldest Jesuit university in the United States, SLU can and should be known for its singular approach to the Jesuit undergraduate experience. By placing a reimagined common undergraduate Core at the center of a distinctive SLU education, we will position SLU as a destination for civic-minded, creative, and socially-engaged students for generations to come. The University Undergraduate Core Committee (UUCC) invites all members of the SLU community to work with us to develop SLU’s common undergraduate Core. 

A Message from President Pestello on the University Undergraduate Core

 

Background

Saint Louis University does not have one common undergraduate curriculum across all colleges and schools. Why is 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 makes 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. Today, the college/school core curricula that do exist – even the large core in the College of Arts and Sciences – are not designed to foster student agency in integrating knowledge across disciplines.

This lack of integration both within and between colleges/schools creates a range of challenges. Students whose interests and goals change find it difficult to change majors across colleges/schools without delaying graduation. Within colleges/schools, many students and faculty complain that requirements are both too numerous and lack coherence. Faculty do not share a collective vision of or goal for what a SLU undergraduate education can and should impart, and many of our students likewise graduate without a clear conception of what sets them apart as graduates of a 200-year-old Jesuit university. Finally, because we are not assessing student learning across our multiple cores, we have no mechanism to use collected data to improve the Core educational experience.

Current work on a shared undergraduate SLU core is 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.

Charge

The call for a reimagined common undergraduate intellectual experience at SLU is being voiced from many quarters. Surveys of current and former SLU students demonstrate a desire for greater agency, flexibility, and conceptual clarity in our Core structure and delivery. This student feedback is echoed in the call from our external accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, for SLU to develop a more unified and assessable common educational experience.

We have momentum now to push this work forward. SLU leadership is committed to the creation of an inspirational common Core capable of transforming SLU’s approach to Jesuit education for the 21st century. In the spring of 2018, a new committee with university-wide representation, the University Undergraduate Core Committee (UUCC), came together to undertake the work of developing and implementing a new SLU common Core. New Core Student Learning Outcomes, ratified in May 2018 by the faculty governance bodies of the University's colleges/schools with undergraduate programs, have laid the groundwork for a curriculum that will prepare students to be lifelong learners who are intellectually flexible, imaginative, and reflective critical thinkers in the spirit of the Catholic-Jesuit tradition.

Projected 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)
  • Approval of Architecture and New Course Development (2019-2021)
  • Piloting of Key Core Components (2021-2022)
  • Implementation for All New First-Year Students (Fall 2022)