Campus Community

A New Era Begins

Written by Mike Thee

October 8, 2013

students studying outside Lemieux Library on a sunny Spring day

Rebuilt from the ground up, the new Core curriculum is changing the way our students learn.

In an academic year that brings many notable new directions for the university, the launching of the new Core curriculum stands apart as a watershed event for how SU educates its undergraduate students.

"The implementation of the new Core is, perhaps, the most important step we have taken over these past several years to enrich the rigor and quality of the education we provide to our undergraduate students," says Provost Isiaah Crawford.

The transition from the Core's previous iteration, which was put in place 25 years ago, to its current form was nothing short of "a Herculean task," to borrow Crawford's words from his Provost Convocation address, with credit going to the Core Implementation Committee, the 200-plus faculty who created or significantly re-imagined no fewer than 356 courses now being taught in 178 sections to more than 3,750 (duplicated) students and, of course, the Registrar's Office, which helped make it all fit together.

"The Core was really rebuilt from the ground up," says its director, Jeff Philpott.

The new Core is at once rooted in Seattle University's Jesuit-Catholic tradition and responsive to issues and questions being asked in today's world. It's a curriculum that will challenge students to reflect on questions of meaning, spirituality, ethics, values, and justice; actively participate as engaged learners in the process of discovering knowledge; hone their communication skills with a focus on advocacy, writing, speaking and teamwork; and understand issues confronting the world and so they can become globally engaged agents for change.

In his remarks to welcome faculty and staff to the new academic year last month, President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., identified the Core as one of the university's foremost sources of pride and causes for celebration. "The new Core Curriculum engages our students more quickly, deeply, and interestingly. It emphasizes more clearly our religious commitment and our global engagement; doubles the science requirement; makes us far more intentional and accountable for student learning; strengthens interdisciplinary learning and educating students to solve complex problems; and makes room for their fuller engagement in their major and career choices."

Another benefit of the new Core, Philpott says, is that it gives faculty the freedom to develop courses that speak to their interests and passions, allowing them to be more engaged with the subject matter. Faculty members have accepted the offer with creativity and gusto, designing courses on subjects as varied as the day is long-anything from digital photography, to men and masculinities, to the economics of health care, to zombies. Yes, you read that right-zombies!

Now that the University Core Implementation Committee "has worked its way out of a job," as Philpott puts it, new standing faculty governance committees are being established for the curriculum, including a Core Executive Committee, a Core Curriculum Committee and a Core Assessment Committee.

Other points of note that Philpott shares when asked:

  • Faculty can submit proposals for new Core courses this fall. They should check with their college or school for the deadlines.
  • The Core will be hosting more workshops this year, helping faculty share ideas and develop pedagogy for the new curriculum.  
  • All Module I Core courses are using Pearson's Writer, an online writing reference tool that includes information and tutorials on grammar, punctuation, writing processes, organization and more. All Core faculty are being given free access to this valuable tool.

 For more information on Seattle University's Core Curriculum, please visit