SMCM Plans Redesigned Core Curriculum

St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) is currently in the process of reworking and rethinking its core curriculum in order to best meet the needs of its students. A group of 13 faculty members and one student member make up the Core Design Workgroup, tasked with redesigning the core curriculum.

The discussion about redesigning the core curriculum started over a year ago, beginning with the Board of Trustees and SMCM’s administration. The faculty took over the effort soon after. They began by assessing whether the current core curriculum does what the faculty would like it to do.

Professor of Mathematics Dave Kung, the chair of the Core Design Workgroup, said this process involved “feedback from faculty, from students, from alums and even from students who chose not to come to St. Mary’s.” They also examined the curricula at other institutions, especially institutions we are similar to.

The redesigned core curriculum consists of three major components:First Year Honors Experience, Honors Pathways and Professional Literacy.

The First Year Honors Experience restructures the current CORE 101 course all first-years take into two 3-credit Honors Seminars (meant to be taken in conjunction with the Professional Literacy courses). The first Honors Seminar will focus on writing skills and the second Honors Seminar will focus on public speaking and quantitative literacy.

The Honors Pathways will replace the current pathway of taking a class in each discipline: Arts, Cultural Perspectives, Humanistic Foundations, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. The new pathway is called the “Integrated Inquiry Pathway” and will involve taking several different courses in different disciplines about a related topic.

Kung said the Integrated Inquiries system allows students to “get those breadth requirements all in the context of some issue that they care about.” This will differ from the current breadth requirement system because “instead of doing those separately where they may have nothing to do with each other, a student coming in would take four classes that are all surrounding the theme of climate, or four classes that are all about global public health or four classes that are all about identity,” Kung stated.

The classes will pull from different disciplines to create a well-rounded pathway, although students can still choose to fulfill this requirement with The Exploring the Liberal Arts Honors Pathway, similar to the current pathway.

Professional literacy will help students with developing their professional skills and will involve two 1-credit classes in a student’s first year, CORE 103 and 104. These two courses will focus on “strengths articulation, résumé development, immersion experiences and interviewing skills.” A third course, CORE 202, is a 2-credit class “in which students continue self-exploration, begin to explore group dynamics, and practice effective teamwork skills.” This course involves a small “out-of-class experience” which acts as a preparation for an internship or research experience.

Kung stated the importance of this addition of professional literacy, saying “there’s a big equity issue there, kids from well-off families have support for résumé writing and support frankly for entering the workforce.” These professional literacy courses aim to give students the same opportunities in their first year in order to develop their professional lives.

The revised core curriculum also includes an Honors College Promise which guarantees an internship or research experience to all students, provided they complete the Professional Literacy aspect of the core curriculum. This would replace the current Experiencing the Liberal Arts in the World (ELAW) requirement. Kung said the idea is to change ELAW to be an experience that students want, rather than a requirement they need to fulfill, “we want to change that into an enticement because these are things that you should want to do, and the College is willing to step up and say ‘we will guarantee this.’”

The language requirement is proposed to change so every student takes at least a 102-level course of a language. Students will also have a Senior Capstone where they can still complete an SMP or have a project that serves as a culminating experience for all students. “We want to make sure that everybody has a chance to stand up in front of their peers and talk about something that they did that finalized their major,” Kung stated.

Lastly, the committee also wants the College to place more emphasis on Study Abroad opportunities, including Study Tours and Semester abroad programs.

Joseph Perriello, ‘21, is a SGA senator and serves as the student representative on the Core Design Workgroup, a position he was appointed to by the SGA. His role is to protect the interests of current and future students by ensuring the redesigned curriculum will benefit both groups.

Perriello has helped facilitate student focus groups to get feedback from current students. The feedback was mostly positive, however, “there were some concerns brought up about how the new curriculum will take away resources from electives.” Perriello stated that the committee has been working hard to ensure the revised curriculum “remains a resource neutral curriculum,” so faculty members will still be able to teach elective courses.

The current version of the revised curriculum has gotten positive feedback from most of the faculty members, with 80-85% supporting it in the most recent vote. Next, the workgroup will focus on considering resources required to implement the changes. The goal of the workgroup is to have parts of the core curriculum in place for the Fall of 2019, with a full roll-out in future years. The faculty will vote on the core curriculum at an upcoming meeting either Dec. 3 or later in January, and the workgroup would spend this upcoming semester writing a new catalogue for the curriculum.

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