STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—Father Terence Henry, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, today announced the final faculty approval of a new liberal arts core curriculum, with implementation set to begin with the 2013-14 academic year.
“Franciscan University faculty voted to adopt a new core curriculum that reflects our ongoing commitment to academic excellence and the integration of faith and reason. Based on the Western intellectual tradition, our Franciscan educational heritage, and the Catholic mission of Franciscan University, the new core purposefully exposes our students to more of the fundamental knowledge and critical authors they need to become well-educated Catholics,” Father Henry said. “I am pleased by our faculty’s active collaboration in creating a core that will help the University better serve our students and the Church.”
Father Henry noted that the University will hire five new faculty members to implement the core and said, “This constitutes a major investment in Franciscan University’s mission of forming young men and women committed to the truth and capable of providing leadership in a culture that so badly needs the transforming power of that truth.”
According to Dr. Daniel Kempton, vice president for Academic Affairs, Franciscan University decided to revise the core for several reasons, chief among them, a desire to be in ever-closer conformity with Catholic Church teaching.
“The success of our alumni argues that the previous core had much to recommend it, but from our reading of Ex corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on higher education, and of our own Mission Statement, we saw some ways to make a good education better,” Kempton said.
He explained that while theology and philosophy rank high among Franciscan’s top 10 major programs, the University realized that the distributive nature of the previous core made it possible for students to miss some foundational courses.
Kempton said, “The new core takes a more rigorous approach that ensures a common grounding for all students not only in theology and philosophy as called for in Ex corde Ecclesiae, but also in literature, American founding principles, history, fine arts, natural science, and social science.”
Kempton said another factor in the decision to revise the core curriculum related to the fact that students’ Catholic values come under attack more today than they did 20 years ago.
“To prepare our students better to meet the challenges of a more antagonistic culture and society, we realized we could not stay the same from year to year. We have to continually improve,” he said.
The 45-credit core for BA majors and 42-credit core for BS majors requires all students to take Foundations of Catholicism, Christian Moral Principles, Scripture and Tradition, Foundations of Ethics, Philosophy of the Human Person, Metaphysics, Epic and Self, and Lyric and Dramatic Voices.
In addition to the common courses, students may choose from specified courses in other disciplines such as History of Civilization, Catholic Traditions in Visual Arts, General Botany, Psychology and Human Development, American Political Tradition, and American National Government.
The vast majority of the core will be taught using existing courses. New courses have also been created specifically to meet the new requirements including the three fine arts courses, Survey of Sacred and Religious Music, Survey of Catholic Traditions in Drama, and Survey of Catholic Traditions in Visual Arts, from which students select one class for the core.
In addition, Kempton said, many of the courses will have a significant Franciscan component. “One of the goals for the new core is to make sure students have a better grasp of the very rich Franciscan intellectual and cultural heritage and the Franciscan charism when they leave Franciscan University,” he said.
Many of the new core classes will be offered beginning in fall 2013, when Franciscan University starts implementing the new core. A transitional period will give current students the flexibility they need to complete their coursework on schedule.
Existing faculty will teach most core courses, but Franciscan University has already hired one new professor with two additional hires planned in this year and two more in the 2013-14 academic year.
The biggest challenge to developing the new core, Kempton said, arose from the fact that unlike many other faithfully Catholic colleges that are primarily liberal arts institutions, Franciscan University offers more than 40 majors including “serious science programs and professional programs such as education and nursing, many with their own accreditation requirements.”
He explained, “The core process was driven by two sometimes contradictory goals. First, we wanted the most integrated, strongest possible core, but second, we wanted a core that would do no harm to any existing program. So it was a delicate balance that had to be negotiated with many of our faculties, particularly those in the professional programs.”
Kempton said he felt proud of how peacefully the faculty handled the core redesign, adding, “Yes, we had spirited debates—we are academics, after all—but we resolved them in a collaborative and thoughtful manner.”
Father Terence Henry, TOR, also expressed his appreciation. “My sincere thanks to Dr. Daniel Kempton, the Core Curriculum Committee, the entire faculty, the Board of Trustees—especially the Academic Committee of the board—and all those who worked to craft this new core,” he said. “It clearly demonstrates the serious University-wide commitment to academic excellence and is truly a wonderful step forward for our students.”
The Core Curriculum Committee responsible for drafting the core consisted of Dr. John Crosby, Philosophy Department; Professor Shawn Dougherty, Fine Arts Department; Dr. Daniel Kempton, vice president for Academic Affairs (ex officio member); Dr. Daniel Kuebler; Biology Department; Professor Donald Materniak, Business Department; Dr. Carolyn Miller, Nursing Department; Father Daniel Pattee, TOR, Theology Department; Dr. Jonathan Sanford, Philosophy Department; Dr. Michael Sirilla, Theology Department; Prof. Thomas Wilson; associate vice president for Academic Affairs; and John Magee, Academic Affairs.