BY HANNAH CRITES
At the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, Franciscan University of Steubenville adopted a new core program in attempts to give students a more well rounded, liberal arts education.
“It was a relatively natural process,” said Daniel Kempton, vice president of academic affairs, regarding the creation of the new core. “When we were a small college, the core was less problematic. As we grew and evolved as an institution, there were more and more classes available to the students and the old core became more problematic.”
Kempton cited three reasons why the new core was necessary.
It was easy for students to graduate without the basic knowledge that Franciscan desired for its students. On the old core, students selected classes from a list of categories and could potentially graduate without the knowledge in theology and western civilization that the university desired.
Secondly, a new core was necessary to strengthen Franciscan’s science and professional programs. It also became difficult for students in those to find room in their four-year plans for the “fundamental courses,” such as theology.
Thirdly, the core was necessary to nsure that the university was meeting the Church’s expectations of a Catholic school. The committee used Pope John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae as a guideline. The document lays out expectations and responsibilities of Catholic universities.
Bachelor of Arts students are now required to take three philosophy classes: ethics, philosophy of the human person and metaphysics; as well as theology classes on the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Christian morals and principles.
Bachelor of Science students are required to take three of the six courses.
Classes were also added in literature and the American founding principles.
“America is different,” said Kempton. “It was founded on a set of principles by people of a diverse set of backgrounds and religions, that led to a different understanding from the beginning of what America is and who Americans are.”
Creating a new core had been discussed for many years as Franciscan gained a reputation. Finally, a committee was formed to create the new core.
“One of the reasons the past attempts to create a core had failed was because they didn’t have widespread representation from the faculty,” said Kempton.
Two representatives were elected by the faculty as a whole. Then, representatives were elected from the major sets of disciplines such as math and sciences, professional programs, theology and catechetics, and humanities other than theology. Kempton also personally chose two representatives.
“The alumni and parents have been particularly enthusiastic about the new core,” said Kempton. “Parents send their children to Franciscan University and trust in us to ensure that education that we could provide for their children is the best. So they wouldn’t want us to replace Shakespeare and the great works of western civilization with a course on contemporary comic books. It’s fun and useful, but you want to make sure you don’t miss some things.”
Faculty have had mixed views on the core, but despite various opinions, all of them are committed to making it work for students.
Each department was heavily involved in the creation of the core. The theology department created a subcommittee to develop a new course on scripture for students.
“We had to have a lot of discussion amongst ourselves as far as what the course will be,” said Dr. Andrew Minto, a theology professor. “This is what we decided would be a good fit for non-majors and majors.”
Students have had mixed reactions to the core. Some saw it as a burden with the increased number of classes they are required to take — others were excited to leave Franciscan with more classes outside of their major.
“I think the new core is great,” said transfer student Ned Frazier. “It’s going to do a lot in terms of helping students be more well-rounded, which is going to be helpful in the modern work environment where we tend to be focused on very tactical skills. It’ll help you learn better how to think and how to learn so you won’t just be pummeled with information.”
Frazier, a catechetics major transferred to Franciscan as a sophomore and was placed on the new core. However, he chose his classes at his old school based on requirements of Franciscan’s old core.
“My plan was to get my core classes out of the way so I could transfer here and just focus on catechetics and theology,” he said. “My frustration is with how it was implemented. I wasn’t aware that the core was going to change. Now there’s the worry about graduating on time and having to take those extra classes, and I wasn’t able to double major after all.”
Minto said, “As we move along implementing this new core, we will always be coming back to review its practicality, its implication, how it’s working … It’s a little too early to make judgments how well things are going because it’s really just started.”