Faculty Selects 'Reflection and Action' Core Curriculum Model

The selection of a core curriculum model in March follows a four-year journey by members of the campus community to evaluate the current general education requirements and determine an appropriate process for creating and selecting a new core curriculum.

The process started in Spring 2004 when the faculty voted to evaluate Mount Mercy’s general education curriculum. As a result of that vote, several faculty members attended the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Institute on General Education held at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island.

During the course of that conference, the Mount Mercy group discussed the need for a revised core curriculum model to better reflect the institution’s mission, vision and values, to adapt to and engage Mount Mercy’s distinctive student populations, and to incorporate a common Mount Mercy experience for all students. Upon returning to campus the Core Curriculum Committee hosted a “reflective year” in which discussions were held about liberal education, Catholic education, Mercy education, and integration of each.

Kathryn Hagy, assistant professor of art, would eventually serve as co-chair of the Core Curriculum Committee, the group charged with “devising a guiding process” by which the campus community could suggest new core curriculum models. Throughout the process, the Core Curriculum Committee would rely on a model used by Salve Regina University as they encouraged faculty and staff members to form teams to design proposed general educational programs. Teams working on proposals for a new core curriculum were allowed to integrate ideas from other faculty and staff into their proposed models and to consult with one another about best practices.

Members of the faculty gathered in March for a day-long session in which five models were presented, discussed, and voted on. With the support of over two-thirds of the faculty, the Reflection and Action model co-created by Chad Loes, criminal justice; Lorrie Erusha, Emerging Leaders program; Jim McKean, English; Carol Heim, nursing; Joy Ochs, English; and Rick Zingher, social work, was approved.

The Reflection and Action core curriculum model is designed to increase student engagement, requiring that all first-year students enroll in a portal course that provides an introduction to the liberal arts and a focus on social justice and community building. Additionally, the model incorporates Mount Mercy’s mission, vision and values into domain- related courses that allow each instructor to be innovative in engaging students. Other unique facets of the selected model include: the addition of a course in Holistic Health, the addition of two courses designated as “writing intensive” to reinforce the skills learned in the required writing competency, and the addition of a Spanish language program.

“I think the most important component in the Reflection and Action core is that all students will have a ‘common experience,’” says Loes. “A source of concern with the previous general education model was that it seemed fragmented to students, and they don’t always see the connections among courses. One of the most important components of our model is the implementation of a portal course, and a capstone course,” says Loes, which will provide an “interdisciplinary approach to studying the liberal arts.”

The next step in the core curriculum process is implementation. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John P. Marsden will convene a Core Advisory Team. “There will be many opportunities for innovative course proposals that promise to enrich the college experience for students, while also providing avenues for collaboration among faculty members in all disciplines,” says Marsden. The new core curriculum will be introduced during the Fall 2009 semester.