"Reflection and Action" Curriculum Debuts

Mount Mercy will implement a new core curriculum that will replace the regular general education requirements for students entering the college in Fall 2009. The revitalized curriculum, titled Reflection and Action, will encourage students to reflect on their thinking as they cultivate a deeper understanding of self and the world and take action by contributing to the community and society. In particular, they will advance the common good through service, examine social justice issues, recognize ways in which they can be responsible leaders, and evaluate multiple perspectives across disciplines.

The Reflection and Action curriculum, designed by the faculty, includes portal, domain and capstone courses.

Portal courses

Freshmen, as well as transfer students who qualify for the new curriculum, will experience an active learning approach with exposure to service learning experiences outside the classroom. Portal courses are designed to more effectively introduce first year students to Mount Mercy’s mission and values and to orient them to the Mercy concerns of earth, immigration, non-violence, poverty, racism and women. The portal courses for the 2009–10 academic year focus on an array of topics, including health protection, ethnicity and diversity in Iowa, women in the workforce, film screen icons, among others. Portal courses also provide a strong overview of liberal arts and interdisciplinary learning, creating the foundation for further exploration and study.

Domain courses

The strong liberal arts approach in the portal courses is also evident in the seven Domains. The seven areas include the Expressive Arts Domain, the Global Awareness Domain, the Historical Roots Domain, the Holistic Health Domain, the Self and Society Domain, the Natural World Domain, and the Ultimate Question Domain. Each domain offers several course choices for students based on their area of interest.

Domain courses encourage students to expand their academic area of interest by providing them with experiences outside their own field. Students will begin the process of selecting their domain courses while enrolled in the portal courses.

Capstone courses

Once students reach the junior or senior level of the curriculum they will participate in a capstone seminar course that helps students integrate knowledge they have acquired from the liberal arts domains. The capstone courses offer opportunities for students based on interest, such as international travel or multidisciplinary research. Regardless of the focus, students will make connections across disciplines, demonstrate leadership and teamwork, communicate effectively, and reflect on community service.

“The new core model emphasizes students’ participation in their own education, from creating their own individualized course of study to engaging in specially designed portal and capstone courses that foster a sense of community,” says Professor of English Joy Ochs, one of the designers of the curriculum model and a member of the implementation team. “While selecting courses in the liberal disciplines that broaden their education, they also participate in the Mercy tradition of service. Students will learn to make choices not only in their roles as students, but in their roles as citizens.”

“The Reflection and Action curriculum perfectly integrates Mount Mercy’s community service components, strong liberal arts learning and professional career preparation,” says President Christopher Blake. “The revamped program will provide students with not only the tools to succeed both professionally and intellectually, but also the zeal to serve and impact their community. Mount Mercy’s student experiences reflect the unique values and characteristics of a Mercy education.”