It started with a question: How could Concordia strengthen the entire academic experience and create a shared intellectual foundation rooted in its Lutheran heritage for the entire campus community? The answer led to an ambitious transformation of CUI’s undergraduate curriculum.
Today, Concordia’s nationally recognized Core Curriculum is one of the most unique and daring undergraduate curricula in the nation. Since 2010 it has redefined the undergraduate experience at CUI and in one swoop achieved a number of educational goals which have made it a model for other institutions.
As a member of the Association for Core Texts and Courses' Liberal Arts Institute, Concordia is numbered among a prestigious group of 12 universities—including Columbia, St. John's, Pepperdine, and Notre Dame—committed to the preservation and promotion of “the integrated and common study of world classics and texts of major cultural significance.”
“The Core is about developing knowledge and strengthening intellectual habits,” says Core Curriculum director Dr. Scott Ashmon. “We are training students to read closely, think critically and creatively about problems, communicate effectively in writing and speech, and make meaningful connections between academic disciplines, life and the Christian faith.”
“The Core is about developing knowledge and strengthening intellectual habits.”
The Core upends the reigning model of education in the U.S., which usually leaves freshmen to piece together a general education from a grab-bag of courses. Instead, CUI’s Core requires every undergraduate to take a series of classes in sequence so that professors can build a foundation of knowledge and create strong learning habits.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the Core is its pairing of classes that at first glance don’t seem to go together — biology and theology, mathematics and philosophy, history and literature. Freshmen and sophomores take these paired classes concurrently and learn to make connections between seemingly disparate subjects.
“Rather than holding these subjects apart like oil and water, we want students to see how knowledge can be related,” says Dr. Peter Senkbeil, vice president for academic affairs and associate provost.
“It’s an old goal and a high goal of a university education to see how all the branches of knowledge connect and unite. We want students to grapple with philosophical and theological ideas such as, ‘What is truth?’ How does each discipline get at the truth?”
The result is a shared intellectual experience and common language for students as they proceed toward graduation.
“In the Core, the professors set the bar high and are willing to help you reach it,” says Robyn Cornish, an International Studies major. “To have an expectation that seems entirely out of reach, then to achieve that expectation is life-changing. God opened my eyes to the abilities that I have, and that applies to all aspects of life.”
Senkbeil calls the Core a powerful statement of CUI’s faith commitment and distinctive implementation of its educational values.
“Concordia Irvine is about the interaction of faith and learning at a very deep level,” he says. “The Core helps us graduate students who are well prepared for leadership roles in church and society.”
Read more about How CUI Created One of the Most Innovative General Education Programs in America in the Spring 2013 edition of CUI Magazine.
Read more about the Core, and what our students are saying about it.