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Concordia's Core Curriculum: Innovation in Foundational Education

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 Enduring Questions & Ideas (Q&I) Core is nationally recognized for its innovative undergraduate curricula. 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.

Perhaps the most unique feature of the Q&I 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.

“One of the key elements of the Q&I Core Curriculum is that courses are paired with one another, syllabuses overlap in meaningful ways,” says Q&I Core director Dr. Kerri Tom. “Through experimentation, close reading, and problem-solving, students’ assumptions are challenged; theoretical concepts are applied to their own experiences (both inside and outside of the classroom) to test their validity.”

The Q&I 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 Q&I Core requires every undergraduate to take a series of classes in sequence so that professors can lay a foundation of knowledge and create strong learning habits.

“Concordia's Q&I program helps students grow into critical and meaningful thinkers. Through the lens of disciplines such as biology, English, and philosophy, professors encourage students to discuss some of life's biggest questions like the nature of goodness, truth, and beauty,” says Makenna Myers, a double major in English and in Humanities & Fine Arts. “These questions are posed not in hopes of finding an answer but for the sake of the discussion itself. Learning how to sit in this state of not knowing, the state of a perpetual student, is the most valuable skill I learned at Concordia.”

As Dr. Dan Deen, Professor of Philosophy, has expressed it, the Core courses are an “invitation to investigation.” The instructors in these courses “model intellectual virtues” for their students. Hence, Concordia University Irvine’s Core Curriculum provides a solid basis for study in any discipline in which a student may major, whether in humanities, the fine arts, social or natural sciences, health or human services, education, or economics and business.

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