Faculty votes to change Mercyhurst core curriculum

Mercyhurst College faculty recently voted on a new core curriculum. Faculty approved 10 categories for the core curriculum and voted on the process to select courses for it.

Faculty voted to create a Faculty Senate committee consisting of two faculty members from each of the five schools, a representative from North East and the dean of faculty. This committee will review applications to have courses placed in the core.

The current core requires 18 courses, and the new plan requires 16 or 17 classes.

Under the new core categories, students are only required to take one science and one math. The current core requires students to take two science classes and one math class or one science and two math classes.

As of now, the 10 categories that have been approved do not have any core courses in them. Departments will need to apply to have their courses included in the core, and the Faculty Senate committee and the Office of Academic Affairs will make the decision on whether to include or exclude them.

The categories of core courses will include typical classes, including science, math, English, the arts and philosophy. These categories may also allow for different courses in the core curriculum, such as sports medicine, business classes or criminal justice, said Michael Federici, Ph.D., president of the Faculty Senate.

In order to decide who will be on the committee to determine which classes will be included in the core, each school will elect one representative. The Dean of Faculty will then choose one representative from that school. Federici said the assumption is that the second representative will come from a different department than the one elected.

Which departments have core classes will depend on “their willingness, if they can do it and how frequently they can do it,” Federici said.

Their ability to demonstrate how their course aligns with what students will learn in the particular core category is necessary as well.

Reconstructing the core curriculum has been a three-year process that is nearing its end.

“At the end of the day, we did very well,” said Federici. “It’s a solid core that will serve students very well. That was our primary objective.”

Mercyhurst has not updated its core since the late 1990s.

“It’s a very messy business redoing your core curriculum,” said Federici. “That’s why colleges don’t do it very often.”

The reason the college decided to update its core curriculum was to give students more flexibility.

“The main reason was to try to make it easier for students to have a double major or minor in addition to their major,” Federici said.

For example, category nine of the core is a wildcard category. Students can take any class and count it for this core requirement.

“This may make it easier for them to complete their major or a minor,” said Federici. “It’s also a chance to explore some of the disciplines that are in the core.”

Even though all departments must apply to have their class included in the new core curriculum, Federici does not think this will deter departments from including a class in the core.

“Departments are very interested in being in the core,” he said.

Now that the structure of the core has been approved, the next step is to approve the role of the Interdisciplinary Studies (IDST ) courses.

The faculty’s vote on the role of the IDST courses will be counted on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

The vote is regarding whether IDST courses will stand alone as a category or if they will be embedded into the 10 core categories.

Even though faculty has voted on the core proposal and is in the process of voting on IDST, the decisions are not final.

College administration and the Board of Trustees have the opportunity to reject or accept parts of the proposal that faculty voted on.

Even so, the administration is not likely to disagree with what the faculty voted on for the core.

“With the core, the administration is pretty good about what the faculty wants,” said Federici. “They’re hesitant to make significant changes to our document.”

As long as administration and Board of Trustees approve the core curriculum changes and the Faculty Senate committee is able to start reviewing applications for the core by next fall, the core could be implemented in the fall of 2013 at the earliest.

The core will most likely not affect anyone but incoming freshman of that year.

“My understanding is that everyone who started under the old core would finish under the old core,” Federici said.
Even though students won’t be affected by the new core curriculum, Federici said he will be happy to discuss these changes with students once administration has approved the proposal.