Effective fall 2016, Mercyhurst will operate on a traditional two-semester calendar and the existing common core curriculum will transform into the new REACH Curriculum.
As a response to student feedback that the former core curriculum was too inflexible, Mercyhurst is implementing the new REACH “experience” as a way to give students more of a choice when it comes to the courses they take.
The new curriculum reduces the number of required courses for students from 17 to 13, which will allow room for more electives.
The REACH Curriculum branches into three main components: the Freshman Experience, the Liberal Arts Experience, and the Senior Experience.
The Freshman Experience will still include the typical Writing and Research course, newly dubbed COMP120. However, two one-credit courses, iMU101 and iMU102 (Introduction to Mercyhurst and Involvement at Mercyhurst, respectively), will replace the former IDST requirement.
Both professors and staff from Student Life will teach these iMU courses, which will ultimately lead to better retention and assimilation among freshmen, according to David Dausey, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs.
“Students will have the chance to learn professionalism, resilience and how to get used to being in college. We want to make sure we’re interacting with students in a way that helps them to be successful,” Dausey said.
The Liberal Arts Experience will be where the REACH acronym comes into play. Each letter in the acronym stands for a different category: Reason and Faith, Expression and Creativity, Analytical Thought, Contexts and Systems, and Humans in Connection. Students will need to take two classes under each category, resulting in a total of ten required classes.
Instead of having to choose from a pre-approved list of courses under each category, students will have the choice among any 100- or 200-level course in the fields prescribed under each letter of the acronym. According to Dausey, this will give students more flexibility.
“This part of the curriculum focuses on breadth of study,” Dausey said.
“Instead of having a short list of courses from which students can choose, we want to trust them to make choices based on their own interests and passions that will allow them to become well-rounded,” he said.
The last part of the new curriculum, the Senior Experience, will include Ethics 400 which ia redesigned capstone course unique to Mercyhurst. The class will be more focused on REACH, in that it will make students consider what this school specifically has taught them about facing challenges and living in the real world. Ethics 400 will also go along with the capstone course in any given student’s academic major.
Dausey said that he hopes it teaches soon-to-be graduates how to think and communicate effectively.
“With Ethics 400, we are hopefully going to provide students with a moral and ethical framework, regardless of religious background, that allows them to respond constructively and resiliently when faced with a challenge,” Dausey said.
In addition to the three branches of the REACH Curriculum, students will also need to take a minimum of one one-credit experience in service learning or civic engagement. Students will be able to easily combine this requirement, appropriately called outREACH, with a study abroad or travel experience.
Dausey cites the creation of this component with the desire for students to live outside of their comfort zones.
“We want this to be disruptive and cause students to look at the world differently. We hope that it challenges some of their assumptions about how the world operates,” said Dausey.
This new curriculum change will not affect anyone’s graduation. The Office of the Provost is currently working to evaluate everyone’s record to ensure that students are up to speed. This review will be complete by April 1, and students will have the chance to see their updated program evaluations on WebAdvisor before registering for fall classes.
A complete breakdown of the REACH Curriculum, along with a list of FAQs, is available now on the MyMercyhurst Portal under Academics and the Office of Academic Affairs.