USD is toning their core


Just in time for summer, the University of San Diego’s core curriculum is becoming toned, tightened, and leaner. With changes coming primarily to the ethics and theology departments, there will be a new set of requirements for students starting with the incoming first year class of 2017. Unfortunately, none of the changes will be applicable to any current Toreros but it may affect the faculty and classes we have to choose from in the near future.   

It has taken about five years for this process to come full circle with numerous opinions from faculty, students, and the Board of Trustees. In short, the goal of changing the curriculum was to reduce the core requirements so that students have fewer classes outside of their chosen fields of study that they are required to take. This provides more space for students to take the electives they are interested in or continue to take more classes within their major or minor. With this new plan, future Toreros may have a much more diverse college experience with increased freedom when choosing their classes.   

When this process began, the Core Planning Committee drew up their first proposal for the new curriculum. After deliberation, the committee had the initial plan written up to distribute to everyone from faculty to student groups on campus.  With hundreds of professors coming from varying backgrounds and specialties, each department felt that their subject matter was a crucial part of the core curriculum that should not be questioned. It was important that all three of the colleges — Business, Engineering, and the College of Arts and Sciences — agreed on the plan since regardless of major, all students must participate in the same core curriculum. The purpose of having core requirements is to establish a strong base for students to grow from into their desired field of study.

After much deliberation between the committee and three colleges, USD arrived at a final agreement. This proposal includes changes in the English, logic, theology, social science, and science departments. With this new plan, students will no longer have to take English 121 (Composition and Literature), but rather engage in the First Year Writing Experience. The logic requirement has been scrapped as professors agree that students receive their critical thinking skills through a variety of other classes. There is now one less theology requirement; however, one of these theology requirements must now be Catholic-based as a way to continue and strengthen the University’s Catholic roots. Finally, there will be one less social science and one less science requirement. The elimination of one science requirement has been quite controversial considering the extensive research that shows the amount of Americans who are considered to be scientifically illiterate. Some science professors argue that students need a background in both a physical and life science to have a solid base of science education.

Sophomore and biology major Lauren Ryskamp shares why she believes the new changes to the science requirement are valid.

“In my opinion, if you do not consider yourself a science person and are a non-science major, taking extra classes in both of the sciences do not seem that beneficial,” Ryskamp said. “While it is important to be a well rounded student, having either a life or physical science will not make that big of a difference.”

One of the biggest changes coming to the new curriculum is the way students are able to earn their ethics requirement. Currently, the ethics course must be taken through the philosophy department. Now it will be possible to satisfy this requirement through any department of choice as long as it is an ethics course. This means that classes such as business ethics, leadership ethics, and research ethics may count towards satisfying the ethics requirement as well as a major/minor requirement.

After the initial voting in Fall  2014, this plan was approved by the faculty and Board of Trustees. From here, any final edits were made and some smaller details were negotiated. These were mostly concerning diversity and social justice issues and the ethics course requirement. On Friday, April 29, undergraduate faculty passed the core with 77 percent in favor and 23 percent opposed. The new core curriculum will officially be in place for the incoming class of 2017.

Kristin Moran, PhD., is the special assistant to the dean and core director. Moran shared her excitement of the new program and the benefits she believes it will bring to students and their college experience.

“Ultimately I think that most of the faculty are excited that this new core curriculum is updating the experience for students,” Moran said. “At the end of the day, we are trying to be more purposeful in helping students see how the classes they are taking in the core requirements relate to the major and what it means to be a good citizen.”

I see a great amount of benefit in the changes coming to USD. Often students are weighed down with the seemingly insignificant requirements of some of our core classes. This new and refreshing plan highlights what students need to be successful during college and even post-college while offering the freedom to take more of what we want and need. This plan may open up the potential for more students to go abroad, which I believe is a far more beneficial learning experience than any logic class or life science.

Moran expressed how the classes that are still required in the core curriculum will benefit students in the long run.

“The things that employers want to see most are the things that we have kept in the core curriculum,” Moran said. “They want students that are able to think critically, communicate efficiently, and solve problems. The core requirements will ultimately give students the ability to practice those skills.”

It is understandable why many professors defend their departments and the classes they believe are necessary for students to take. However, by this age students should begin to focus on what interests them. Often times the extra requirements become a distraction and source of frustration.

I will admit that I unfortunately select many of my core requirements based off of factors such as difficulty, what fits my schedule, and friends I can take a class with. With fewer requirements, students may feel as though these classes are less forced, and begin to enjoy them more. Although these changes do not directly affect me, I am excited for the new students.  The experiences and freedoms they will have when selecting their classes, and allows them to personalize their skillset.