Reimagining the Liberal Studies Core: A Conversation with Eric Dart

Our rapidly evolving world and marketplace has changed the skills, knowledge and competencies that are required to navigate the ever-increasing complexities of a good life, successful career and sense of citizenship. Building on the university’s mission and Catholic Identity, the new Liberal Studies Core instills dynamic skills like intercultural communication and information to prepare students as global citizens and to achieve success in their careers.

That’s why Gannon University is introducing a revised Liberal Studies Core, starting with incoming freshmen in Fall 2022. The revised core will enhance students’ academic learning and outcomes and better prepare them to meet the demands of a 21st-century marketplace. 

Spearheading this initiative is Eric Dart, Ph.D., Gannon’s chair and assistant professor of theology, as well as director of the graduate pastoral studies program. We got in touch with Dart to learn more about Gannon’s revised Liberal Studies Core, and what that means for the professionals of tomorrow.


Q: How would you summarize the revised Liberal Studies Core at Gannon University?

The Liberal Studies Core revision supports Gannon’s fundamental identity as a Catholic University, a commitment to the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, and the delivery of a quality liberal education. The revised Liberal Studies Core Curriculum provides a curricular structure that enhances the student’s academic experience by developing intentional connections with 21st-century life, career and citizenship.


Q: What are some of the key components of this core curriculum?

The revised core has three fundamental parts: the Foundational Core, the Integrative Core and the Vocational Core. Each of part is tailored to address aspects of Catholic liberal education. 

The Foundational Core provides the initial critical knowledge, skills and competencies for integrated learning across disciplines and within a student's area of study. The foundational core provides a common starting point for engaging with liberal education at a Catholic university. At the level of the Foundational Core, students develop knowledge, skills, and competencies in writing and communication, critical thinking, ethics, faith and reason, and Catholic Social Teaching.

The Integrative Core supports learning across the curriculum by connecting, synthesizing, and transferring knowledge, skills, and competencies to new and complex situations and experiences. The Integrative Core builds on the knowledge, skills, and competencies introduced in the Foundational Core and seeks to deepen, integrate, and develop them into a student’s life, career, and sense of citizenship. The Integrative Core is made up of requirements that can be fulfilled through a variety of courses.

The Vocational Core connects the knowledge, skills, and competencies developed in Foundational and Integrative Cores with learning experiences within a student's particular field of study or other professional courses. 


Q: How will this revised core curriculum enhance our students’ learning experiences at Gannon and best prepare them as well-rounded global citizens and professionals?

The revised Liberal Studies Core prepares students for living a good life, engaging in meaningful work, and active citizenship in the 21st century. The Liberal Studies Core Curriculum is designed to 1) better connect with a student’s major/program and career and 2) more fully integrate present-day experience, concerns, and interests of students with Liberal Studies Core courses.


Q: What need is being met by revising Gannon’s Liberal Studies Core?

A basic principle that has guided the Core Revision is developing and integrating broad knowledge, skills, and competencies across a student’s experience. In other words, an important goal of the revision is to wed content and competencies in a way that connects not only to another, but also to a student’s life, career, and activity as a global citizen. 


Q: How will this revised core curriculum set a Gannon education apart from that of other institutions?

While the Task Force investigated various structures, models, and practices for core curriculums at other institutions around the country, the development of the core was intentional about capturing the uniqueness of a Gannon education. The process has been guided from the beginning by our University, our Undergraduate Learning outcomes, and the GU+ service standards.Put another way the students’ academic experience of the Liberal Studies Core is rooted in the larger Gannon experience that permeates the entire University.For instance, aspects like the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, wellness, Global Citizenship, communication, and ethics are integrated throughout the curriculum in a variety of ways.

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