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Core Curriculum Revision

Fordham’s Current Core

Education in the liberal arts has traditionally been called "liberal" for several reasons, but among them is the fact that these arts engender the ability to form judgments based on sound reasoning, free of prejudice and free of insufficiently examined premises. It is built on equity of access, demands an active learner, frees the mind, and prepares for social mobility and equal access to opportunity. The conversation in which Fordham's Core engages its students aims to engender civility, that is, an attitude of respect and openness to the other and to the world.

This respect is a foundational virtue both for the university and for modern pluralist societies: for the university because the intelligent conversation at the heart of education is not possible without it; and for pluralist societies because their civic life requires tolerance of differences. Acknowledging and understanding human beings of different historical periods, genders, sexualities, ages, religions, races, ethnicities, and cultures is an intrinsic part of the perspective gained through learning in Fordham's humanistic Core Curriculum. Approved in 2008, Fordham’s current Core aims to offer this perspective, while providing a framework for students’ entire undergraduate education, preparing students for leadership as knowledge workers, and fulfilling a crucial aspect of Fordham’s larger mission as a university in the Catholic, Jesuit tradition.

Challenges

Throughout the years, students, faculty, and administrative staff have voiced concern over Fordham’s Core Curriculum. It is difficult to navigate, presents additional hurdles for STEM and transfer students, as well as students with disabilities, and there is a strong desire for more student-centered learning with interdisciplinary and diverse approaches woven in. Compared to 2008 when the current Core was put into place, today’s world is much different and, therefore, presents a unique set of needs and requirements to be successful.

Furthermore, to become leaders capable not only of thriving in, but helping to reshape a global society that seems continually to be in motion, Fordham graduates need an education grounded in tradition and committed to innovation. The Core Curriculum must equip them to solve complex problems, recognize social and economic injustices, collaborate effectively in cross-disciplinary teams, and develop as persons of character. As a practical matter, it must be friendly and adaptable to the needs of all populations of students.

With this in mind, the University’s new strategic plan, “Educating for Justice,” emphasizes the need to educate students as global citizens and transformative leaders for justice in the innovation age. One way to achieve this goal is by renewing and developing academic programs that attract and serve the many conditions of our future students; hence the cornerstone of Fordham’s Jesuit education, the Core Curriculum. Last fall CUSP, along with the Board of Trustees, committed to revising Fordham’s Core Curriculum and beginning in Fall 2021, Arts and Sciences faculty will lead that formal revision of the Core.

Preparing for the Formal Revision Process

Over the course of the 2020-2021 academic year, information and data was gathered and analyzed in preparation for this major curricular revision process. A Pre-Planning Advisory Board was established in February, the call for participants focused on faculty members from each campus and diverse fields, with the purpose being to evaluate and gauge Fordham’s current Core, while simultaneously collecting facts and figures on comparable institutions and background information on best practices in education reform. Chaired by Kirsten Swinth (Professor of History and American Studies) and Robert Hume (Professor & Chair, Department of Political Science), members of the Advisory Board include:

  • Robert Davis (Associate Professor, Theology [RH])
  • Stephen Holler (Associate Professor, Physics & Engineering Physics [RH])
  • Julie Kim (Associate Professor, English [RH])
  • Heather Macbeth (Assistant Professor, Mathematics [LC])
  • Brandeise Monk-Payton (Assistant Professor, Communication and Media Studies [RH])
  • Nana Osei-Opare (Assistant Professor, History [RH])
  • Clint Ramos (Assistant Professor, Theatre and Visual Arts & Head of Design and Production [LC])
  • Karen Siedlecki-Burgoon (Associate Professor, Psychology [LC])

What’s Been Done

Since its inception, the Advisory Board immersed itself in helping to pave the way for the launch of the formal revision process in the 2021-2022 academic year. To date it has:

  • surveyed students and faculty (FCRH; FCLC; Gabelli; and PCS,);
  • consulted with the Core Curriculum Committee of the Arts and Sciences Council, and
  • been in contact with faculty, administrators, and students through meetings with Arts and Sciences and College Councils, Deans and their staff, A&S Chairs, Interdisciplinary Program Directors, the Chief Diversity Officer, the A&S Deans' Advisory Board on Anti-Racism, the Office of Admissions, the Office of Disability Services, student groups and leaders, and recent alumni.

These efforts culminated in the publication of a report. The report made four recommendations:

  • The board recommended that the University embark on a process of major core curriculum revision that is adapted to the evolving needs of students today. A thorough reworking of the liberal arts curriculum is necessary to reimagine our fundamental commitments: to a justice-centered education, to diversity and antiracism, to robust interdisciplinarity, and to ensuring that all students who come to Fordham have a pathway through the core.  
  • The board proposed approaching core curriculum revision through a three-stage process of backwards design. The three-stage process invites broad faculty participation in the core revision process and ensures that each stage of the process receives full development, and appropriate approval, before proceeding to the next stage.
  • The board proposed that separate consideration be given to the implementation and administration of the core, and that adequate support must be provided to sustain the revised core curriculum for the duration of its implementation.
  • The board recommended that core curriculum revision should be faculty-driven, student-focused, and mission-centered, with appropriate consultation with administrative stakeholders.

The report was released to the Arts & Sciences faculty in the fall of 2021 and will be passed onto future committee(s) handling the revision of the Core, so the process can be jump started. 

Next Steps

During the 2021-2022 academic year, the Dean of Faculty of Arts & Sciences will initiate a call for nominations to the A&S faculty for membership in the committee overseeing Stage 1 of the process, which focuses on the common learning goals for the core curriculum as a whole. The selection of nominees from Arts & Sciences will be overseen by the Nominations Committee, a subcommittee of the Arts & Sciences Council, with the final A&S membership made via a confirmatory vote of the Council.  

Communication

At the heart of this process is a conversation about the best foundational curriculum. That conversation cannot happen without routine communication about both the process and the substance. Faculty who wish to engage with the curriculum revision process should email corerevision@fordham.edu. The email is currently managed by the co-chairs of the pre-planning advisory board and it will be a constant point of communication throughout the process.