Smaller Core, More Flexibility for Veritas Curriculum

In September, President Simon Newman charged the Undergraduate Academic Committee with the task of improving our core curriculum, reducing the number of required credits and creating more flexibility for students. Dr. David Cloutier, Professor of Theology and Chair to the UAC recently announced some of the changes that are included in the next proposal.

“It’s come to our attention that some of the community is not accurately informed about the nature and details of the process of Veritas revision, where we began, and how far it has proceeded. In the interest of accuracy and clarity, please allow us to take this opportunity to clarify,” Cloutier wrote to the Mount community.

The proposal as it stands has 49 credits, smaller than the core curriculum at Loyola, Villanova, and St. Joseph’s. The current Veritas curriculum has 65-66 credits.

The most significant changes include no required Veritas courses for seniors to allow them to complete their major courses before graduation.

“I think, in the current proposal, ‘clearing out’ the senior year is a really important element that we didn’t anticipate going in – but it makes so much sense. Senior year is a time when you can take innovative upper-level courses in your major or find exciting internships – and of course, a time for you to savor your last year at the Mount! Squeezing in a last requirement isn’t at the top of most people’s lists. Speaking just for myself, I like this change, and I hope it stays in the final product,” Cloutier said.

For current students, the committee is considering a waiver system for requirements that would change. Details of this system will be available after the proposal is approved.

When asked about the Leadership Portfolio, Cloutier said, “I’ve seen the results of the student survey indicating the problems with the Leadership Portfolio, and believe me, we hear you – we’ve known this. I think everyone agrees that Leadership is an important focus of a Mount education, but we will have to see what happens in the discussions of the concrete proposal when it comes out.”

The charter created by the faculty included a provision that no faculty jobs would be cut in order to make the curriculum smaller.

“It’s been a great process for the committees involved – which isn’t always the case when faculty get together and talk about changing curriculum, especially when we know we need to cut. It can easily descend into turf battles over courses. But the Veritas Committee, led by Associate Provost Sevick, has done a great job staying focused on the principles. That’s required some hard conversations – and that’s why it takes time – but so far, the faculty have done these well,” Cloutier said.

The UAC remains confident that the changes implemented will be consistent with the original principles of Veritas: skills, character and problems facing the contemporary world. Skills include those necessary for the workforce and those that promote a life well-lived. The character aspect serves to help develop the whole person by providing learning activities systematically placed throughout the curriculum. Finally, the mission of Veritas is to charge students with overcoming problems facing humanity, both throughout history and today.

“The principles indicate the main goals were to strengthen integration of courses and reduce the size. The integration is the biggest reason why this is not just a smaller core, but a better one. The current curriculum was approved in two stages: a model, and then the content of particular courses got filled in later – and so the faculty were not given time to think about how everything fit together. But this new curriculum is meant to be a much more integrated package. It will make for great connections among courses and much simpler advising,” said Cloutier.

Associate Provost, Dr. Leona Sevick said, “Developing a clearer and more manageable curriculum that still provides Mount students with the skills, Catholic values, and deep knowledge critical to their success was the central aim of this project, and I believe we accomplished it.”

After Spring break in March, faculty and students will meet to gather feedback on the proposal. If there no major changes needed, faculty will vote at the soonest faculty meeting in late March or early April.

“The faculty have been acting since September, it has been a cooperative process, and we hope the outcome will be successful. It is important to UAC that the MSMU community accurately understand the important progress that has been made. We are excited to move to the next phase,” said Cloutier.

The Undergraduate Academic Committee consists of: David Cloutier, Chair, Theology, Mary Kate Birge, SSJ, Theology, Christine Blackshaw, Foreign Languages, Donald Butt, Business, Laura Frazier, Education, Christine McCauslin, Science, in consultation with Leona Sevick, Associate Provost and Chair of the Veritas Committee and Alyse Spiehler, student representative.

Rebecca Schisler

News Editor for The Mountain Echo

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