Santa Clara University

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Future Plans
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The new Core Curriculum is born out of SCU's commitment to educate leaders and citizens of competence, conscience, and compassion. The new Core, on which so much faculty/staff time and effort were spent, was not launched until the fall of 2009. But, last spring, 30 pilot courses were taught, including Assistant Professor of Philosophy Shannon Vallor's “Personal Identity and Community” last winter and spring as part of a two-course Cultures and Ideas sequence.

Ann Cheung '12 says of Vallor's courses, “They were my absolute favorite of my freshman year.” Cheung, a combined biology and business major, says, “My friend and I decided to take it together, and we were obsessed-spending hours in the library in deep discussion about the philosophy of personal identity-can you imagine that?”

Vallor's course taught students to look at various philosophical conceptions of the self over history and across different cultures, and then relate it to their own sense of self and community.

I feel so much smarter than I thought I could be.

Vallor gives the example that western cultures the dominant view of the self is individualistic-the self is an autonomous being who is born with certain freedoms and liberties. But, she adds, “you look at ancient China, and that view would sound completely crazy, because the notion of a person from the beginning is constituted by their obligations within the family and larger community.”

Cheung's new philosophical insights have opened her eyes to the world in an entirely different way. On a recent trip to Hong Kong, while visiting with her family, she realized that she had a deeper understanding of the ways in which people act based on the concepts they have of themselves and their communities. “The perspective I learned in Professor Vallor's course helped me to understand people better-who they are and why they do the things they do.”

Several aspects of the new Core involve significant changes from the previous Core curriculum, such as new courses in “Experiential Learning for Social Justice,” “Civic Engagement,” and “Science, Technology, and Society,” and a new emphasis on global perspectives and globalization. Core 2009 also features increased attention to student learning, in which learning objectives are clearly communicated in syllabi. And for faculty and students alike, smaller class sizes and covering topics sequentially for 20 weeks instead of 10 weeks have been markedly beneficial.

Vallor thinks this new way of teaching enriches her students' learning experience. She says, “I was just amazed by the change at the end of the second quarter, and the way the students themselves looked back and said, 'Wow, you know, at first I was really struggling with this, and I really didn't think I was going to be able to pull all these ideas together and really achieve the integration of all these things we were dealing with.' I even had one student say, 'I feel so much smarter than I thought I could be.'”

Assessment of the pilot sequences has been important in confirming the success of Core 2009. An August 2009 report assessing student learning in the pilot courses revealed significant positive outcomes and provided an opportunity for faculty to reflect on the experience and further improve their courses.