Santa Clara University

Learning Goals

Because a liberal education in the Jesuit tradition is oriented toward particular ends, and because the ongoing renewal of the University’s work requires sustained, honest reflection on the ways students appropriate these ends, the Core Curriculum affirms the following central learning goals. The goals are divided among three categories—Knowledge, Habits of Mind and Heart, and Engagement with the World. They often overlap, intersect, and imply one another.

Every course approved for the Core Curriculum provides information about how learning related to the goals will be measured. To achieve that, every Core area lists learning objectives shared by every course approved for that area, and every Core course specifies how assignments will map to those learning objectives (download here). The learning goals that are distributed across the three components of the Core Curriculum (Foundations, Explorations, and Integrations) are listed below:


To be prepared for well-informed engagement in society, students must comprehend what has shaped the world they have inherited, the evolving ways of understanding it, and how they might transform it for the better. To that end, the Core deepens students’ knowledge of the most profound ideas and ways of knowing that emerge from the arts, humanities, and natural and social sciences. Students develop a greater understanding of:
  • Global Cultures: The intertwined development of global, including western, cultures, ideas, institutions, and religions 
  • Arts and Humanities: The production, interpretation, and social influence of the fine and performing arts, history, languages, literatures, philosophy, and religion 
  • Scientific Inquiry: The principles of the scientific method and how they are applied in the natural and social sciences 
  • Science and Technology: The formative influences, dynamics, social impacts, and ethical consequences of scientific and technological development 
  • Diversity: Diverse human experiences, identities, and cultures within local and global societies, especially as formed by relations of power and privilege 
  • Civic life: The roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizens and institutions in societies and in the world

Habits of Mind and Heart:

To contribute to a rapidly changing, complex and interdependent world, students must develop ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that allow them to educate themselves for the rest of their lives with passion and purpose. By attending to the cognitive and affective dimensions of human experience, the Core enables students to think more deeply, imagine more freely, and communicate more clearly. Students learn:
  • Critical Thinking: The ability to identify, reflect upon, evaluate, integrate, and apply different types of information and knowledge to form independent judgments 
  • Mathematics and Quantitative Reasoning: Analytical and logical thinking and the habit of drawing conclusions based on quantitative information 
  • Complexity: An approach to understanding the world that appreciates ambiguity and nuance as well as clarity and precision 
  • Ethical Reasoning: Drawing on ethical traditions to assess the consequences of individual and institutional decisions
  • Religious Reflection: Questioning and clarifying beliefs through critical inquiry into faith and the religious dimensions of human existence 
  • Communication: Interacting effectively with different audiences, especially through writing, speech, and a second language

Engagement with the World:

To engage the world in meaningful ways, students need opportunities to explore and refine self-knowledge in relation to others. The Core enhances students’ understanding of the integrity of their own lives and the dignity inherent in the lives of others, especially the impoverished, suffering and marginalized. The Core develops students’ capacities for and commitment to:
  • Perspective: Seeking out the experience of different cultures and people, striving to view the world through their eyes 
  • Collaboration: The capacity to collaborate intellectually and creatively with diverse people 
  • Social Justice: Developing a disciplined sensibility toward the causes of human suffering and misery, and a sense of responsibility for addressing them 
  • Civic Engagement: Addressing major contemporary social issues, including environmental sustainability and peaceful resolution of conflict, by participating actively as an informed citizen of society and the world

Foundations, Explorations, and Integrations

The Santa Clara Core Curriculum consists of two phases of academic work designed to foster developmental learning and curricular coherence. The first phase, called Foundations, consists of courses normally taken in the first year that introduce students to the process and expectations for university-level education: Cultures & Ideas, Critical Thinking & Writing, and the first course in Religion, Theology & Culture. This phase helps students begin to set their own goals for learning, preparing them to make thoughtful choices in the Core, their majors, and co-curricular activities. The first year is also the most appropriate time for students to maintain the continuity of their education in mathematics and a second language.

The second phase, called Explorations, includes courses that expand students’ understanding of a broad range of knowledge and abilities needed for effective participation in contemporary life. These courses include Ethics, Civic Engagement, Diversity, the Arts, Natural Science, Social Science, a third Cultures & Ideas class with a global focus, and two additional courses in Religion, Theology & Culture.

The Core also includes three components called Integrations. Integrations help students make connections among courses in the Core and between the Core and the major.

Two of the Integrations components will normally be courses that fulfill Core or major requirements. One course in the Core or major must include an experiential learning element focused on social justice. Another course in the Core or major must involve an advanced writing component.

The third Integrations component will be a Pathway, a cluster of courses that allows students to focus and connect their learning within the Core or between the Core and the major. The choice of Pathways and of courses within them is designed to foster active, intentional learning that complements the majors and encourages the application of knowledge in the world.

This Core Curriculum structure is illustrated in a chart, which can be accessed through the link below.

Chart Showing The Core Curriculum Structure