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Dr. Gerald Malsbary, Director of First-Year Symposium, with a Belmont Abbey College student.

What is a Core Curriculum? And why does Belmont Abbey College have one?

In our day, college and university education is associated with specialized preparation for a career – and as lucrative a one as possible, in order to pay off the high cost of education! Most students today, with good reason, are concerned about one thing: “What should I major in? What program of classes will get me the farthest in life?” – Here, “the farthest” is usually defined in terms of finance and sometimes also in terms of personal job satisfaction and social belonging.

There is nothing wrong with this kind of reasoning – in fact we encourage it at Belmont Abbey College by our goal to have you “succeed professionally, and be a blessing to yourselves and others.” But this is not the whole story: we have other goals as well: to have you “lead lives of integrity and become responsible citizens.” This goal points to areas of life known under the names of ethics, politics, and theology. Are these real subjects that can be taught and learned, or are they strictly matters of individual or family-inherited opinion? There are also the Fine Arts (drama, music, creative writing, etc.): does anybody really need to understand them if he is not trying to be an artist himself? What about mathematics – should they be studied by those who “hate” math? Should English, world literature, or history be forced upon those who “hate” to write papers? Should a young adult be required to learn more about fields that will probably never contribute to his or her future income?

The Core Curriculum is Belmont Abbey’s “yes” answer to all these questions. Many students today object to this: a list of “required courses” resembles High School, and sends the message that 17 – 22 year-old persons, living away from their parents, are not yet fully equipped to be their own masters, choosing only those courses that fulfill their own personal dreams, as currently embraced at that particular age. We entirely agree that College should be a place to begin to fulfill your dreams beyond what happened in High School. And one big part of that is filling you with new dreams – by requiring you to study what you may not understand or appreciate. Unlike High School – where requirements are mandated by the civil governments in each state – at the college level, each institution voluntarily chooses its own set of general requirements, to provide a structured education in accord with the vision of that institution. Accreditation pertains primarily to the academic standards of the special subjects: when it comes to the core curriculum, each college is only obliged to remain faithful to its own mission. Core curriculum offerings, therefore, at any college, are a result of faculty competence and availability and the vision of education that guides each particular institution.

Here, finally, is where the larger picture of the “Benedictine and Catholic intellectual tradition” comes into view. Our vision of education at Belmont Abbey College is unique and of durable value because, unlike many other colleges and universities, it is still strongly informed by the past (and ongoing) achievements of the Catholic faith and Benedictine monasticism. For about five or six hundred years in the early history of Europe, groups of monks nestled in the countrysides of every land, went about their daily labors of prayer and farming and study. They led an organized community life for spiritual purposes, and as a necessary foundation for their way of life, preserved the learning of the civilizations of antiquity. With the economic and political growth of Europe, these rural havens of peace and wisdom grew into the urban communities of learning and research and teaching known as the medieval university. The Renaissance and modern science built on that foundation to produce today’s global information culture. There are many sides to this knowledge culture; what keeps it all together? The original collection of “Seven Liberal Arts” as handed down by the Benedictine monks and nuns from A.D. 400 – A.D. 1100, is still, in one way or another, at the core of it all.

Nobody needs a college education to “participate” in that culture today: it is only necessary to have internet service! So — what does Belmont Abbey College offer that is so special? We certainly want to train you to participate in the contemporary, ever-expanding world, because that is the world we live in today. But, in keeping with our vision, we also want you to participate fully and responsibly in that world and have personal, life-long access to the best wisdom inherited from the experience of humankind and the Christian tradition. We offer a safe, secure, and orderly environment for beginning a life of learning, just as the Benedictine monks of old provided for the budding nations of early Europe. Yes, we will ask you study ethics and politics, theology and literature, the arts and basic mathematics, and social and natural science as well. But this time, unlike when you were in High School, you will be building your own world-view with the help of a new community with an ancient vision, shared by young and old. We want to make you mindful – at an important time of your life – of the grandeur, and the fallibility — of being human. Human beings by nature are learners, and a good liberal arts education gives you a boost toward being a life-long learner, that nothing else can impart. At the same time, by choosing a major, you can get started on a particular role you may want to play in life.

Would you like to participate in this kind of intellectual (and moral) training? You’re cordially invited!

Malsbary

Dr. Gerald Malsbary
Director of First-Year Symposium


 

Core Curriculum for Traditional Students

I. FS 101 First-Year Symposium, 3 credits

N.B.: Students transferring more than 13 credit hours to Belmont Abbey College are not required to take the First-Year Symposium

II. Foundational Skills in the Liberal Arts

A. Writing, 6 credits

a. Rhetoric 101 Rhetoric, Logic, Grammar, and Writing I

b. Rhetoric 102 Rhetoric, Logic, Grammar, and Writing II (RH 101 is a prerequisite for RH 102)

B. Quantitative Thinking, 3 credits

One of the following, appropriate to the student’s major:

Mathematics 135 Mathematics for Liberal Arts

Mathematics 151 College Algebra

Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus

Any 200-level Mathematics course

Any Statistics course

Any Calculus course

III. Further Explorations in the Liberal Arts

C. Theology, 6 credits

a. Theology 105 Introduction to Scripture

b. Theology 205 Introduction to Theology

D. Philosophy, 6 credits

a. Political Philosophy 211 Classic Texts I

b. Political Philosophy 212 Classic Texts II

E. History, 6 credits

a. History 101 Western Civilization I

b. History 102 Western Civilization II

F. Literature, 6 credits

a. English 211 Literary Classics of the Western Tradition I

b. English 212 Literary Classics of the Western Tradition II

G. Fine Arts, 3 credits

One (or more) of the following:

Art 101 Introduction to Art in Western Civilization I

Art 102 Introduction to Art in Western Civilization II

English 104 Creative Writing

English 216 Introduction to Film Criticism

Theater (TA) 108 Introduction to Theatre Arts

Theater (TA) 110 Introduction to Stage Craft

Theater (TA) 150 Acting I

Theater (TA) 112 Theatre Appreciation

Music 101 Music Appreciation

Three credit hours in any one of the following:

Chorus (1 credit)

Voice (1 credit)

Piano (1 credit)

Organ (1 credit)

H. Natural Sciences, 8 credits

a. One of the following:

Biology 101 General Biology

Biology 201 Cell Biology (Instructor’s permission required)

Biology 231 Organismal Diversity (Instructor’s permission required)

b. One of the following:

Science 110 Physical World

Chemistry 105 General Chemistry

Physics 101 General Physics 1

I. Social Sciences, 6 credits

a. Political Science 201 The U.S. Constitution

b. One of the following:

Criminal Justice 201 Introduction to Criminal Justice

Economics 201 Introduction to Economics I

Psychology 201 Introduction to Psychology

Sociology 201 Principles of Sociology or another psychology or sociology course (Instructor’s permission required)

IV. Other Graduation Requirements

J. Writing-Intensive Requirement, one flagged 3 credit course

Each student must complete at least one course designated as “Writing Intensive,” marked with the designation (W) in the course schedule. Students are strongly encouraged to choose one within their major or minor field of study.

K. Global Perspectives Requirement

Students meet the Global Perspective requirement through successful completion of one of the following:

a. Any course among History 102, Theater Arts 108, or Theology 365.

c. Any course approved as meeting the “Global Perspectives” criteria and so designated by the Office of the Registrar.

d. The intermediate level of a modern language (fourth semester of college-level language).

e. Significant study abroad (five weeks or longer).

L. Competency in Technology

ALL Belmont Abbey College students must demonstrate basic computer competency in one of the following ways:

a. Passing the competency exam administered during the first semester and/or periodically upon demand.

b. Successful completion of CS (Computer Studies) 100 or another CS course relevant to the student’s major.

c. Successful completion of a technology-intensive class in the major.