Elizabeth Petrino, Ph.D., director of the Magis Core Curriculum Committee, in a Nov. 18 email, informed students in the Class of 2023 of changes made to the Signature Element Graduation Requirements.
In the email, Petrino reflects on how the Class of 2023 is “the first class at Fairfield to graduate under the Magis Core Curriculum, [the MCCC is] especially aware of the distinction [the Class of 2023 has] achieved.”
In reference to the recent addition of the Core, Petrino stated, “as the Magis Core courses were being approved during your time at Fairfield, we also understand that many courses were not available to you.”
Another factor that could have hindered the completion of the new Magis Core includes “duress during the pandemic” that leads the MCCC to believe that “the Class of 2023 deserves special consideration as far as their graduation requirements are concerned.”
Background on the new Magis Core
Regarding the introduction of what Fairfield students now recognize as the Magis Core, its journey to existence began through a discussion in 2014, according to Petrino. This Core did not launch until 2019, making the Class of 2023 the first batch of Fairfield students to experience it.
Changes for the Class of 2023
The implications for how the MCCC encouraged Class of 2023 students to go about registration include first priority to already declared major/minor requirements and then electives to be used for Signature Elements.
The Signature Element requires three WAC/WID courses, three Social Justice courses and one Interdisciplinary course. Petrino quotes that the University, “realizes that it may not be possible for you, as the members of the first graduating class to complete.”
Specifically, Petrino relays that the Class of 2023 courses will count towards Magis Core Signature Element requirements: “WID courses may substitute for WAC (e.g., a student with three WID courses will satisfy the WAC/WID requirement).”
Furthermore, for the social justice aspect of the Core Petrino states that, “SJ2 or SJ1 may substitute for each other (e.g., a student with two SJ2 courses and one SJ2-R course will satisfy the SJ requirement). One SJ2-R course will still be highly desirable for graduation.”
Though the MCCC, in Petrino’s email, advised students to prioritize completing their declared majors and minors, her email maintained that it is “encouraged [for students] to do [their] best with remaining required courses in Spring 2023 to attempt to complete outstanding Signature Element requirements.”
There will be no changes to the other predetermined graduation requirements including GPA, minimum credit requirements, required major/minor/discipline coursework, etc.
Each dean’s office will review the Signature Elements completed by each senior and will “note the efforts to complete as many of them as possible.”
When asked about the purpose of the substitution strictly for the Class of 2023, Petrino explained that “the data [the MCCC] regularly review suggests that a number of students are completing many Signature Element courses, though not necessarily all the required ones.”
In order to accommodate for those among the Class of 2023 who “made great efforts but, through no fault of their own, were either unable to complete all seven requirements or able to complete multiple courses for a given Signature Element,” the substitutions were introduced in order to “reflect all the work that members of the Class of 2023 have done, in their quest to gain Signature Element knowledge.”
Senior Student Response
Following the email, Class of 2023 students shared their feelings about the changes made to the Magis Core graduation requirements.
Senior Communication major Kelly Haughey said she was initially “very excited about the core” before coming to Fairfield citing that she “felt there were a lot of cool courses to take.”
“However, it became stressful when certain courses weren’t available to take each semester and I was worried about falling behind on my Core,” Haughey said.
Senior nursing major Maeve Foley shared similar sentiments as Haughey.
“I think the Core is a good idea in theory because it is important to get a well-rounded education and not just take classes about your major,” Foley said. “But sometimes the class choices have nothing to do with what I am interested in, and I feel like I am wasting class credit.”
As a nursing major, Foley also cited the already challenging course load she and other nurses have each semester as part of why she has struggled to complete the Signature Element requirements ahead of graduation.
“I feel I already have a full schedule every semester and then I have to worry about the Core on top of that and it packs my schedule to where it is overwhelming a lot of the time,” she added.
As for which Signature Element was the most challenging to achieve, both Jake Cartisano ’23 (Finance, International Business) and Alyssa O’Keefe ‘23 (Accounting) agreed it would have to be MSJ2, with Cartisano saying, “MSJ2, no question.”
Cartisano continued by saying, “Every business major would likely agree that [MSJ2] was the hardest.”
However, Foley said she struggled the most to get the writing Core requirements and Signature Elements. Haughey mentioned she found the social justice courses to be most challenging to get and felt that “each semester it was unclear what was being offered in regards to the Core attributes.”
“There are so few classes offered for those and everyone is trying to take them that they fill up fast,” Foley said. “I know so many people including myself that I’ve struggled to fill and are worrying about graduation but just have no possible space left to fit any other classes with their major.”
Speaking on the issues many students saw while trying to fulfill these requirements, Cartisano stated, “I don’t believe the signature elements were ever properly conceived by the University and [the elements] were a constant source of issue for most students.”
Regarding what students feel could change about the Core, they provided multiple insights.
Foley relayed that many classes she has taken “would be great as Signature Elements but the professors either did not know how to sign up to make them count for certain elements or did not even know that they could” and added that “informing [the professors] more about the process could fix a lot of problems of not having classes to register for Core/Signature Elements.”
Both Haughey and O’Keefe expressed similar thoughts regarding minimizing the number of Signature Elements required.
“I think having one of each Core (history, philosophy, science, etc.) is perfect, so I wish I didn’t have to do two of certain classes,” O’Keefe said. “Then I could take more classes related to my major, minors and interests.”
Haughey echoed O’Keefe saying the Core “should have a lot fewer requirements and allow students to focus on major and minor courses by allowing them to take courses that peak their interests.”
Unanimously, though, the students interviewed agreed with the University’s decision to waive some elements in certain scenarios.
“The Provost’s office should take heavy consideration of the fact that the Magis Core was new for the Class of 2023 and they did very poorly in describing what was entirely required of it and certifying classes to fulfill attributes and requirements,” Cartisano said.
At this time, no changes will be made to the requirements for all other class years.
“All other class years are required to continue making progress toward completion of the seven Signature Element requirements,” Petrino said. “We would like to encourage those students to continue to be proactive in working with their advisors to fulfill all parts of the Magis Core curriculum.”
Students in the Class of 2024 spoke out about their concerns about the ability to fulfill the Core.
Junior Abby Grenier said “I feel stressed about the Signature Elements especially since there are not so many options for classes with these Signature Elements.”
Junior Lauren Covello mentioned the similar conditions the Classes of 2023 and 2024 have faced.
“We have dealt with much of the same curriculum issues involving the Signature Elements the past couple of years alongside the Class of 2023,” Covello said. “It’s been a stressful time encountering the options for classes with these elements.”
In response to her thoughts on the change in requirements for the Class of 2023 but not the Class of 2024, Molly Cotjanle ‘24 said, “I feel like the pandemic had hindered my academic experience so much my first year here and these newer Signature Elements only further contributed to it as there are still changes being made to the curriculum.”
Petrino discussed whether or not concerns about the Core are a common topic between students and their advisors by saying that many of the topics discussed with advisors are usually ones that are not reported to any other faculty.
“Whenever I hear from students, I do my best to assist them in finding courses that will fulfill their Core,” Petrino said. “Discussions about fulfilling degree requirements are typically had between the student and her/his/their Assistant Dean, as the assigning of courses/sections comes from the schools.”
The Mirror will continue to update on the Core and Signature Element requirements as more information becomes available.