As a student at Fairfield University, I am sure you have heard complaints and grievances over the lengthy Magis Core. The Magis Core curriculum exposes students to a variety of different subjects while also promoting expertise in writing and awareness of social justice topics.
At Fairfield, the core is composed of 15 courses, adding up to a total of 45 credits. For reference, my Psychology major requires 38 credits. There is no denying that Fairfield’s Core curriculum is extensive in length. However, I do believe that there is immense value in a lengthy core curriculum for the right student.
Two years ago, the thought of discerning what major I wanted to pursue left me feeling anxious and uncertain. Flash forward to last year when I needed to record a major for my college applications, I settled on psychology, knowing it was a subject that piqued my interest but still felt dubious about how I would use it post-grad.
Fairfield’s Core curriculum was enticing to me since I knew I would be exposed to a wide variety of classes that, left to my own devices, I would not choose to take. While I may have been more resolute in my major than people who went in undecided, the Core allows me to consider subjects that I could add on as a possible second major or minor. This is considerably helpful for assisting students in contemplating what they want to actually do with their major and how they want to apply it to an occupational setting.
I also believe that as a Jesuit university, a core curriculum is essential to integrating the values of the order. In First Year Experience, we learned that Ignatian spirituality proposes the idea of being “men and women for others.” This means that we should engage in service and further our understanding of the social responsibility that we all hold. This is especially applicable to social justice related issues and how it is our obligation to acknowledge these matters and use our voices to promote equality.
The core curriculum includes social justice signature elements. These courses incorporate race and intersectionality theory, which allows students to honor the values of the Jesuits. Without these classes included in the core, it would be up to the student to decide to engage with these topics. While many may still choose to do so, others may be less inclined.
It is no secret to anyone that Fairfield is a predominantly white institution and one that has faced challenges in the past regarding diversity and inclusion. The core successfully blends academics while also trying to improve students’ social consciousness. Whether it be requiring students to take a visual arts course when they are a STEM major or mandating that all students complete social justice related classes, the Core constantly challenges students to be more well-rounded and critical thinkers.
Another element of the Jesuit faith that is fundamental to the use of a lengthy core curriculum is the concept of “cura personalis.” The Latin phrase translates to the “care of the entire person.” As a Jesuit institution that follows this belief, Fairfield strives to prioritize tending to the student body’s health, social and individual needs as strongly as they emphasize academic standards. I believe that this relates to the Core since personal discovery can be tied into cura personalis. To me, caring for the entire person also means fostering an understanding of one’s sense of self.
Last semester, I took an introductory philosophy course that culminated in a final paper that instructed us to write a letter to either our future self or a future descendant regarding advice learned from the major philosophers we studied throughout the term. The predominant theme throughout the course was discerning what constituted the “good life.”
Through studying philosophers such as Plato and Epicurus, I gathered an understanding of the necessary components of achieving the good life, such as embracing truth and not prioritizing materialistic pursuits. If the Core were not a factor in my degree, I likely wouldn’t have sought out taking a philosophy course, but by taking this class, I gained a practical understanding of how to approach morality and life in general.
While some may argue that the Core prevents students from taking major-related courses sooner, I would assert that it is more important to be certain about your major before fully delving into it. By requiring us to take liberal arts courses, we are given the time to determine our likes and dislikes for subjects we wouldn’t interact with if we just jumped into our majors.
Of course, most people know prior to coming to college the subjects that they would never pursue long-term. However, there are subjects taught at the college level that many of us may not have taken during high school. Personally, I know that I never had the opportunity to take a philosophy course prior to coming to Fairfield. Even though I may never make the switch from psychology to philosophy, I believe there are still notable benefits to being exposed to the different ways of thinking and inquiry that these courses teach.
I am sympathetic to the annoyance of the student body regarding needing to take seemingly unrelated courses that don’t apply to their major. However, the next time you feel unmotivated or disconnected from your core classes, I urge you to try to extract some usefulness or practicality that could be potentially applied to your overall outlook, especially one connected to the Jesuit beliefs.