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Running head: CASE STUDY #1

Case Study #1
Hector Solis-Ortiz
Loyola University Chicago
January 20, 2015


There are a lot of factors that go into creating a curriculum or core requirements
for any given university. As I began looking at the different institutions there were
differences in universitys core. Certainly there were many factors to consider as to why
they were different. Some depended on where these institutions were located, whether or
not they were private or public, or what fields of study students were going into. In
hopes to gain a wide perspective of the different curricula that exists I looked into an
array of institutions that I would aspire to work at to gain a better understanding of what
these institution asks of its students. These institutions included San Jose State
University, Pace University, Columbia University, Brown University and The University
of San Francisco. I decided to look into private universities, public state university, and a
Jesuit institution to see how the core differs.
San Jose State University is a large California public institution. It is also my
alma mater so I am quite familiar with the core requirements that they ask students to
complete. Their curriculum is based off their A-E Requirements (San Jose State
University, n.d.). Each letter in this requirement represents a different subject matter in
order to gain the basic knowledge of an educated person (para. 1) as they like to note
on their website (San Jose State University, n.d.).

These A-E requirements include:

basic skills, science and math, humanities and arts, and social sciences, and human
understanding and development (San Jose State University, n.d.). Within each respective
requirement students have the option to choose their own elective course. Even though
there are basic requirements there are also subsets within each requirement. For example,
even though the A requirement means to gain Basic Skills, in order to attain that,
students need to have a firm grasp on three components: oral communication, written

communication and critical thinking and writing. This means students would need to
take a total of three classes that would add up to 9 units in order to fill that requirement,
one for each component. Most of these requirements fall under an umbrella focus and
require taking additional classes in order to fulfill the overall letter objective. Looking
through the entire curriculum in order to fulfill the core, students must complete 39 units
of the general education requirements. Throughout this process students have autonomy
to choose whichever electives fall under each requirement as long as those classes go in
line with their specific field of study. The curriculum definitely differed as my critical
lens looked into private institutions.
Pace University is a private university in New York City and they have structured
their curriculum differently from the aforementioned institution. Their core is quite
extensive and requires students to fulfill a minimum of 44 credit hours. Their core is
broken down into three sections: foundational knowledge, areas of knowledge, and
inquiry & exploration (Pace University, n.d.). Section 1 of the foundational knowledge
includes: English, public speaking, and foreign language. In order to fulfill the
requirements students have limited options of which classes to take. In this section there
are opportunities to test out of some required course materials if the students feel as
though they are competent in a certain subject area. For example, one of the mandated
courses in this particular section is a computing foundation core course. If students want
to test out they have the chance to do so. They would also be eligible from being exempt
based off standardized test scores such as the SAT (Pace University, n.d.). Section 2
deals with areas of knowledge that include: civic engagement, history and human
behavior. Finally, Section 3 deals with inquiry and exploration which explores subjects

of arts and sciences. Pace Universitys core is interesting in that they are very specific in
the requirements it asks of its students, but it does not allow for students to customize
their own academic experience and they do not have a vast assortment of classes to
choose from to fulfill each section.
Columbia University is also a private institution, but is a part of the Ivy League.
Their curriculum is more refined and precise as to what they value and what they want
their students to get out of their experience. They state in their website, the nations
oldest and most renowned Core is comprised of a series of small discussionbased seminars exploring foundation texts, enduring documents and exemplary
experiments in literature, philosophy, history, music, art, writing, science, (para. 1) most
if not all of these course are seminar based to ensure a sense of participation with others
in the classroom (Columbia University, n.d.). The curriculum is based off studying the
classics and is very intentional in providing a seminar based approach to their courses.
The most interesting part of their curriculum is that they do not have set classes that
students can take because they have to customize it based off a students field of study
with their specific advisor. In order for a student to fulfill the core requirements they
must go and take some form of physical education. This was very interesting in that the
previous schools did not have an emphasis on this particular aspect and did not require it
in order to graduate. Even though Columbia is an Ivy League I was mistaken in believing
that most of the institutions that fall under that category might follow the same structure.
Brown University, also a part of the Ivy League is a liberal arts based institution
had a vastly different approach in that they have an open curriculum. This allows the
student to choose what they want to study and finding courses that complement their

interests and field of study. On their website they state, our open curriculum ensures
you great freedom in directing the course of your education, but it also expects you to
remain open to people, ideas, and experiences that may be entirely new (para. 4) even
though students have the liberty to construct their own core they still have to meet the
liberal learning objectives in their studies (Brown University, n.d.).
Brown has a set of eleven learning outcomes that students have to meet and
choose courses alongside their advisor that would fulfill those requirements. These
include: speaking and writing, understand difference among cultures, evaluate human
behavior, history, science, foreign language, humanities and arts, reading, internship,
research, and diversity (Brown University, n.d.). This approach was very interesting in
that it allows students to fully take ownership of their education. Students need to meet
with their academic advisors each term in order to come up with a plan of what type of
what their major is going to be and find classes that complement their field of study.
Browns core curriculum solely revolves around these learning outcomes and is not
necessarily as structured as it was at other institutions.
Finally, coming from a Jesuit institution I wanted to see what the core would look
like at another Jesuit school. The University of San Franciscos core consists of
completing a total of 44 credit hours. The Universitys Core Curriculum embodies, the
Jesuit, Catholic tradition that views faith, reason, and service to others as complementary
resources in the search for truth and full human development (para. 1) they do this by
completing a set of 9 core requirements (University of San Francisco). These areas
include: communication, math and science, humanities, philosophy and theology, social
sciences, arts, foreign language, cultural diversity, and service learning (University of

San Francisco, n.d.). The requirements are similar to most other institutions except for a
couple of distinctions. Students have to complete a cultural diversity and service learning
course because it aligns with the Jesuit ideals of social justice. This requirement is what
sets it apart from all the other institutions because it is not required in order to graduate.
The hope is that students are able to see their place in the world and how they can apply
the skills that they learn while in college and give back to others. Not every institution
has the same ideal and its one of the most distinctive attributes of receiving a Jesuit
education from this institution.
Looking through the wide spectrum of curriculum that exists within these
institutions no one school was exactly the same. There were many factors that
contributed to why each institution was different and believed their core was valuable and
relevant for their students success. There were also a number of similarities that
occurred through each curriculum. Fink (2003), notes that a large percentage of
institutions use the lecture as a form to teach and facilitate course work and this is not
always the most effective way to teach students. Though Fink does make a good point
that a majority of the core classes are lecture style, it does not mean that it is a bad way of
facilitating a class because there might be students who respond well to that type of
environment. Most of these institutions had seminar style approach to teaching these
courses which can be a great way to interact with other students and foster and
environment of learning.
As an alumnus of San Jose State University I had to take course work that I either
did not understand or cared for and it felt as though I was binging on information that
was not transferable to what I wanted to do. Most of these classes were solely lecture

style and were not very stimulating or significant at times. This was a common problem
that I could see with potential retention on certain courses that students take. Bransford, (1999) states, there are limits on the amount of information that people can hold in
short term memory is enhanced when people are able to chunk information into familiar
patters (p. 33). This is one of the main challenges with curriculum.
Pace University was very similar in their approach with their core curriculum in
that it was very extensive, but allowed the student to choose courses that fall within a
certain category. Not every schools curriculum had a large selection of what the
students could choose to study. This is something that might be important for an
undergraduate. Students might want to feel a sense of ownership or at least have way to
have significant learning experiences in the classroom.
Every curriculum had a set of four categories students had to take that include:
math, science, reading/writing, and communication. There was not much delineation
from that model, but there were definitely distinctions on how each institution went about
in integrating those requirements.
Both Columbia University and Brown University had similar approaches when it
came to picking out classes for a student in that there is a heavy emphasis on academic
advising. Students are required to meet with their advisors each term and come up with a
plan for the year. Even though both schools are considered to be Ivy League institutions
they definitely differed in how they valued education. Columbia has a set of
requirements students must take in order to fulfill the core, but has less of a selection as
to what a student can take. Brown definitely was the most unique out of the five
institutions in that students had autonomy to build and learn their own curriculum and

were encouraged to do so. This is a good example of having students care and make a
meaningful experience. Nilson (2010) states, people learn better when the material
evokes emotional and not just intellectual or physical involvement...motivate people to
want to learn it (p. 4). The fact that students are able to make their own choices and take
their education in their own hands speak to Nilsons thought that it might encourage
students to be motivated by what they learn and actually care and make connections.
Every institution has the same goal. That goal is to make sure that their students
are learning and finding meaning in the coursework. This is not always the case. Fink
(2003) states if we can find ways to identify and create learning experiences that
students and others can agree are truly significant, we will have made important progress
in our effort to improve quality of higher education (p. 7). This idea is what builds an
effective core in the hope that students find significance in the work that they do and can
apply it in the future. All of these institutions have a clear vision of what they view as
being important for a student to learn, but at the end of the day it goes back to how these
classes are structured and whether or not their meaningful or effective.



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Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academy
Catalog: General Information - Core Curriculum - University of San Francisco (USF).
(n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2015, from
Core Curriculum | Columbia Undergraduate Admissions. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17,
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Fink, L.D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to
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Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college
instructors. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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