A rigorous, multidisciplinary common core curriculum provides Sacred Heart students with the values-driven academic and moral framework needed to think critically, solve problems, better understand the diverse world in which they live, and wrestle with the fundamental and enduring questions of humankind.
Designed to engage students in a multidisciplinary understanding of the arts and sciences and the Catholic intellectual tradition, the five classes that make up “The Human Journey” incorporate aspects of history, English, political science, psychology, sociology, biology, physics, philosophy, religious studies and include:
- The Human Journey: Historical Paths to Civilization
- Literary Expressions of the Human Journey
- The Human Community: The Individual and Society
- The Human Community and Scientific Discovery
- The Human Search for Truth, Justice and the Common Good
Together, these classes form not just a framework for a rich and rigorous liberal arts education, but a model that, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, other colleges can and should emulate for its “values-centered” focus and its “integration across disciplines.”
Indeed, faculty and department heads from throughout the university were involved in developing this unique curriculum and now take part in teaching it, tackling these diverse subjects within the context of four fundamental, core questions:
- What does it mean to be human?
- What does it mean to live a life of meaning and purpose?
- What does it mean to understand and appreciate the natural world?
- What does it mean to forge a more just society for the common good?
“One of the challenges of the program was developing courses that embraced all of these four questions," said Dr. Michelle Loris, English and Psychology professor and associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “We questioned whether they should perhaps be parceled out between disciplines, but we kept coming back to the idea that all of these questions are embedded in all the disciplines and so we realized that all the common core classes needed to present material from the perspective of all four of these big questions.” Thus, these four big questions frame each course in The Human Journey.
As an example of this, Literary Expressions of the Human Journey, has students read and discuss how authors from Homer to Toni Morrison ask people to consider the big questions across cultures, eras, and genres. In Human Community and Scientific Discovery, students learn about the debate between scientists and religious leaders and investigate a wide range of topics from the mechanics of physics to biodiversity in nature, but the main emphasis is getting students to think critically about how knowledge of the physical and natural world relates to our humanity and our place in the world. Students in Human Community: The Individual and Society Social read Gandhi and Freud, among others, and consider the social and political structures that address the funadmantal questions of human meaning and value.
The final course in the series, The Human Search for Truth, Justice and the Common Good, turns students’ focus to social justice and developing their ethical and moral reasoning.
“Every great university has an academic signature – courses that make it truly unique and distinct – and The Human Journey is ours,” Loris said. “It’s something really special, and the outcomes are nothing but positive. Students appreciate the challenge and level of intellectual inquiry the classes provide, as well as the practical skills they acquire, such as quantitative literacy, intercultural competence, civic knowledge and engagement and, really, the foundations and skills for lifelong learning.”
The success of the program led to Sacred Heart receiving a prestigious $25,000 Lilly Fellows Network Exchange grant to host a three-day conference in April 2012 entitled “Integrating a Faith-Based Education for the 21st Century: Challenges and Responses.” Over 50 members of the Lilly Fellows Network Exchange Program attended.
“The conference was an extraordinary opportunity for Sacred Heart to showcase The Human Journey and the impressive work of our faculty and students,” Loris added.