The Core Curriculum in Liberal Studies
Merrimack College prepares students to thrive as productive, responsible citizens in the increasingly complex, competitive and diverse world of the 21st century.
Across the four schools of the college — the Girard School of Business, the School of Education and Social Policy, School of Liberal Arts, and School of Science and Engineering — the curriculum provides the knowledge and skills that a well-educated person requires to succeed personally and professionally in an ever-changing and challenging global environment.
Merrimack graduates are prepared both for productive careers and for global citizenship. Students learn to take responsibility for themselves, for others, and for the world. Whether they major in Business or History, Chemistry or Psychology, Engineering or English, all students gain a common educational foundation by completing a general education program in which they explore essential knowledge about the world through the varied lenses of the Humanities, the Sciences, and the Social Sciences: Science students read literature; Business students learn about gender and culture; and English and History majors study the scientific method.
As they progress through their college-wide general education program, students take courses designed to develop their ability to communicate effectively, think critically, understand and respect cultural differences, exercise ethical responsibility, reflect on their experiences, and take charge of their own intellectual, creative, personal, and spiritual growth. Individual development and learning are enhanced by small classes, close interaction with faculty, and active learning both inside and outside the classroom.
The specific requirements within the Liberal Studies Core Curriculum are organized in three main groupings that represent the broad purposes of the various required Core courses and activities: Foundations, Explorations, and Connections. This three-fold structure provides the program with coherence while at the same time allowing students maximum flexibility in meeting the requirements. Students must complete 44 credits in the Liberal Studies Core Curriculum.
Foundational requirements in critical thinking, effective writing, and quantitative reasoning teach skills and habits of mind that are essential for academic success in the Liberal Studies Core as well as in the student’s chosen major. These courses and activities are designed to connect students to the new academic community they have joined at Merrimack, introduce them to college-level intellectual work and challenge them to move beyond their current knowledge and skill levels. While all of the courses in the Liberal Studies Core foster critical thinking and effective communication, the specific skills and intellectual frameworks developed in Foundations courses provide students with a solid basis on which to build their subsequent studies within the Core and within their chosen major/minor. Through these courses students learn to investigate and articulate a critical understanding of themselves and their world. Foundations requirements are normally completed by the end of the sophomore year. Students take one 4-credit course in each area.
Explorations requirements join the foundational requirements to form the core of Merrimack’s commitment to providing a strong education in the liberal arts. Such an intellectual grounding is increasingly sought after by employers in many fields and instills the capacity for lifelong learning. Required course work in these seven areas develops students’ breadth of knowledge in multiple liberal arts disciplines and affords them the opportunity to explore different areas of study as they decide on their major or confirm their commitment to a chosen field of specialization. This component of the Liberal Studies program is especially useful for students who enter the college undecided about the major field they wish to pursue.
Students take either one or two 4-credit courses in each category area. Although individual courses may be listed in multiple Explorations categories, students may count an individual course in no more than one of the requirement categories. Explorations requirements may also fulfill requirements in the student’s major/minor. Explorations requirements may be completed any time before graduation.
Coherent, integrated academic experiences in the Liberal Studies Core Curriculum are essential if students are to acquire the skills and attitudes necessary to analyze and evaluate information from multiple sources and make connections between disparate ideas and perspectives. The Liberal Studies Core seeks to provide a flexible infrastructure that supports the integration of both curricular and co-curricular opportunities for making connections between personal, academic, intellectual and service aspects of students’ lives. Our mission to enlighten minds, engage hearts and empower lives necessarily depends on the cultivation of a community of scholars whose common goal is to understand and adapt to our increasingly complex world by systematically considering various perspectives of multidisciplinary problems.
The following features of the Liberal Studies Core Curriculum are designed to foster connections among different elements of the student’s academic experience by providing links: 1) among different components within individual courses; 2) among two or more individual courses; 3) between classroom instruction and learning experiences located beyond the classroom; 4) between theory and practice; and 5) between the academic community and the world outside the college.
First-Year Academic Convocation Requirement: First-year students are required to participate in a robust academic convocation that engages them in a common reading or viewing experience. The goal of the convocation is to foster a culture of serious academic inquiry among first-year students and to encourage consciousness of the distinctions as well as the connections among academic disciplines. Convocation is integrated into the First-Year Experience courses. Convocation takes place early in the fall semester on a day on which all classes are cancelled.
Writing Intensive Requirement: All students must complete a Writing Intensive (W) course chosen from a list of designated W courses in various disciplines. This requirement is designed to provide an opportunity for students to extend and develop the writing abilities they have acquired in their Foundations course in writing (Introduction to College Writing). In Writing Intensive courses, students work with more complex writing tasks associated with a specific academic discipline. The Writing Intensive course may count in Explorations, the student’s major/minor, or electives.
Experiential Learning Requirement: All students must complete an approved experiential learning (X) activity. The Liberal Studies Core Curriculum offers students various opportunities to engage in experiential learning that connects their traditional academic course work to activities that engage them actively in exploring connections between the disciplines they study and the various ways that knowledge from those disciplines may be applied and developed. Experiential learning may include field work, laboratory work, study abroad, field trips, faculty-guided research, internships, practica, co-op positions, community service projects, community activism both on and off campus, various course projects, and other activities deemed appropriate by faculty. The Experiential Learning activity may be connected to courses in Explorations, the student’s major/minor, or electives.