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St. Mary’s Core FAQ

In what order should I take the St. Mary’s Core (SMC) courses? Are there any prerequisites?

The SMC13xx courses can be taken in any order. But you must complete all five of the 13xx courses in order to take the SMC 23xx courses. Likewise, the SMC23xx courses may be taken in any order. But you must complete all four of the 23xx courses and have senior status in order to take SMC 4301. One last prerequisite to note: SMC2304 (Foundations of Practice: Literature) requires a previously earned C or better in EN1311 (Composition and Rhetoric).

I am a new transfer student. Which of my previous credits can be applied to core courses?

The Transfer Requirements page lists the courses that may be brought in to satisfy St. Mary’s Core and School Specific Core (SSC) requirements. The Registrar will first seek to satisfy SSC course requirements before applying credits for SMC courses. Note that once you have matriculated to St. Mary’s, certain SMC and SSC requirements can no longer be satisfied elsewhere.

I am currently a St. Mary’s student, and I will be taking courses at another institution over the summer. What courses can count for core credit?

Current students should consult the Transfer Requirements page, which lists the courses that may be taken at other institutions to satisfy SMC and SSC requirements. We strongly recommend that, where possible, you try to take SMC courses at St. Mary’s. This is because each SMC course is designed to draw explicit connections to the insights of the other SMCs.

I am changing majors. How will this affect my core requirements?

If you are switching to a major in a different school, any SMC13xx or 23xx courses you have taken will be allowed to satisfy the SMC requirements of your new major. (E.g. If you are changing from a humanities major to a science or business major and have already completed SMC1301, you will not be required to take SMC1301H.) However, your School Specific Core requirements will change if you are switching majors between schools. Please consult the SSC requirements page for your new major and/or speak with your adviser to determine the how your already-taken courses can be applied.

May I substitute a non-SMC course taken at St. Mary’s for an SMC course?

No. St. Mary’s Core course requirements cannot be satisfied by other St. Mary’s courses.

What is the value of a liberal arts core curriculum?

The traditions of liberal arts education reach back to classical Greece and Rome, and evolved in and through the medieval and modern universities. Though the topics studied have changed, the aim of the liberal arts stands firm: helping us all to live more authentic and more humane lives. Liberal arts education seeks to truly liberate us — from ignorance, from bias, from false values — by teaching us to love beauty, to seek truth, and to pursue justice. In summary, the liberal arts help us to live ever more fully human lives.

Liberal arts education teaches us how to think, not merely what to think. It cultivates our inborn curiosity, helping us to ask the questions that matter as we seek to understand ourselves and our world. It engages us in critical reasoning, which enables us to judge the merit of the many ideas and opinions that we encounter daily. Such an education nurtures the creative skills and values necessary to remake our world for the better. In short, in becoming truly educated, we learn not only what we need to know in order to make a living; we learn what we need to make a life.

These SMC courses have strange titles. Why is that? What is distinctive about the St. Mary’s Core?

The courses of the St. Mary’s Core are specifically designed to work together to address the liberal arts vision of the Core Curriculum. The SMC courses are interdisciplinary (i.e. they draw upon the insights of multiple academic disciplines) and integrative (i.e. they challenge us to attend to the ways that different lines of thought intersect and overlap).

Thus, each SMC course offers a set of unique, but interconnected, insights. To see the full listing, visit the St. Mary’s Core page.

Some of the St. Mary’s Core classes are listed as “Writing Intensive” (W). What does that mean?

If you have strong writing skills, you can clarify your own insights and effectively communicate your ideas to others. Put another way: writing well leads to thinking well, and vice versa. Moreover, becoming a strong and confident writer takes practice. A lot of practice. (For extra credit: Did you notice that the last four words constitute a sentence fragment?)

The St. Mary’s Core courses will give you many opportunities to improve your writing. Several of these courses are designated as “Writing Intensive,” which signifies that there will be sustained and substantial written work. You can expect that these “W” courses will require at least one major essay, and most likely several other short essays or reflection papers.

If you need a bit of extra help with your writing, please consider visiting the Learning Assistance Center. They have a dedicated staff of writing tutors who can work with you to improve your writing skills.

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