The New Global Core Requirement

Friday, August 29, 2008
Text from recent Global Core emailDear Students,            

After two years of discussing some of the concerns voiced by faculty, students and administrators that the existing Major Cultures requirement did not fully meet the educational goals of that portion of the Core Curriculum, I am delighted to report that, in the spring of 2008, the Committee on Major Cultures, the Committee on the Core, and the Committee on Instruction approved a revision to the requirement, and propose to begin more focused discussions with students and faculty about the way to move forward in further reshaping the requirement and considering its relation to the Core writ large.

The Committee's first step was to change the name of the requirement from Major Cultures to Global Core, and to eliminate the B and C course lists in favor of one single list of approved Global Core courses, which is essentially an expanded List A of the Major Cultures requirement. The new Global Core requirement applies only to the class of 2012. Continuing students may choose to satisfy either the Major Cultures or the Global Core requirement.

The Committee also formulated a new mission statement that more accurately describes the curricular goals of the requirement, as you will see below in the revised statement from the College Bulletin for 2008-2009.

For Students in the Class of 2012

The Global Core requirement consists of courses that examine areas not the primary focus of Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization and that, like other Core courses, are broadly introductory, interdisciplinary, and temporally or spatially expansive. Courses in the Global Core are organized around a set of primary texts or artifacts, which may range from texts of literate traditions to media (e.g. film), ritual performances or oral sources, produced in the regions of the world in question. Global Core courses fall into two categories: those that focus on a specific culture or civilization, tracing its appearance and/or existence across a significant span of time and sometimes across more than one present-day country or region; and those that address several world settings or cultures comparatively (and may include Europe and the West), in terms of a common theme, a set of analytic questions, or interactions between different world regions.

Students must complete two courses from the Global Core List of Approved Courses for a letter grade.

The concerns that motivated these changes are not new. From the inception of the Major Cultures requirement, the need for small courses has been embedded in the discussions had by faculty and students over the years.  In some cases, that need has been met. Students express satisfaction with many of the Major Cultures courses; as we move forward, we expect that the best discussions in those classes will continue. Primary texts remain the underpinning of the Global Core requirement, but we have expanded the description of primary texts beyond written texts to include, among others, art, oral sources, and ethnography. Ever since its formation in 1919, the Core Curriculum has evolved to meet the knowledge demands of a world that continues to grow more complex and more integrated.  The move towards a more comprehensive Global Core requirement continues that tradition of change and responds to the contemporary moment of unprecedented cultural and economic integration across the globe. The Global Core requirement offers expanded opportunities to explore the complexities of the 21st-century through comparative study; for example, courses may explore the interconnectedness of root cultures and their evolutions and influences in different parts of the world, cross-cultural comparisons, and topical comparisons, such as migration and immigration.

In the 08-09 academic year, there will be no immediate substantive changes in the courses that meet the Global Core requirement (i.e. no new courses have been developed specifically to meet the requirement). As a first step towards laying the foundation for discussion about the kinds of courses that reflect the goals of the Global Core requirement, we needed to increase the number of courses on the Global Core list, which will slowly over time become smaller courses. List A courses have all migrated to the list of approved Global Core courses for the year, and at this point, about 40+ courses from Lists B and C have been integrated into the new Global Core list. The remaining List B and List C courses, which departments routinely offer for majors, concentrations, and electives, will continue to be offered.    

The existing courses in Asian Humanities, African Civilizations, and Latin American Humanities provide useful models of the direction in which the Committee on Major Cultures would like see the Global Core requirement evolve.  The pedagogical and resource intensity of these multi-section courses require broad faculty support for their success, as well as the creation of effective administrative support systems. These are among the areas that the Committee will be working on over the next year.  

Over the course of the next year, the Committee on Major Cultures will undertake extensive consultations with students and faculty in an effort to lay the foundation for a more cogent set of Global Core offerings that parallel the depth and rigor of Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization, as well as their small-class format.  We hope to create the context in which faculty members will generate new courses specifically designed with the curricular goals of the Global Core requirement in mind.  That effort is likely to stretch over the course of the next several years.

Advising deans, department chairs, and directors of undergraduate studies are aware of the changes to the requirement. The Global Core List of Approved Courses is available on the College Web site.


Patricia E. Grieve
Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor in the Humanities
Chair, Committee on the Core and Committee on Major Cultures
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