The Core

Announcement of a Revised Core Curriculum

The Core Curriculum, an important part of the undergraduate experience at Fairfield, is undergoing a significant new revision. Following more than three years of deep consideration and discussion, the faculty approved a new curriculum retaining the key elements of our current Core experience while also responding to the needs of 21st century learners. It is a Core that is truly “common,” an experience that all Fairfield students—those in the College and Professional Schools alike—will share together, one that reflects the more than 500-year tradition of a rigorous Jesuit, Catholic education focused on the Magis.

Signature Elements of the new Core provide for new courses that are Writing Intensive, focused on Social Justice, and Interdisciplinary; these elements will ensure that the revised Core will continue to be a distinctive aspect of the Fairfield undergraduate experience.

Current undergraduates will continue to complete their Core requirements as indicated in the catalog at the time of their acceptance to Fairfield. The new Core will be implemented over the next several years.

The Magis Core Curriculum

In The Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius writes: “Our one desire and choice should be what is more [Magis] conducive to the end for which we are created.” Magis denotes the cultivation of a disposition that acknowledges the generosity of God and embodies it in our generosity to others. The Magis Core Curriculum is deeply rooted in the Jesuit Catholic tradition and aims to provide an educational context for discerning the common good and for transforming students and faculty into men and women for others. As Fairfield University’s Mission of the Core (1999) states: “While these values are given particular shape and texture in the Christian story that indelibly marks the history and identity of Fairfield University, they are universal ideals, which as the University Mission Statement suggests, are ‘the obligation of all educated, mature human beings.’” The Magis Core Curriculum supports and reflects the University’s Mission, educating the whole person and offering on-going opportunities for transformation. The Magis Core Curriculum weaves three “signature elements” throughout the disciplinary-based core courses: an Interdisciplinary element, a Social Justice element, and a Writing Intensive element.

About the Core

Jesuit Tradition

The Jesuit educational tradition has always emphasized the importance of a broad liberal arts education in a variety of subjects as a foundation upon which a student can develop their intellectual potential before they chose a particular area of inquiry for more advanced study.

At Fairfield, you'll begin with a choice of classes from within a core curriculum of courses in the arts and sciences, religion and philosophy. You'll learn to appreciate the distinctive perspectives of the various disciplines that you study, how they differ and how they interrelate, and how each of them contributes to a rich and nuanced view of human reality. You'll learn the discipline of rational analysis, and the spirit of aesthetic appreciation, how history relates to theology, and where social analysis leaves off and moral reflection begins.

At Fairfield University, our core curriculum is continually being expanded and interconnected to ensure that it remains relevant and engaged with our fast-paced, increasingly complex, and technologically evolving global environment.

Mission Statement

The Core Curriculum of Fairfield University is the foundation upon which rests the education of our undergraduate students. Through the selection of liberal arts courses from across the curriculum that constitute the Core, the student is presented to a body of knowledge, trained in a series of specific skills, and introduced to the values that guide the conduct of the search for wisdom.

Planning Your Core

Make the most out of your Core experience by making connections!

You may be asking yourself, "Why do I have to take Core courses?" The Fairfield Core is designed to prepare you both for work and society. Your Core courses are not "hurdles to jump over" or courses to be "gotten out of the way," but rather opportunities to explore your interests, gain valuable skills and knowledge, expose yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking, and make interdisciplinary connections that make sense to you.

The Core allows you to build a general knowledge base and toolbox that will serve you throughout your life. Choose courses to learn what you don't know about now. Open yourself to new subjects and ideas, and learn how to understand and interpret what is happening in the world around you.

Use the tools and information here to thoughtfully design your Core so that you can get the most out of your undergraduate education.


The Core - The Big Picture

What do you want to gain from your Core experience?

The choices you make today are important for your tomorrow - so make them count, make them meaningful! Questions to consider as you plan your Core:

  1. What are your favorite interests?
  2. What do you want to do after college? And which courses will prepare you for your career/occupation or other enduring interests?
  3. What is your major or might be if you haven't declared a major yet? Minor?
  4. What types of in-class and out-of-class experiences do you want?
  5. What are 2 or 3 important fields of interest to you?

After answering these questions, use the Core Planning Worksheet to chart out your Core journey. Select courses that match your interests and goals, while meeting your Core requirements.

Reflecting on Your Core

Questions to ask yourself* as you complete your Core:

  • What courses have I taken so far?
  • What skills and knowledge have I acquired from each course?
  • In what ways do the courses I have taken fit together? What are the connections?
  • What are my long-term goals/objectives and how do the core courses I have taken fit into my plan(s)?

*Also discuss these questions with your advisor, mentor, instructors, and peers. Often these discussions allow us to see the big picture and make sense of our decision-making processes.

Core Skills

The purpose of the Core is to provide you with a diversity of skills you will need to thrive in our complex and ever-changing world. Core courses will help you develop your communication skills (both oral and written), analytical skills, and problem-solving skills - all of which are essential to enticing employers, navigating your life, and playing an active role in your local and/or global communities.

The Core & Your Major as ONE

Too often, students think of a bachelor's degree curriculum as consisting of 2 unrelated pieces: the core and the major. However, to make sense of your Fairfield experience, you should instead see them as 2 inter-connected parts of your whole journey. Through the help of faculty and advisors, it's up to you to make sense of the experience for yourself.

When selecting courses, consider their purposes (i.e., their goals and what skills you will develop), not just their content. Also consider how the purposes of each individual course you take relate to intentions of the Core, your major, your minor, and your personal objectives. You need to be aware of the way in which any course is designed to help you grow intellectually. Each of the courses you take should complement one another, and fit into your larger educational experience.

The Big Picture - Relating Courses

Putting the pieces of your Core experience together is good practice, whether within or across disciplines. The process of making connections is often made explicit in interdisciplinary courses, courses that involve service-learning, and those that have you conduct your own research. Whether you choose these kinds of experiences or not, you should think about the connections among your courses, and your overarching personal and professional goals. Add depth and coherence to your Core experience by considering how each course is related to each other, and make choices accordingly.


A few resources to help you pave your path:

Fairfield's "The Core" Timeline - History At-A-Glance

Pathways to Integration, Take Root!

Fairfield's Core curriculum combines tradition and innovation. At Fairfield, we have adapted the best of the past to suit the needs of students today. Check below for an at-a-glance history of "The Core" in Jesuit education and specifically at Fairfield.

9th-10th C.

Medieval schools of general studies (studia generalia) are founded

11th C.

First universities founded at Bologna, Paris and Oxford

12th-18th C.

Most universities offer a core curriculum based on 7 liberal arts:

  1. Grammar
  2. Logic
  3. Rhetoric
  4. Geometry
  5. Arithmetic
  6. Astronomy
  7. Music

Students study under the professional faculties of medicine, law, and theology. Final examinations are grueling, and many students fail.


The Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order) is founded. At the request of the Pope, they begin to found and administer secondary schools (colleges) and later universities.


Ratio Studiorum (method / system of study) is established by the Jesuits

17th C.

Rise of Enlightenment rationality, scientific method, and modernism

18th-19th C.

Displacement of religion in European universities


Changes in higher education begin as Columbia University adopts longest continuing core curriculum, Antioch College requires students to work full-time every 5 weeks, and Bennington College grants students a large say in making rules under which they live

1930s & 40s

University of Chicago pioneers Hutchins' "Great Books" curriculum of "unalterable first principles the same for all men always and everywhere"


Fairfield University is founded


Harvard's report General Education in a Free Society (the "Red Book") declares against vocationalism of both Hutchins and high school, urging general curriculum in English, science, mathematics and social science


G.I. Bill in U.S. begins great expansion of enrollment in higher education


Great expansion of higher education curriculum and governance


Fairfield University adopts its current core curriculum


Fairfield adopts current mission statement


Resurgence of scholarship on Jesuit higher education, such as Ratio Studiorum: 400th Anniversary Perspectives


Fairfield adopts Mission of the Core, with learning objectives for arts and sciences disciplines such as empirical observation, falsifiability of scientific theories, moral reasoning and writing for a range of purposes and audiences


Fairfield reports on Core Assessment, calling for holistic assessment of student learning, and, and faculty development and support to improve pedagogy, and specific support for part-time faculty teaching the core


Fairfield task forces collect and analyze data, and make recommendations for the 3 goals of 1) integration of learning in the core, 2) integration of living and learning, and 3) integration of Jesuit values in graduate and professional education


Fairfield adopts strategic plan for the 3 goals


Fairfield hosts core integration brown bag lunches for faculty to voice ideas


"Spellings Report" of U.S. Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education calls for evidence of value added to students' academic baseline through teaching and learning


Fairfield University kicks off activities to support faculty in driving integration of the core


Faculty identifies and formulates initial Pathways language


"Meet the Pathways" event launches the 6 Pathways to Core Integration: Engaging Traditions (formerly Appropriating Wisdom), Creative and Aesthetic Engagement, Global Citizenship, Quantitative Reasoning, Rhetoric and Reflection, Scientific Reasoning.


Fairfield launches a comprehensive Core website

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