Student Conversation about Core

  • Kathryn:

    “I love Core. It was a tremendous dynamic in my choice of IUP’s Honors College, because nowhere else seemed to have courses like it. It seemed like the kind of learning I had always wanted but never found.”


    “In the HC, I immediately felt like I belonged, and now I know how much that contributed to my success at IUP and beyond. I will never forget how Dr. Curey made me rewrite the thesis statement for my very first core paper at least four times before he was satisfied. Later in Unit A, he successfully defended the theory that the Earth is flat against an entire class of flabbergasted freshmen, making us all wonder, ‘How do we know?’”


    “During Spring Break of my freshman year, when I talked to high school friends who had gone to other schools about what they were doing, they would say, ‘Oh, I’m taking this course.’

    “Then I told them that in March we were examining ‘How do humans understand the sacred?’ from the perspective of literature, history, philosophy, and the fine arts, and that I’ve just finished my fourth major critical paper; their jaws hit the table.

    “They were in awe. They just go to class and come back. They aren’t tackling these things.

    “It’s interesting the way all the sections attack the questions from different angles and the way we all get together at the end to learn how everyone looked at them. Even during the middle of the unit we get into discussions in the hallways and in our rooms—‘How are you guys looking at the question? What are you learning?’ Though you are in one disciplinary unit, it’s as if you are in all of them at the same time. The synthesis is really valuable.

    “I’m happy, and feel I’m getting something out of college that my friends aren’t. The whole interdisciplinary design of the course around major questions that touch all humans, the focus on thinking and writing, and the kind of interaction with faculty and students I’ve experienced in the Honors College core course has been a real awakening for me. In order to function in a society, you have to be open-minded and look at all sides of an issue, to realize that not everyone agrees, but you have to go beyond that and recognize which positions are more or less valid, what the best answers are.”


    “It’s totally unlike any class I’ve ever had. The core questions seem pretty straightforward at first. But if you fully consider them, they actually change the way that you think—you don’t just give one of those brainwashed answers. I didn’t change some of my beliefs because someone told me to; I modified some of my beliefs because I applied what I learned.”


    “I like to interact with the material. I care more about things I have to learn interactively. The design of the course contributes a lot. If a course is designed around problem solving, it’s going to be more fun and interesting. My brain is going to grow just by thinking about it. If the design is just information, even if you get into groups once in a while, there’s not much to think about. Just framing the course around a problem or question makes a big difference. You still learn specifics, still master the material, but it comes alive.”


    “The core questions are things you wouldn’t normally think of, too. Not something you would sit around at a coffee shop or reading a paper and say, ‘Hey, what’s art?’ or ‘How do we use the past?’ So it pushes you to open up some new doors or to look at things a little differently. I like writing the papers too. It’s a real opportunity to say something you want to say and make it good. It gets something out that’s on your mind. You’re not just going to sit down and write a paper on your own, so it gives you an outlet so that you can produce something of quality.”


    “There are other courses with interdisciplinary content, but it’s the combination of the interdisciplinary approach to questions like, ‘What is art?’ and the critical discussion-based teaching approach that makes the difference. The organization of the course around questions like, ‘How do we discern the good from the bad,’ changes everything. Instead of learning something pre-digested about a single discipline like history, you start to see what history contributes to life’s big questions. It’s a group of professors and students looking for a synthesis rather than a teacher giving information to offer an answer. You have to have different people giving answers to truly understand, and there are often even more questions when you are done.

    “That gives me more enlightenment, not less. Without critical thinking it would just be a jumble of feelings, so that’s part of the synthesis too—evaluating other arguments. And it doesn’t shortchange the single discipline like, for example, history—I’ve come to see how a historian thinks and even to recognize how that’s different from the way philosophers think.

    “The core course has patterned for me how it should happen in real life. With in-depth critical thinking and discussions that push way beyond how people ‘feel’ into real thinking and analysis, you begin to make connections. It seems abstract, but it’s very relevant. The core course was the spark and the initial exercise that trained my mind to be analytical, critical, but also open to other ideas. Now I see connections all the time. I don’t have to stretch to bring art into history. And it keeps going after the term is over, even at home.”