August 18, 2010

Manfredi heads University Core Curriculum

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Pat Manfredi, associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, is the new director of the University Core Curriculum at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The University Core Curriculum is the set of courses from which students choose the 41 semester hours of “general education” required to graduate. The curriculum covers three areas -- Foundation Skills, Disciplinary Studies, and Integrative Studies, with courses available in such categories as composition, mathematics, speech, fine arts, science, social science and more.

The University Core Curriculum follows Illinois articulation agreements. This means that students can expect their core classes to transfer to any university in the state.

Manfredi explained that he will oversee all aspects of the University Core Curriculum, including assessing current courses, reviewing new course proposals, and generally acting as an information conduit and center.

“The general purpose of the core curriculum is to lay the foundation to help broaden your education,” Manfredi said. “It helps students make connections between their major areas of study and other areas.”

Manfredi emphasized that students need breadth as well as depth in their educations. This is even more true when there is fierce competition for every available job or career-track position, he said.

“You have to have something on your resume that makes a hiring committee hold onto it a little longer, to put it in the ‘second look’ pile rather than ‘maybe look at later’ pile. They assume that you know what’s in your major -- that’s a given. But they may have 150 applications, all with your same major. So they want to know what else you know, what else you’ve done outside your major. That’s where the core curriculum comes into play,” he said.

Manfredi said an advantage at SIUC is that faculty members teach core curriculum courses in their immediate areas of expertise, or graduate students currently engaged in research and academic projects directly relating to the courses teach the courses. In addition, he noted, the interdisciplinary courses in the Integrative Studies area tend to be “very creative,” giving students unique approaches to material.

Manfredi’s background in philosophy helps him appreciate different viewpoints and theories about what is important in the construction of the core curriculum.

“There have been and will continue to be many diverse points of view about general education as we move forward as a research university that takes its teaching mission seriously,” he said, noting that one area of agreement, though, is that a “university degree should not consist exclusively of narrow pre-professional training.”

One immediate advantage of the core curriculum, Manfredi noted, is that a significant number of students enjoy a shared experience, having taken several of the same core courses.

“That shared experience gives them something to talk about, a way to communicate ideas and to make connections with other people,” Manfredi said.

Manfredi is also the faculty adviser for the University Studies major option. While there is no direct connection between the two positions, Manfredi noted that the interdisciplinary nature of University Studies and the overall education goals of the University Core Curriculum do make for “considerable overlap between the program goals of the Core and University Studies.”

James Allen, former director of University Core Curriculum, is now director of the Office of Assessment and Program Review. He said he looks forward to working in this challenging and important position, though his heart remains in core curriculum.

“I have the joy of teaching in the core curriculum again this fall, after a hiatus of a few years,” he said.

For more information about the University Core Curriculum, including an outline of core areas and a course listing, visit