The mission of the Cornerstone Program is to lead students to critically examine the self, society, culture, and the natural world. The program honors Stonehill College’s commitment to free inquiry and social responsibility in the tradition of Catholic higher education. Through the development of the knowledge, competencies, and values that are central to the Cornerstone Program, every Stonehill student will be prepared for a life of learning and responsible citizenship.
Expectations for Students
The Cornerstone Program puts students at the center of their own learning by providing a cohesive framework that helps to unify and deepen the variety of experiences that comprise a Stonehill education. Through innovative and inspiring learning experiences (such as First-Year Seminars and sophomore Learning Communities) students connect knowledge of academic content and disciplines with the development of core competencies: intellectual engagement, effective communication, leadership and collaboration, social responsibility, and personal growth and discovery.
Overview of the Cornerstone Program
The Cornerstone Program fosters active learning and personal growth by engaging students in the major modes of understanding the world and helping them to hone essential intellectual skills, including effective communication, analytical thinking, and the ability to deal with unscripted problems. The curriculum features a two-part sequence of writing-intensive courses: a First-Year Seminar and an advanced Writing-in-the-Disciplines course situated in the student’s major. One course in each of four humanities disciplines (History, Literature, Philosophy, and Religious Studies) is required. One course in each of three scientific/mathematical modes of thought is required: Natural Scientific Inquiry, Social Scientific Inquiry, and Statistical Reasoning. Students also typically complete a year-long sequence in Language, Literature, and Cultures.
In the sophomore year, students enroll in a Learning Community – a distinctive feature of the Cornerstone Program – to study an issue, problem, or theme applying knowledge and skills gained from two disciplines or perspectives. During the junior year, students take one course in Moral Inquiry. These courses are rooted in philosophical or religious ethics or engage significant moral questions from a disciplinary perspective (from history or political science, for example).
In the third or fourth year, students fulfill the Catholic Intellectual Traditions Requirement through a wide variety of courses that reflect Stonehill’s Catholic identity and mission.
Finally, as seniors, students demonstrate mastery of a discipline or field of study through a relevant Capstone course or experience. Courses that fulfill Cornerstone requirements are ordinarily taken at Stonehill College. Students who wish to make the case that a course taken elsewhere meets our criteria must provide a rationale along with a detailed course description or syllabus to Liz Chase, Assistant Dean of General Education.
In the first year, each student enrolls in a First-Year Seminar, an opportunity to explore an engaging topic or question in a small-class format emphasizing writing, discussion, critical thinking, and academic inquiry. Because effective writing is integral to critical thinking, all First-Year Seminars emphasize frequent writing, close examination of texts, rigorous analysis and reasoning, and information literacy. First-Year Seminars may be rooted in individual disciplines or may be interdisciplinary in nature. All First-Year Seminars bear four credits, have no prerequisites, and are open to all first-year students on a space-available basis, regardless of major. Many First-Year Seminars fulfill other Cornerstone requirements or requirements for specific majors.
First-year students also take a sequence of foundational humanities courses: Philosophy, Religious Studies, Literature, and History. In most cases, students complete a year of Language, Literature, and Cultures (a year-long sequence of Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Latin, or Spanish).
In the second year, students enroll in a Learning Community (LC). LCs at Stonehill feature linked or collaboratively-taught classes from different disciplines or perspectives and are designed to foster students’ ability to integrate learning across courses, over time, and between campus and community. Many LCs include short-term travel, community-based learning, or experiential learning. LCs are all about making connections, and these connections are reinforced in reflective work, self-assessment, and creative endeavors of all kinds. Some LCs fulfill other Cornerstone requirements (e.g. Natural Scientific Inquiry, Statistical Reasoning, Moral Inquiry, etc.) as well.
In the third year, students take two pivotal courses that raise important questions about values, ethics, faith, and belief: Moral Inquiry and Catholic Intellectual Traditions. The main goal of Moral Inquiry courses is to provide students with the ability to understand the varying or conflicting solutions that, in a global world, have been proposed to fundamental moral and ethical questions. Courses that fulfill the Catholic Intellectual Traditions (CIT) requirement explore, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, enduring questions, both theological and philosophical, that emerged from and shaped Catholicism, from ancient times to the present. Some examples are: What is the meaning of human nature? What is the best human life to live? What is the nature of the universe? In some cases, one course may fulfill both the Moral Inquiry Requirement and the CIT requirement.
Another feature of the third year at Stonehill is the Writing-in-the-Disciplines (WID) requirement. Writing-in-the-Disciplines (WID) courses introduce students to the stylistic and scholarly conventions of particular disciplines and fields. Students fulfill this requirement through advanced writing-intensive courses offered in their majors. These courses build on students’ experiences in First-Year Seminars and provide valuable opportunities to practice the craft of writing in the context of their chosen disciplines or fields of study.
Many Stonehill students choose to Study Abroad in their third year, expanding their horizons in countless ways.
Three Cornerstone requirements may be fulfilled in years one - four: Social Scientific Inquiry, Natural Scientific Inquiry, and Statistical Reasoning. Social Scientific Inquiry courses help students to understand and apply social scientific theories, concepts, research findings and methods, and to identify and comprehend broad societal trends and important events. The primary goal of the Natural Scientific Inquiry courses is to equip students with some basic science-based tools that they can use to make informed decisions about the impact of science and regulatory policies on their lives and communities. The study of Statistical Reasoning allows students to grasp and evaluate quantitative data and to determine whether the results of empirical studies are meaningful enough to warrant changes in individual behaviors, attitudes, and/or beliefs.
The focus of the student’s fourth year is a broad synthesis, integrating and applying the many parts of a Stonehill education into a cohesive and meaningful whole. Capstone Courses and Experiences in a student’s major draw together elements from the Cornerstone Program, major and minor courses, electives, co-curricular activities, and community-based learning experiences and frame them within a real-world or disciplinary context. If First-Year Seminars are the gateway into the academic community, Capstone Courses and Experiences provide a sense of closure. Internships, typically undertaken in the third or fourth year, are another way of applying a Stonehill education and of transitioning into the workplace or advanced study.