Program administrators say the Cornerstone Program will offer students greater opportunities to form close relationships with faculty and peers, while prompting them to consider their academic, social and spiritual goals.
"When we've talked with undergraduates in the past about their experiences here, we've heard some recurrent themes," said A&S Dean J. Robert Barth, SJ. "The transition from high school to college represents such a major step. Clearly, what's needed is to get students thinking early on about the integration of learning with other aspects of their development."
Students who opt to participate in Cornerstone will have four classes from which to choose. Two are newly-created electives, one a three-credit seminar in the Theology Department, the other a 12-week, one-credit seminar offered as a University Course. In both classes, the instructors - drawn from a variety of A&S departments - serve as academic advisor for the students in their section and join them in co-curricular activities, which could include attending exhibitions, museums or other special events.
In addition, certain sections of First Year Writing Seminar and Perspectives in Western Culture are designated as part of Cornerstone, with the instructor in each assigned as the students' advisor. Both classes are included in the undergraduate core curriculum.
"These programs have some significantly different characteristics, but they share important goals," said Fr. Barth. "One of the key common goals is that the classes are tied into the advising process and students will have a faculty advisor they meet with on a regular basis.
"Improved faculty advising has been a source of much discussion in A&S, as it has been throughout the University," added Fr. Barth. "Cornerstone is a way to address the concerns and ideas expressed in those conversations."
Students are assigned advisors once they declare their majors by sophomore year, Fr. Barth noted, but would benefit greatly by consulting with a faculty member during their first months of college.
"Even if the student has another advisor when he or she begins pursuing a major," he said, "the mentor relationship formed through Cornerstone would, we hope, last beyond the freshman year."
The three-credit seminar, developed by First Year Experience Director Fr. Joseph Marchese, is titled The Courage to Know: Exploring the Intellectual, Social and Spiritual Landscapes. Instructors will be assisted by senior undergraduates who will serve as mentors. Among the topics the seminar covers will be the nature of learning, diversity, social justice, human sexuality and intimacy.
"The idea is to get the students intellectually engaged and active in their learning, to establish that as a practice early on in their college career," said Fr. Marchese. "Another goal is to relate the distinctive quality of Jesuit and Catholic education, and its role in students' formation at Boston College. We see The Courage to Know as providing a common ground for faculty and students to engage in a fruitful and long-lasting conversation."
The University Course, Cornerstone Advisement Seminar, relies on the "shared inquiry" method and aims to develop a community of learning in which students and teachers are equal partners.
"We're asking students to be conscious of what they are here for," said A&S Assistant Dean Clare Dunsford, who devised the course. "Through the seminar and the advisement they receive, students can gain the tools to make those hard choices both in and out of the classroom. They'll gain the ability to read and listen carefully, use evidence to present a cogent argument, debate ideas civilly and develop a sense of personal responsibility in the community."
Said Fr. Marchese, "Through Cornerstone, we can help students maximize their potential and learn about themselves, this university and the traditions it represents."
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