Sophia Program in Liberal Learning

Four-Year Liberal Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes for the Sophia Program were derived by faculty and students from the College’s mission statement, which is why the Sophia Program gives you a uniquely Saint Mary’s education. It’s the learning outcomes that turn a collection of courses into a program. For students, this makes learning both more intentional (in knowing where a particular educational experience is supposed to take them, they can notice more along the way) and more integrated (they can see both before and during their education how each part of the curriculum assembles into a larger whole). The college-wide, four-year liberal learning outcomes are as follows:

Knowledge Acquisition and Integration of Learning (LO1)

Catholic education in the liberal arts tradition values knowledge for its own sake and affirms the interconnectedness of all learning. Therefore…

A Saint Mary’s student exhibits sound knowledge of the formation of human identities, the development and functioning of diverse cultures and social groupings, the practice of creative artistry, the multifaceted nature of religion and the Catholic tradition, the complexity of fundamental philosophical questions, and the intricate workings of the natural world.

A Saint Mary’s student demonstrates the ability to look at issues from multiple perspectives, recognizing the effect that differences in areas such as gender, religion, values, culture, and privilege can have on the ways that people interpret and act in the world; and she makes connections across disparate settings and areas of study.

Cognitive and Communicative Skills (LO2)

As a women’s college, Saint Mary’s emphasizes the value of women’s voices and their distinctive contribution to intellectual life. Therefore…

A Saint Mary’s student masters a broad set of sophisticated intellectual skills, including critical thinking, careful interpretation of complex texts and artifacts, accurate evaluation of data, investigative problem solving, quantitative reasoning, historical analysis, as well as technological, media, and information literacy. She reflects analytically on her experience as a woman, on the contributions of women’s voices, and on constructions of gender.

A Saint Mary’s student communicates her ideas, insights, thought processes, and conclusions with accuracy, competence, and style in various media and contexts.

Engagement through Intercultural Competence, Social Responsibility, and Global Learning (LO3)

Furthermore, as a Catholic, women’s college, Saint Mary’s fosters respect and compassion for all people and honors leadership that improves the human community. Therefore…

A Saint Mary’s student develops reflective and collaborative skills that enable her to learn from and participate in dialogue with diverse people and cultures. She does this by attaining competence in another language, and studies and experiences that reveal both cultural differences and the connections joining people in a global society.

In keeping with the mission of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and their stance in solidarity with the poor and powerless, a Saint Mary’s student will evaluate social conditions, discern human needs, and be able to respond as an agent of change.

Arts for Living

Learning Outcomes:

  • Creative and Performing Arts
  • Professional Arts
  • Mathematical Arts

Cultures and Systems

Learning Outcomes:

  • Literature
  • History
  • Languages I
  • Languages II

Traditions and Worldviews

Learning Outcomes:

  • Philosophical Worldviews
  • Religious Traditions I
  • Religious Traditions II
  • Historical Perspectives

Science for the Citizen

Learning Outcomes:

  • Natural Science with lab
  • Natural Science, lab optional 
  • Social Science
  • Social Science II

Sophia Program in Liberal Learning Learning Outcomes

Knowledge Acquisition and Integration of Learning (LO1)

The foundation for the Sophia Program is Learning Outcome 1, which seeks to develop the breadth of knowledge and intellectual flexibility students need to apply their expertise appropriately inside and outside the classroom, foster the intellectual coherence enabling students to engage constructively with a diverse world, and encourage students to live intellectually active, socially responsible lives characterized by a lifelong love of learning.

The learning outcomes for Knowledge Acquisition and Integration of Learning are divided among 15 courses distributed among the four arms of the cross under these broader headings: Cultures and Systems, Traditions and Worldviews, Science for the Citizen, and Arts for Living. A student must take courses in each of these 15 areas to achieve the learning outcomes that define that degree.

Cultures and Systems

Literature

(one course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student applies knowledge of literary genres, terms, and/or theories to the interpretation of literary texts.
  • A Saint Mary’s student analyzes literary texts both as forms of cultural and artistic expression and as vehicles for enduring values.
  • A Saint Mary’s student recognizes how literary texts construct human identities.

History

(one course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies and understands salient developments in world or United States history.
  • A Saint Mary’s student analyzes the historical development of human cultures in their response to their physical, social, intellectual, and political environments and seeks explanations for those developments.
  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies and understands evidence of historical change from primary sources/records of the past and assesses historical interpretations in secondary sources.
  • A Saint Mary’s student analyzes how her assumptions about human identity have been influenced by her historical context, and how human identities have been constructed in history.

Modern Languages

(two courses at a level appropriate to the student’s previous experience with that language)

  • A Saint Mary’s student communicates in a modern European language either at an advanced beginning or intermediate low level (depending upon her previous study), or at an appropriate level in another approved non-European or classical language.
  • A Saint Mary’s student demonstrates an understanding of the structure of this language by using the language with accuracy in speaking and writing.
  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies salient features of the geography, history, and culture of those who speak this language.
  • A Saint Mary’s student demonstrates intercultural understanding by recognizing and analyzing cultural misconceptions and the influence of her own cultural identity on her interactions with others.

Traditions and Worldviews

Philosophical Worldviews

(one course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies and understands significant features of and developments in philosophical traditions concerning the nature of knowledge, the nature of reality, and the nature of the good.
  • A Saint Mary’s student analyzes and compares philosophical views.
  • A Saint Mary’s student thinks philosophically about her interactions in the world.
  • A Saint Mary’s student raises questions on philosophical issues pertaining to the development of her own worldview.

Religious Traditions

(one course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student articulates an informed, broad understanding of the nature and complexities of religion and how religion interacts with other aspects of culture.
  • A Saint Mary’s student describes key elements in a religion (such as sacred texts, ritual, spirituality and prayer, religious language, moral code, view of human destiny or afterlife, explanation of human and natural evil, perspectives on gender), applies her understanding of these elements to specific religious traditions, and articulates commonalities and differences among religious perspectives.
  • A Saint Mary’s student engages in perspectives that are new to her, both empathetically and critically, and engages in informed, civil, and open discourse about religious differences.
  • A Saint Mary’s student evaluates the meaning of religious claims made by others and, in response to those claims, reflects critically on her own religious perspectives.

Religious Traditions II

(one course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student applies the broadened understanding of religion gained in the first course to a detailed examination of elements important to the Catholic Christian tradition (such as sacred or theological texts, ritual, spirituality and prayer, religious  language, moral code, view of human destiny or afterlife, explanation of human and natural evil, perspectives on gender).
  • A Saint Mary’s student analyzes issues or questions that arise in relation to those elements.
  • A Saint Mary’s student engages perspectives that are new to her, both empathically and critically, and engages in informed, civil, and open discourse about religious differences.
  • A Saint Mary’s student evaluates the meaning of theological claims and, in response to those claims, reflects critically on her own religious perspectives.

Historical Perspectives

(one course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student analyzes in depth historical developments of a particular aspect or issue in human culture, and/or its contemporary impact.
  • A Saint Mary’s student articulates the ways in which this development is affected by cultural factors such as gender, religion, values, and privilege.

Science for the Citizen

Natural Science

(two courses, at least one of which must be a laboratory course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student uses scientific methods to investigate questions appropriate to the natural sciences.
  • A Saint Mary’s student demonstrates specific knowledge of processes and principles underlying natural phenomena.
  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies, analyzes, and evaluates critical scientific issues and approaches pertaining to the issues that face her as a citizen.

Social Science I

(one course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies and explains social science concepts and theories about human behavior, systems, or cultures.
  • A Saint Mary’s student applies social science concepts and theories in her analysis of human behavior, systems, or cultures.
  • A Saint Mary’s student recognizes and explains effects of diversity and equity in specific areas such as class, race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and/or privilege.

Social Science II

(one course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student utilizes scientific knowledge to evaluate claims about human behavior.
  • A Saint Mary’s student uses scientific methods to investigate questions appropriate to particular social sciences.
  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies, analyzes, and evaluates critical scientific issues and approaches pertaining to the issues that face her as a citizen.

Arts for Living

Creative and Performing Arts

(Single courses satisfying this requirement must be three credits. Multiple courses that fulfill the appropriate learning outcomes may be used to satisfy this requirement as long as they add up to at least three credits and come from the same discipline.)

  • A Saint Mary’s student demonstrates a basic understanding of form, aesthetics, and/or theory in a creative or performing art.
  • A Saint Mary’s student practices a creative or performing art.
  • A Saint Mary’s student develops resources of creativity, experience, and perception, which enrich herself and her world.

Professional Arts

(one course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student investigates issues of policy or systems through the lens of a professional practitioner.
  • A Saint Mary’s student applies knowledge of a profession in her decision making.
  • A Saint Mary’s student adapts learning from multiple academic disciplines to develop solutions for concrete, real-world problems.

Mathematical Arts

(one course)

  • A Saint Mary’s student formulates mathematical models using abstract and logical reasoning.
  •  A Saint Mary’s student uses and interprets mathematical models to analyze systems and patterns.
  • A Saint Mary’s student uses mathematical language and concepts to phrase and answer questions pertaining to a variety of real-world contexts.

Cognitive and Communicative Skills (LO2)

As a women’s college, Saint Mary’s emphasizes the value of women’s voices and their distinctive contribution to intellectual life. Therefore, a Saint Mary’s student masters a broad set of sophisticated intellectual skills, including critical thinking, careful interpretation of complex texts and artifacts, accurate evaluation of data, investigative problem solving, quantitative reasoning, and historical analysis, as well as technological, media, and information literacy. She reflects analytically on her experience as a woman, on the contributions of women’s voices, and on constructions of gender.

A Saint Mary’s student communicates her ideas, insights, thought processes, and conclusions with accuracy, competence, and style in various media and contexts.

Critical Thinking Seminar

(one course)

The Critical Thinking Seminar (CTS) serves as a gateway to college-level discourse and thinking. In her CTS, a Saint Mary’s student will develop critical thinking skills through practice and critical reflection. The seminar also lays a foundation for information literacy by requiring all Saint Mary’s students to find, evaluate, and use information in effective oral and written communication. Critical Thinking Seminars are spread throughout the curriculum so that students can select from a wide range of different disciplines and knowledge. From chemistry to the creative arts, you’ll find a CTS almost anywhere you look.

Writing Proficiency

(one course)

What is the LO2/Writing Proficiency requirement?
As a Saint Mary’s student, you’ll work toward proficiency in writing throughout your college career. Your Basic W Course is designed to help you prepare for four years of learning as well as a life of writing beyond Saint Mary’s. Your writing efforts will be more focused, however, at two stages of your career: shortly after your arrival on campus and as you fulfill your major requirements for graduation.

Sophia LO2/Basic Writing: This writing requirement, which can be satisfied through many Sophia Program courses, is meant to provide a foundation for your written work at Saint Mary’s. In order to fulfill the LO2/Basic W, you’ll need to be able to advance a logical thesis, organize your thoughts clearly, and develop your ideas effectively. You’ll also need to follow standard rules of grammar, syntax, punctuation, and documentation.

Which Basic W course should I choose?
A number of courses throughout the College, known as W courses, are designed to help you strengthen your writing. As you’ll see below, these courses represent various disciplines. Each course introduces you to the subject matter of a particular field (philosophy or intercultural studies, for instance; tandem courses explore the connections between two fields, such as history and literature) as well as to the craft of writing.

Many students find it helpful to take a W course in a field that engages them. They discover they enjoy writing and make more progress when the course topic is one they especially want to explore. All W courses fulfill a Sophia Program requirement and provide the opportunity to earn the Basic W. Students should feel no pressure to fulfill the basic W with their first course. In fact, many students choose to take extra W courses, even when not required to do so.

How do I fulfill my Basic W?

Near the end of your W course, you’ll gather all your written work from the course into a portfolio. During finals week, independent readers — experienced readers and writers in the faculty or administration — will evaluate students’ portfolios, focusing on the three essays each student has chosen as her best. Each independent reader then works with the student’s instructor to decide whether the student has developed the skills required for successful college work or whether she needs another W course to reach that goal. Once you fulfill the W, the achievement will be marked on your transcript (although you are certainly welcome to continue developing your writing skills in another W if you wish). There’s no record on your transcript if you take a W course but don’t earn the W.

Advanced W: This requirement is supervised by and satisfied within your major course of study, usually during your junior and senior years. It is meant to help you refine your skills as a writer, particularly by learning to write well within a particular discipline. The Advanced W is not administered by the Writing Proficiency Program; it is fulfilled as part of the student’s major course of study.

Women’s Voices

(To fulfill the Sophia women’s voices requirement, a student takes three Women’s Voices-certified courses, at least three credits each, from at least two different academic disciplines.)

  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies and understands women’s contributions to human knowledge and achievement and how those have been influenced by constructions of gender.
  • A Saint Mary’s student reflects analytically upon constructions of gender in individual or group heritage, culture, or experience, and articulates those reflections within a particular disciplinary context.
  • A Saint Mary’s student analyzes the forms and effects of constructions of gender and evaluates strategies for response.

Engagement through Intercultural Competence, Social Responsibility, and Global Learning (LO3)

Furthermore, as a Catholic, women’s college, Saint Mary’s fosters respect and compassion for all people and honors leadership that improves the human community. Therefore, a Saint Mary’s student develops reflective and collaborative skills that enable her to learn from and participate in dialogue with diverse people and cultures. She does this by attaining competence in another language and by study and experience that reveal both cultural differences and the connections joining people in a global society.

In keeping with the mission of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and their stance in solidarity with the poor and powerless, a Saint Mary’s student will evaluate social conditions, discern human needs, and be able to respond as an agent of change.

(To fulfill the Sophia LO3 requirements, a student takes at least three LO3-certified courses/experiences from at least two different academic disciplines. At least one LO3-certified courses/experiences used to achieve LO3 outcomes must include Academic Experiential Learning.)

Intercultural Competence (A)

  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies and understands the aspects of culturally diverse environments in order to communicate more effectively across cultures; and she analyzes the forms and effects of culturally diverse environments and evaluates strategies for response.

Intercultural Competence (B)

  • A Saint Mary’s student reflects before and after intercultural engagement in order to identify her own cultural norms and how these norms shape her interactions with others.

Social Responsibility (A)

  • A Saint Mary’s student evaluates social conditions. For example: She recognizes how cultural, political, and economic structure and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create/enhance privilege and power for individuals or groups. She recognizes the ways social systems promote or deter people in maintaining or achieving health, well being, and human dignity.

or

  • A Saint Mary’s student discerns human needs. For example: She identifies human needs of individuals situated within the context of culture and environment. She analyzes and evaluates the relationship of rights and responsibilities to human needs.

Social Responsibility (B)

  • A Saint Mary’s student is able to respond as an agent of change. For example: She can explain strategies for constructive action in pursuit of social, political, and economic justice. Based on her knowledge of strategies for constructive actions, the student will be able to advocate for social, political, and economic justice either for herself or in solidarity with vulnerable or oppressed people.

Global Learning (A)

  • A Saint Mary’s student demonstrates an understanding of a nation or multinational region outside the United States by analyzing the interconnections between at least two of the following: its history, politics, geography, culture, social structures, and economics.

Global Learning (B)

  • Saint Mary’s student demonstrates an understanding of global interconnectedness by analyzing how a significant issue, for instance: a political, social, economic, natural, cultural, or historical issue connects two or more distinct nations or multinational regions of the world.

Academic Experiential Learning (AEL)

  • A Saint Mary’s student applies particular theories or concepts (such as from readings, lectures, or discussions) to an analysis of her lived experiences in the settings provided by the course or program.
  • A Saint Mary’s student articulates the impact of her experiential learning on her understanding of her education, her decision making or problem solving, or her place in the world.
  • A Saint Mary’s student demonstrates professional and ethical behavior appropriate to her experiential context.

Glossary

  • Course — As a general rule, courses at Saint Mary’s are one semester (from August through December, or January through May). Most are worth three semester hours of credits.
  • Credit — College work is measured in semester hours, or credits. Most courses at Saint Mary’s are worth three semester hours, or three credits. Each student must complete a minimum of 128 semester hours to graduate from Saint Mary’s.
  • Electives — Courses not required for the Sophia Program requirements or for a student’s major are called electives. The number of elective courses varies with each degree program, as the requirements vary. All students need electives to reach the 128 semester hours to graduate.
  • Prerequisites — Some courses require specific background which students gain in another course. The background course is called a prerequisite.
    Some majors — notably in the sciences, business, and the fine arts — require prerequisites in the first year to prepare students for the major-level courses they will take as sophomores.
  • Tandems — Saint Mary’s offers specially designed courses that are taken concurrently. The course material is coordinated to help students compare and integrate ideas and approaches from different fields. The same students will be enrolled in both courses.
  • W or fulfilling the W requirement — These terms refer to the first level of proficiency in writing required of all Saint Mary’s students. Most students work on the first level of proficiency by enrolling in a course that has a W as part of the course number. Simply enrolling in and completing the course may not be sufficient; the W represents a level of demonstrated writing proficiency.

For a list of degrees and majors, refer to the Saint Mary’s College Bulletin.