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.
Acquiring a breadth of knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences
Demonstrating critical reading abilities
Demonstrating critical thinking abilities
Integrating knowledge across disciplines
Demonstrating the ability to write clearly and effectively
Demonstrating the ability to speak and present confidently in public settings
Leadership and Collaboration
Demonstrating the ability to contribute effectively to the work of a group
Demonstrating the ability to facilitate the work of a group
Demonstrating the ability to lead the work of a group
Valuing the diversity of persons and cultures
Recognizing the inherent dignity of all persons
Making informed decisions about ethical and social justice issues
Engaging in civic life and participatory citizenship
Personal Growth and Discovery
Developing the capacity and desire for lifelong learning
Exploring and developing one’s values and worldview
Valuing free inquiry into all issues and questions of significance
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 & Theology) 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 Brian Vanden Heuvel, Associate Provost Academic Planing and Assessment.
First-year students take a sequence of foundational humanities courses: Philosophy, Religious Studies & Theology, 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). The Cornerstone Seminars in Philosophy, Religious Studies & Theology, Literature and History 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 Cornerstone Seminars emphasize frequent writing, close examination of texts, rigorous analysis and reasoning, and information literacy.
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 coursesand 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.
The Cornerstone Program Course Listing
All courses that fulfill Cornerstone Program requirements emphasize clear communication, writing, critical thinking, analytical reasoning, contextualization, and information fluency. The emphasis and focus of these courses will differ, as appropriate to specific disciplines, themes, and topics.
Writing-focused courses exploring an engaging question or topic designed to help first-year students develop their writing skills as they engage in academic inquiry, close examinations of texts, rigorous analysis and reasoning, and evaluating information. These courses may also fulfill other general education or major requirements.
These courses introduce students to the Western philosophical tradition, the primary objective of which is to lead students to an appreciation of philosophy as a mode of thought that has decisively shaped Western culture through the centuries.
These courses are designed to help students develop a critical appreciation of how religious traditions grapple with recurring existential, moral, and social issues (the “big questions” in life) and recognize that religions are systems of ideas, practices, and institutions that affect social, economic, and political dimensions of cultures.
These courses provide students with an ability to understand how the past shapes the present while exploring their own beliefs and values. Students are introduced to historical thinking and learn how to read both primary and secondary sources critically and contextually.
These courses encourage students to approach literature as a historical, cultural and aesthetic objects of inquiry. Students are introduced to a variety of methods of analyzing, interpreting, ad appreciating literary texts within historical and cultural contexts.
The study of language is an essential part of the liberal arts at Stonehill, strengthening students’ communication skills, deepening their scholarly ability, preparing them for study abroad, and broadening their cultural horizons.
Two semesters of the same language at the same level within the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures are required to help students develop insight into the nature of language and culture, improve their ability to communicate in a language other than English, and to make connections with other cultures at home and abroad.
Native speakers of a language other than English may satisfy the requirement through two semesters of their native language or through two semesters of another language.
The Learning Communities requirement is waived beginning in Fall 2020 for all current students and incoming classes beginning with the Class of 2024.
Each student chooses from a variety of Learning Communities (LCs), developing the ability to integrate two disciplinary approaches to a significant issue or problem. LCs typically include innovative experiential learning activities, such as community-based learning, individualized research, or short-term travel.
The following descriptions represent LCs that have been offered in the past and are meant to be illustrative. LC offerings change from year to year. Current listings are available on the Registrar’s website.
Courses that fulfill the Catholic Intellectual Traditions 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.
Moral Inquiry courses provide students with an opportunity to continue their personal growth and discovery process and to continue to develop the ability to think critically about ethical choices and social issues.
The primary goal of these courses is to equip students with basic tools to address issues involving science so that they can make informed decisions about the impact of science and regulatory policies on their lives and communities.
These courses help students to develop theoretical and evidence-based thought and to apply social scientific theories, concepts, research findings and methods to identify and comprehend broad societal trends and significant events.
These courses help students to develop and apply the requisite skills and tools to determine whether the results of empirical studies are meaningful enough to encourage change in one’s behaviors, attitudes, and/or beliefs.
Writing-in-the-Disciplines 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.
Capstone courses at Stonehill are designed as culminating experiences in which students integrate and apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their chosen fields of study and Cornerstone Program. Capstone activities vary by department and include internships, practica, senior theses, research colloquia, research seminars, studio seminars, and senior projects. In every case, students work closely with faculty members to bring a sense of satisfying closure to their academic experience.
Capstone course descriptions can be found by department.