Apr 12, 2024  
2014-2015 HillBook (Class of 2018) 
2014-2015 HillBook (Class of 2018) [ARCHIVED HILL BOOK]

Cornerstone Program of General Education


The mission of the Cornerstone Program is to lead students to examine critically 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.

Intellectual Engagement

  • Acquiring a breadth of knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences
  • Demonstrating critical reading abilities
  • Demonstrating critical thinking abilities (including qualitative and statistical reasoning)
  • Integrating knowledge across disciplines

Effective Communication

  • Demonstrating the ability to write clearly and effectively
  • Demonstrating the ability to speak clearly and effectively in public

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

Social Responsibility

  • 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 continued 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-effective communication, analytical thinking, and the ability to deal with unstructured 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 is required: History, Literature, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. One course in each of three scientific/mathematical approaches to understanding the world is required: Natural Scientific Inquiry, Social Scientific Inquiry, and Statistical Reasoning. Students typically complete a year-long sequence of foreign language study.

In the sophomore year, students enroll in a Learning Community–a distinctive feature of the Cornerstone Program–to study an issue or problem, applying knowledge and skills gained from two disciplines or perspectives. During the junior year, students take one course in Moral Inquiry, which may be 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 take one of a variety of courses in Catholic Intellectual Traditions, a category that reflects the Stonehill’s Catholic identity. 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 the Assistant Dean of General Education and Academic Achievement.



First Year

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 foreign language study (a year-long sequence of Arabic, Attic Greek, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Latin, or Spanish), experiencing the diversity of human culture.

Second Year

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 life. In most cases, two stand-alone-courses are linked with a third LC Integrative Seminar. Many LCs include short-term travel or community-based learning. LCs are all about making connections, and these connections often surface 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.

Third Year

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 will 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 spend a semester abroad in their third year, expanding their horizons in countless ways.

Distributed Requirements

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 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 important events. The primary goal of the Natural Scientific Inquiry courses is to equip students with some 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 eventually become more active and engaged citizens. The study of Statistical Reasoning allows 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.

Senior Year

The focus of the student’s fourth year is synthesis, integrating and applying the many parts of a Stonehill education into a cohesive and meaningful whole. Capstone Courses and Experiences, situated within a student’s major, draw together threads 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.

First-Year Seminars

An intensive writing course focused on 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 information literacy. These courses may also fulfill other general education or major requirements.


Introducing students to the Western philosophical tradition, the primary objective of this requirement is to lead students to an appreciation of philosophy as a way of learning and of life that has decisively shaped Western culture through the centuries.

Religious Studies

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 encourage students to approach literature as a historical, cultural and aesthetic object of inquiry. Students are introduced to the three principal genres of literary expression-fiction, poetry and drama-and to a variety of methods of interpreting literary texts within historical and cultural contexts.


This requirement provides students with an ability to understand the past on its own terms and how it shapes the present while exploring their own beliefs and values. Students are introduced to the contingent nature of historical knowledge and learn how to read both primary and secondary sources critically and contextually.

Foreign Languages

Foreign language study 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 in a global age.

Two semesters of a foreign language 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 compare and make connections with other cultures at home and abroad.

Course offerings and descriptions can be found under Foreign Language Department .

Learning Community Integrative Seminars

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. In addition to building on the skills developed in the first year, students develop leadership and collaboration skills as well as oral presentation skills.

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.

Catholic Intellectual Traditions

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

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.

Capstone Courses and Experiences

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.