Exploring the Uncommon Core: Part I

Exploring the Uncommon Core at Nazareth College

As students here at Naz, we’ve all heard the words “Uncommon Core.” However, the extent to which we know and understand the components of this core is more limited. Core programs have garnered a bad reputation, for understandable reasons. For students who enter college with a major in mind, the core represents hours of studying subjects they have no interest in, which will have no application in their planned career. Even students who enter college undeclared have almost certainly developed preferences and biases surrounding subjects from high school, and thus approach their college counterparts with the same mindset.

As I said before, this is understandable, but if you’re willing to open your mind, our Uncommon Core offers some pretty incredible opportunities.

My name is Kai Pepler. I’m in the midst of my second year here at Naz, and I’m a big fan of our Uncommon Core. I’d like to tell you all some stories about my learning experiences, and hopefully have you share in my enthusiasm for the system we have in place. So over the next couple months, I’ll be publishing a three-part blog series right here on the Golden Gazette, outlining what the Uncommon Core is, why it’s important, and how it can be used to benefit each and every one of us, regardless of major or learning style.

The Uncommon Core is broken up into threes stages: P-EQs, IS Clusters, and the CME. Perspectives-Enduring Questions (or P-EQs) are a series of eight courses introducing a wide range of subjects: History, Philosophy, Social Science, Math, Literature, Science, Religion, and Art. I’ll talk more about why this range of diversity is so important in Part 2.

Integrative Studies (or IS) Clusters are collections of classes that each have a common theme. There are three IS Clusters to complete, and the themes are up to the student. One theme can be pulled from your major, while the other two can be pulled from minors, or simply topics you’re interested in. There are two main things to consider when choosing these themes:

  1. Make sure it’s a subject you’re genuinely interested in.
  2. Start thinking about how and why the subject is important to you. This is significant because it feeds directly into the third and final component, the CME.

The CME, or Core Milestone Experience, is a cumulative reflective project: You look back on your diverse learning experiences over the years, and you create a project that displays the result of your education. I’ll talk more about the IS Clusters and the CME in Part 3.

This was a very basic look at the overall mechanics of the Uncommon Core. The Naz website has a section devoted to outlining these mechanics in a little more depth, so if you’re interested, check it out.

Mechanics can only go so far in creating an engaging learning system, so check back here next month to see how these components all come together to provide an extensive and cohesive educational experience.

Happy learning!

Read Part 2 of Exploring the Uncommon Core.



Kai Pepler is a second-year Naz student majoring in visual communication design, and minoring in communication/media. Fascinated by presentation design, information design, learning, and teaching, Kai is working to start a multimedia design studio focused on using visuals to communicate effectively in educational settings. When not designing or dancing, Kai is most likely writing or practicing violin, to further his goal of exploring every creative outlet his liberal arts college has to offer.


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