2019-2020 Catalog 
    Jun 24, 2024  
2019-2020 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Core Curriculum

The Core Curriculum: An Engagement with God’s World

Life is more than a job. Most students graduating from Calvin will pursue a career in the professions. They will become teachers, accountants, engineers, ministers, research biologists, doctors, speech therapists, lawyers, social workers, nurses, and the like. But whatever their particular employment, they will also become citizens, neighbors, parishioners, consumers, and, more generally, participants in North American culture.

The core curriculum at Calvin is a preparation for life. While the major or the professional program prepares students for the successful pursuit of a job, the core equips students for a life of informed and effective Christian service in contemporary society at large, for an engagement with God’s world.

As such, the core curriculum at Calvin participates in a long tradition of liberal arts education, a tradition that stretches back the ancient Greco-Roman world. Originally designed to prepare those free from the necessity of work for a life of public service, the liberal arts course of study began with the “trivium” - logic, rhetoric, and grammar. Logic was to enhance a student’s ability to construct and evaluate knowledge claims; rhetoric, to develop the powers of persuasive communication in the public square; grammar, not just to learn the mechanics of a language, but to shape character through exposure to the ideals and examples embedded in the canonical texts of a culture. In short, the aim of the trivium was to render the liberal arts student intelligent, effective, and virtuous.

The goal of the core curriculum at Calvin is likewise divided into three parts: Knowledge, skills, and virtues. The courses in the core are designed to impart a basic knowledge of God, the world, and ourselves; to develop the basic skills in oral, written, and visual communication, cultural discernment, and physical activity; and to cultivate such dispositions as patience, diligence, honesty, charity, and hope that make for a life well-lived - of benefit to others and pleasing to God.

The spirit of the Christian liberal arts curriculum permeates all of the degree programs of the university. Traditionally, most students complete the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree programs, either of which may include a teacher certification component. Other degrees offered by the university include the Bachelor of Fine Arts, the Bachelor of Science in Recreation, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, the Bachelor of Science in Accountancy, the Bachelor of Science in Engineering, the Bachelor of Social Work, the Bachelor of Computer Science, the Master of Arts in Speech Pathology and Audiology and the Master of Education. A Bachelor of Science in Letters and Occupational Therapy is offered cooperatively with Washington University School of Medicine.

Because of the complexity of the Calvin curriculum and the many alternative ways of meeting the formal requirements, students must confer with their advisors regularly in planning their academic programs. Students may graduate under the Calvin catalog in effect at the time of their initial registration or any succeeding catalog as long as the catalog chosen is not more than seven years old when graduation requirements are completed. Students who have not attended the university for more than seven years must re-enter the university under the catalog in effect at the time of re-entry.

The Core Requirements

In keeping with the tradition of liberal arts education, the core curriculum of Calvin is designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills required for an informed and effective life of Christian service in contemporary society. Strong high school preparation may reduce the number of courses required in the core, and that number may be further reduced by special examinations in any subject.

Required core courses are divided into 4 components: The core gateway, core competencies, core studies, and the core capstone. The core gateway is made up of two courses required of all first-year students: “First Year Seminar” and “Developing a Christian Mind” (DCM). First Year Seminar is a progressive orientation to the mission and community of Calvin University. It is taught during the fall. DCM is a first-year interim course designed to introduce students to a Reformed Christian worldview and its relevance for contemporary issues. First-year students taking a 122 language course or calculus during the interim can take a section of DCM in the spring semester. Core competencies, such as written rhetoric and information technology, are best taken early in a student’s career at Calvin, as they advance those skills essential to academic success at the collegiate level. The core studies are designed to introduce students to the primary domains and dimensions of life. Typically, a number of them will overlap with courses required in a student’s major or professional program. The core capstone is comprised of integrative studies courses, typically taken in the junior or senior year, which draw together the broad themes of the core curriculum in connection with a particular theme or discipline. The cross-cultural engagement requirement may be fulfilled in a number of ways: through designated off-campus interim courses; semester abroad programs; or approved semester courses at Calvin with a strong cross-cultural component.

Certain professional-degree programs have a modified core curriculum approved by the faculty. Model programs are described within each department. These programs include: 

The Core Curriculum


Developing a Christian Mind

Transfer credit not accepted for Developing a Christian Mind (DCM).

First Year Seminar


Written Rhetoric

* Students must complete this requirement with a grade of C or better.

Foreign Language, Two Year

* High school exemption from foreign language requirement is possible. To obtain a high school exemption from foreign language a student must have four sequential years in the same foreign language with a C or better for each semester. Students who have taken less than 4 years will be asked to take a language placement test.


Biblical or Theological Foundations 1

* Students must take at least one of the religion core courses at Calvin University.

Global & Historical Studies

Natural World (Living)

* High school exemption from one Natural World course requirement is possible. Students who have taken at least 3 years of upper level laboratory high school science (excluding physical, earth, or environmental science) with a grade of C or better are eligible for an exemption from either the physical or living Natural World core requirement. (Students must take one science core at Calvin University)

Natural World, Two-Course Sequence

* High school exemption from one Natural World course requirement is possible. (Students must take one science core at the college level). Students who have taken at least 3 years of upper level high school science (excluding physical or environmental science) with a grade of C or better are eligible for an exemption from either the physical or living Natural World core requirement.

Cross Cultural Engagement

*Students submit a contract form with approval of a supervising instructor prior to obtaining 20 contact hours of cross-cultural experience. 


Integrative Studies

* Transfer credit not accepted for integrative studies core.