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Undergraduate Core

Saint Louis University Undergraduate Core

The Saint Louis University Core is an integrated intellectual experience completed by all baccalaureate students, regardless of major, program, college, school or campus.

What is the University Core?

The University Core prepares all SLU students to be intellectually flexible, creative and reflective critical thinkers in the spirit of the Catholic, Jesuit tradition. The Core nourishes students’ minds, hearts, souls and well-being and guides them in discerning how to use their talents for the good of others and to find God in all things.

The Core purposefully, carefully guides students through intellectual experiences and simultaneously invites them to think about who they are and what they can bring to the table for the good of all." 

Ellen Crowell, Director of the University Core


University Core Mission Statement


The Core invites discovery by asking students to investigate where their individual passions and vocations lie, and to encounter and appreciate the same in others.

In the Core, students are confronted with multidimensional problems and concepts and are encouraged to respond by asking innovative questions, making inventive connections, and envisioning new ways forward.


The Core promotes integrity by strengthening the intellectual and interpersonal tools that prepare students to lead purposeful lives. Students learn to understand human cultures and the natural world, to obtain and evaluate evidence, and to integrate multiple modes of inquiry to address complex questions.

They also practice listening carefully and communicating lucidly in order to examine their values and beliefs, learn from others and form ethical commitments.


The Core inspires courage by cultivating students’ agency in their own intellectual transformations and helping them become informed citizens who create positive change.

The Core calls on students to envision a just society, recognize how and when injustice is institutionalized, and identify conditions that promote the dignity and equity of all. The Core compels students to reflect upon and step outside of themselves to navigate cultural and national boundaries and act as stewards of our planet.


The Core fosters connection by placing the acquisition and application of knowledge in context at the center of a holistic, mutually-transformative education. The Core educates the whole person by enabling students to integrate knowledge gained from both the Core and the major, and then apply that knowledge both within and beyond the University.

By providing collaborative and community-based opportunities for students to act in solidarity with others in pursuit of truth, the Core makes visible SLU’s mission of educating people for and with others in the service of humanity and the greater glory of God.

This Core illustrates why students choose to study at SLU. It provides an intellectual and spiritual foundation for their education, one that allows them to assess the moral and spiritual implications of their actions and life choices.”

Saint Louis University Provost Mike Lewis, Ph.D.


Core Components

Ignite Seminar (One course must be taken in the first two semesters)

The Saint Louis University Core begins with the Ignite Seminar, in which students are introduced to what makes teaching and learning at Saint Louis University distinctive and transformative.

In these small-group seminars, SLU faculty members invite students to join them in exploring the ideas and questions that have sustained and continue to fuel their passion and commitment as individuals and teachers.

Each instructor’s distinct expression of disciplinary or interdisciplinary inquiry provides the lens through which students practice the Ignatian learning process—an integrative and personal approach to learning rooted in context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. Ignite Seminars therefore model how individual scholarly commitments are necessarily forged in dialogue with the complex personal and social worlds we inhabit.

These courses make visible for students the rich interplay of intellect and identity, wonder and certainty, rigor and play that characterizes academic inquiry rooted in the Ignatian ideal of care for the whole person (cura personalis). Ignite Seminar leaders, in partnership with SLU Libraries, also guide students as they identify and explore the subjects, questions, and scholarly pursuits that ignite their own sense of wonder and urgency.

Cura Personalis Sequence (Two courses plus one experiential requirement)

Inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the Cura Personalis sequence focuses on caring for the whole student, and on developing each student’s ability to foster human flourishing in themselves and others through personal discovery and meaning- making. Intentionally sequenced, this three-part series of courses and learning experiences offers students grounding, guidance, and support as they join the University community, engage in vocational discernment, and plan for a purpose-filled life in solidarity with others.

  • Cura Personalis 1: Self in Community  launches students on a path of self-discovery and deeper meaning-making by exploring fundamental questions of identity, history, and place. Completed in a student’s first year at SLU, this course is designed to offer grounding and support as students join the SLU academic community and begin to navigate its distinctive intellectual and interpersonal challenges. This course situates students within the histories, places, and resources of SLU and St. Louis/Madrid, and assists them in their transition to college-level learning in the Jesuit tradition by inviting them to consider the diverse perspectives and backgrounds that make up SLU, including their own. The course also orients students to a variety of academic, health, wellness, civic, and cultural resources that are available to enrich their SLU journey.
  • Cura Personalis 2: Self in Contemplation  guides students in a structured process of reflection and discernment informed by or in dialogue with the Ignatian tradition. These non-credit bearing experiences invite students to envision a clearer sense of who they are and how they might contribute to their communities by considering how their values and calling shape their vocational aspirations. Students are asked to consider how they might foster justice and the flourishing of human dignity within themselves and others. Tools and methodologies are provided to assist the student in the development of lifetime practices of professional and personal reflection.
  • Cura Personalis 3: Self in the World  is the final component of this sequence. Students are asked to look outward by articulating how their skills, competencies, and knowledge transfer to professional, personal, and/or civic vocation. Students are guided in examining both academic and non-academic options and logistics; preparing career-enhancing tools; and developing appropriate career-enhancing practices that will help them move forward with a sense of confidence and purpose that enables them to find richer meaning in their lives and careers. Most importantly, Cura Personalis 3 gives students the opportunity to reflect on intersections between their Core and major and assists them in crafting written and oral messages about how that intersection informs who they are as they leave SLU and embark on their work in the world in solidarity with others.
Theological and Philosophical Foundations (Two courses)

The disciplines of Philosophy and Theology lie at the intellectual center of the Catholic, Jesuit educational tradition. Each of these disciplines, in its own way, engages “ultimate questions” regarding the meaning of human existence and desire for transcendence—questions of faith and the divine, of creation and human destiny, of evil, reconciliation, and the good. The University Core introduces students to these disciplines in courses that ask students to reflect critically on their own and others’ worldviews by wrestling with ultimate questions in dialogue with the Catholic, Jesuit tradition.

  •  In Ultimate Questions: Philosophy, students focus on the nature of reality and our ability to know it, the nature of wisdom and the good life, and the nature and meaning of human existence. Ultimate Questions: Philosophy introduces students to distinctively philosophical ways of reasoning about such questions, including philosophical approaches found in the Catholic tradition.
  •  In Ultimate Questions: Theology, students focus on the nature of faith; the nature, existence, and personhood of God; the nature and ends of creation and human life; evil and salvation. Ultimate Questions: Theology introduces students to the fundamental texts, teachings, practices and modes of inquiry of one or more major religious traditions, always including the Catholic tradition. 
Eloquentia Perfecta (Three courses, plus one attributed course)

The cultivation of eloquence in speech and writing has been a fundamental part of the Jesuit tradition since the 1599 Ratio Studiorum defined eloquentia perfecta (perfect eloquence) as a central goal of the liberal arts curriculum. The University Core advances this tradition with courses in written, oral and visual communication, and creative expression that foster forms of reasoned discourse essential to academic excellence and action for the common good.

  •  Eloquentia Perfecta: Written and Visual Communication guides students in learning to write effective expository prose, design effective visual messages and participate in academic discourse. Through a variety of formal and informal assignments that require several stages of invention and revision, students gain rhetorical awareness of purposes, audiences, and contexts.
  • Eloquentia Perfecta: Oral and Visual Communication teaches students how to prepare and deliver effective oral and visual messages. As students build oral and visual communication skills, they also advance their ability to think critically about oral and visual messages and to reflect on how identity and values shape their own and others’ oral and visual communication.
  • Eloquentia Perfecta: Creative Expression cultivates critical thinking through engagement with a creative process. These courses foster technical skills that allow students to communicate ideas creatively, advance students’ capacity to become informed critics of art, media and/or design, and develop their awareness of how creative expression is influenced by personal and cultural contexts.

Finally, students take one writing intensive-attributed course—in the Core, major or other coursework—that further strengthens their ability to write effective argumentative prose within the context of a specific Core or disciplinary inquiry.

Equity and Global Identities (Attributed courses)

The prime educational objective of Jesuit schools, in the words of Pedro Arrupe, S.J., is to form “men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.”

At the center of the University Core is a commitment to helping students understand the world in which they are living so that they can better advocate for justice and act in solidarity with people who are disadvantaged and oppressed. Courses or experiences approved to carry the attributes of Identities in Context; Global Interdependence; Dignity, Ethics, and a Just Society; and Reflection-in-Action can be found throughout the University Core and within major, minor or other coursework.

  •  Identities in Context courses guide students in rigorous examinations of how diverse and intersecting identities shape how people move through and experience the world. In these courses, students analyze how identities form through interaction with others and within social structures, explore key categories of identity analysis, reflect on their own biases, and connect across difference.
  • Global Interdependence courses provide students with the intellectual tools they will need to understand and participate in our interconnected world. In these courses, students explore the global impact of personal choices and local actions in order to become engaged and responsible global citizens committed to finding solutions to challenges rooted in global or transnational interdependence.
  • Dignity, Ethics, and a Just Society courses ask students to apply concepts of human dignity, well-being, equity, and justice to an analysis of existing social systems. Students evaluate those systems as they currently function, and use this critical analysis to envision systemic social change that promotes human dignity, equity, and justice.
Ways of Thinking (Four courses)

A hallmark of a liberal arts education in the Catholic, Jesuit tradition is exposure to a breadth of disciplines and intellectual traditions. The Ways of Thinking distribution in the University Core introduces students to distinct, disciplinary lenses through which to encounter and engage with the world around them. In the Collaborative Inquiry seminar, the culminating experience of the Core, students integrate and apply these analytical skills, working together to explore complex, enduring, and real-world questions.

  • Aesthetics, History and Culture courses advance students’ ability to understand the meaning and diversity of human experiences both within and beyond their own social and cultural contexts. These courses develop students’ abilities to draw reasoned conclusions about primary sources (including visual art, literature, cinema, historical documents, and other cultural products).
  • Natural and Applied Sciences courses foster students’ understanding of modes of inquiry used to study structures and mechanisms of the universe. In these courses, students develop an understanding of scientific laws, principles, and theories as well as methods to test empirical claims.
  • Quantitative Reasoning courses introduce students to the ubiquity of quantitative data, theories, and applications. In these courses, students attain a breadth and depth of mathematical and/or statistical skill sets that allows them to assess quantitative information in order to develop rigorous arguments and communicate reasoned conclusions
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences courses develop students’ ability to systematically study society, culture, individuals, institutions, and/or communication. In these courses, students are asked to consider the diversity of social, political, and civic life. Students will be given the tools to draw reasoned conclusions about the complexity of real-world challenges experienced by individuals or groups, locally, nationally, and / or globally.

The curricular and co/extra-curricular experiences that satisfy the Reflection-in-Action requirement encourage students to experience meaningful learning opportunities beyond the university and to reflect upon how that community engagement enhances their understanding of acting with and for others.

Collaborative Inquiry (One course)

The Collaborative Inquiry requirement within the University Core gives students an opportunity to integrate and collaborate. In seminars that explore complex questions without straightforward answers, students work with their peers to apply concepts, methodologies, and ways of thinking learned in earlier Core and other coursework to find multidimensional approaches to contemporary societal problems like climate change or racial inequality, or enduring questions concerning topics such as the nature of beauty, effective leadership, or the transcendent.