ABSTRACT

A first-year general education core course can act as a keystone connecting general education and specialized major courses, enhancing their value in the eyes of students and recognizing student goals for both career preparation and self-discovery. The core course introduces themes based on distinctive institutional mission and identity and also points out their relevance to future major coursework and organizational contexts beyond graduation. Major courses can then reinforce those same key themes, which may already be implicit in the curriculum. This article describes a first-year core course at Messiah University, a faith-based institution, where students participate in the course in the same semester with the same curriculum, emphasizing shared learning as well as integration of course themes and specialized major curriculum. Examples of how major courses reflect back on the core course are also provided. The article places course design in the context of general education reform and best practices, examines the scarce but promising evidence of the benefits of creating such connections, and provides recommendations for implementation in a variety of institutional contexts.

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