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When students think about their future college experience, chances are they focus on their major field of study. But, looking back, many Dominican alumnae/i remember classes from the core curriculum as being the ones that shaped their academic experience. At Dominican, our core has three main parts: Foundations, Areas of Exploration, and Dominican Distinction.


Foundations courses equip students with basic skills fundamental to all other facets of the undergraduate course of study. Accordingly, students are urged to meet the foundation requirements within their first two semesters if at all possible.

Each student enrolls in courses in the following foundational categories:

Foundations in Communication
Critical Reading, Writing, and Speaking (CRWS)

Students enroll in a two-semester sequence of CRWS, which uses inquiry-based themed courses to develop skills in reading, writing, speaking, critical thinking, and information literacy. Faculty from across the university teach these courses, and students choose from themes in race and ethnicity, cityscapes, sports, free speech, young adult literature, pop culture, immigration and more.


In the language courses, students gain knowledge of human cultures and experiences by learning language and culture in tandem. Four skills-based goals are also actively developed in the elementary sequence: reading, written and oral communication, collaboration, and intercultural competence. Students may choose from American Sign Language, French, Italian, or Spanish (or may test out by showing proficiency beyond the foundational level).

Foundations in Quantitative Reasoning and Literacy

Students take one of three courses to fulfill the mathematics foundations requirement: College Algebra (MATH 130), Contemporary Mathematics (MATH 150), or Finite Mathematics (MATH 170). MATH 130 is a course geared toward students pursuing STEM fields, the health sciences, social science, or elementary education. MATH 150 is a course geared toward students studying in the humanities. MATH 170 is a course geared toward students majoring in computer science, social science, or areas related to business. In each of these courses, students learn to represent ideas mathematically and draw conclusions from this, thus developing quantitative literacy and critical and creative thinking skills. Students may test beyond the foundational level via a placement exam.


Various technologies help to increase student productivity, while also advancing students’ quantitative literacy, technical literacy, and problem-solving skills. Exploring and analyzing quantitative data, employing critical thinking, and logical reasoning, the skills acquired in this course will be useful regardless of major, both during college and after. A proficiency test may be taken to test out of this requirement.

AREA STUDIES / Areas of Exploration

Through area studies, Dominican University enables each of its students to engage in informed conversations of genuine breadth, both within and beyond the university. All students will engage in seven distinct areas of study needed for such conversations: fine arts, history, literature, natural science, philosophy, social science and theology. In each of these areas, students will: 

  • Become familiar with the relevant language and concepts of that area of study; 
  • Acquire a familiarity with modes of inquiry and methods used in that area; and 
  • Draw upon and apply that knowledge to begin addressing significant questions or issues within that area and beyond its borders. 

Courses that fulfill these area studies requirements are indicated both in the departmental course offerings listed in the bulletin and in each year’s schedule of classes.

Dominican Distinction

Requirements in the Dominican Distinction category help to promote the kind of learning articulated in our vision and throughout our learning goals and outcomes. This learning is active and engaged, integrative and interdisciplinary, and globally positioned. The Dominican Distinction category includes our Enduring Questions Seminars and the Diversity and Social Justice Requirement.

Enduring Questions Seminars

The Enduring Questions courses invite students to consider enduring questions through a variety of disciplinary lenses. Each level achieves specific learning outcomes but will also scaffold the development of skills from other courses, so that students’ skills and abilities progress in deliberate ways across the years. There are three required EQ Seminars:

The Examined Life First-Year Seminar (3 credits; generally taken in the first semester)
  • Common Text: Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Guiding Questions:
    • What is the self?
    • Who am I? How did I become who I am? Who will I be in the world?
    • What does it mean to live mindfully and reflectively? What helps and hinders that process?
  • The first-year seminar includes holistic freshman advising and four-year planning within our First-Year Experience curriculum.
Life in the Natural World Seminar (3 credits, taken in the sophomore or junior year)
  • Common Text: On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si) Pope Francis
  • Guiding Questions:
    • How do we define the natural world? How do we learn about, experience, and interact with the natural world?
    • How do diverse societies and cultures understand their relationships with the natural world, in both its power and its fragility?
    • What would it mean to live mindfully on Earth? How can we share responsibility for shaping the future of the planet on behalf of generations to come?
The Good Life Senior Integrative Seminar (3 credits, taken in the senior year)
  • Common Text: Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
  • Guiding Questions:
    • What does it mean to be good, to lead a good life?
    • How does one reconcile self-interest with a sense of social responsibility?
Diversity and Social Justice / Multicultural Studies

Courses that meet the diversity and social justice requirement encourage multiple ways of knowing, being, and acting in the world and focus on a culture substantially different from those of the dominant groups in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. These courses address manifestations of institutional injustice, such as racism, systems of privilege, and imbalances of power and foster an understanding of efforts to promote agency, equity and justice.

Cultural diversity provides an important context for the educational mission of pursuing truth, giving service, and creating a more just and humane world. Thus, in meeting the requirements of the core curriculum, each student must select one course in diversity and social justice of at least three semester hours in which the student will:

  • Identify specific causes and forms of institutional oppression and injustice and their intersections in the U.S. or in a global context;
  • Recognize biases and social position;
  • Describe efforts to promote agency, equity and justice; and
  • Analyze the historical and/or cultural contexts that give rise to the experiences and/or expressions of underrepresented groups of people in the U.S. or in a global context.