The Manchester Core: A Program in the Liberal Arts

The general education program at Manchester University - The Manchester Core: A Program in the Liberal Arts - was approved by the Faculty in May of 2008, and was implemented in the Fall of 2009.

Manchester University seeks to develop in each student an appreciation for learning through an academic foundation grounded in the disciplines and in-depth study in specific majors. This combination prepares students for graduate school, the professions, and positions of leadership in all areas of society. A broad-based, flexible General Education curriculum in the liberal arts provides the most appropriate formal preparation to:

  • meet contemporary challenges,
  • fulfill career goals,
  • lead a purposeful, healthy, and rewarding life, and
  • serve society as a responsible citizen.


A strong education presumes that students can express their thoughts clearly in written and oral form; that they know how to organize, develop, and refine thoughts for maximum effectiveness; and that they can think quantitatively at a high level in order to understand the complexities of a technologically sophisticated world. All students are expected to demonstrate or acquire basic levels of these foundational skills during their first year.

Written, oral, and quantitative reasoning skills are infused across the Core curriculum so that students have multiple opportunities to reinforce them. Most courses proposed for the categories “Integration Into Our World,” “Ways of Knowing,” and “Synthesis and Critical Thinking” will reinforce one of these skills.

The syllabus will indicate that the skills instruction is an integral part of the course and that skills-oriented assignments will receive sufficient weight to reflect this foundational ability.

First-Year Seminar in Critical Thinking (C-1FYS)

  1. write Standard English, clearly and appropriately; analyze critically, through organized and persuasive writing; used appropriate citation for both primary and secondary sources.
  2. improve critical thinking skills by reading analytically from various texts, synthesizing information from those sources, and evaluating the strength of that content.
  3. study a disciplinary or interdisciplinary subject in depth and be assessed according to the learning goals appropriate to that content.
  4. participate in small-group activities and experiences with the entire first-year class to facilitate transition to college life.

Written Communication

Criteria for Core W-courses

Assignments should emphasize some of the following skills:

  1. articulating and defending a thesis
  2. supporting an argument with examples/evidence
  3. stating results
  4. integrating primary and secondary sources
  5. using Standard Written English
  6. instructors will provide feedback on students' effective use of these skills

Criteria for Major W-course

  1. incorporate careful attention to the writing process (planning, organizing, drafting, revising, and rewriting)
  2. incorporate significant opportunities for writing, including at least one major paper or its equivalent.

Oral Communication (C-1O)

• COMM 110 or proficiency

Criteria for Oral Communication Foundation

  1. ability to create appropriate and effective messages in public, interpersonal, and small group settings
  2. ability to listen and respond to mediated messages in an appropriate and effective manner.

Criteria for Core O-courses

  1. speak to persuade, inform, or debate
  2. orally convey material in a clear, cogent, and concise manner
  3. create appropriate messages in interpersonal, small group, or public settings
  4. receive feedback on their oral communication skills.

Quantitative Reasoning (C-1Q)

  • one foundational quantitative course — MATH 113 Quantitative Reasoning, MATH 115 Elementary Probability and Statistics, MATH 210 Statistical Analysis, MATH 121 Calculus I, PSYCH 241 Statistics and Research Design I — or proficiency

Note: These courses have as a pre- or co-requisite MATH 105 Basic Algebra or proficiency.

Criteria for Quantitative Reasoning Foundation

For MATH 113, 115, 210, or PYSC 241: understand and use basic statistical concepts including making and interpreting graphic representations of data, constructing and interpreting scatterplots and regression lines, understanding randomness, error and variation in samples, survey and experimental design, basic concepts of statistical inference (i.e., estimation and/or hypothesis testing), and limitations of statistical approaches.

For MATH 121: understand and use derivatives and integrals, and apply these concepts to rates of change, optimization, exponential growth or decay, and area beneath a curve.

Criteria for Core Q-courses

  1. accurately interpret quantitative information from a variety of historical or contemporary sources [or]
  2. organize, analyze, and persuasively convey data through graphs [or]
  3. analyze data using tools such as statistical software or spreadsheets [or]
  4. solve problems via appropriate quantitative methods.


A strong liberal education presumes that students can meet the challenges of a career and responsible citizenship by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is essential that students engage in physical activity and learn life-long activities that will contribute to a purposeful, healthy, and rewarding life.

Students will choose classes from a list of physical activity and wellness courses — two from PE 101 (Lifetime Activity) and two from PE 105 (Fitness and Wellness Activity). Student-athletes who compete at the intercollegiate level are not allowed to take an activity course in the same sport in which they compete.

  • Four courses (.5 credit hours each).


  1. acquire the skills useful for lifetime participation and enjoyment
  2. learn and apply the knowledge of etiquette and rules of activities
  3. learn and apply scientific principles of fitness and nutrition for personal programs
  4. demonstrate an awareness of wellness principles related to each activity.


Global citizenship requires an understanding of the complexity and interconnectedness of the world and a commitment to addressing its multiple needs. Honoring its roots in the Church of the Brethren, Manchester University approaches such challenges through a commitment to responsible stewardship of resources, peaceful transformation of conflict, civic engagement and service to others, appreciation for other cultures, and respect for the infinite value of every person. Students can best be prepared to become persons of ability and conviction by approaching the challenges of global citizenship by applying the values and attitudes most central to the University’s history.

  • Three courses, at least one in each of the following two categories.

Responsible Citizenship


  1. learn to understand the assumptions and motivations of those who hold diverse positions, and to work effectively with those individuals
  2. learn to engage in civil discourse on contentious topics
  3. develop responses — from theoretical to service-oriented — to the legitimate needs of various parties while respecting higher principles of fairness and justice
  4. examine past and present controversies touching on topics that may be interpersonal, intergroup, national, or international.

Global Connections


  1. develop a global perspective
  2. develop sensitivity to cultural diversity
  3. develop strategies for cross-cultural interaction.

The above three criteria must be met through one of the following means:

  • acquire basic command of a language other than their own [or]
  • learn how one or more non-US cultures or regions define themselves [or]
  • acquire intercultural experience by completing one or more courses off campus that focuses on a non-US culture (i.e., short-term or residential programs)


A strong liberal education presumes a breadth of knowledge and basic understanding of how different disciplines define themselves, understand reality, and contribute to other fields. Students will choose a total of nine courses from lists of courses in the following areas:

Philosophical, Religious, and Creative Inquiry

How humans express their values and beliefs. This category is devoted to the study of human expressions of beliefs, values, and aspirations.

Four courses, one in each of the following areas, satisfying the following criteria:

  • Religion
    1. 1. understand ideas central to Christianity, either alone or in comparison with another religion
    2. 2. develop conceptual tools and analytical skills for understanding how religion responds to fundamental human dilemmas
    3. 3. acquire a basic understanding of how religious beliefs and practices function within a world view and shape intellectual traditions and societies.
  • Philosophy
    1. 1. discuss the approaches that philosophers take to fundamental human questions
    2. 2. acquire the vocabulary and skills necessary to engage in philosophical inquiry, especially through developing their ability to understand and evaluate arguments.
  • Visual and Performing Arts
    1. 1. understand the non-verbal elements and structures of one or more of the visual and performing arts in different historical periods
    2. 2. examine the arts critically
    3. 3. distinguish styles and genres.
  • Literature
    1. 1. study literature typical of a particular culture, historical period, or genre
    2. 2. learn terminology and techniques of literary analysis
    3. 3. learn aesthetic principles pertinent to literature
    4. 4. learn ways in which literature articulates the preoccupations and dilemmas of people from various backgrounds.

Human Behavior and Institutions

How and why humans do what they do. This category is devoted to the study of how humans behave both individually and collectively.

Three courses, from different disciplines, each of which must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Criteria
    1. acquire the vocabulary necessary to describe and analyze human behavior from societal and institutional perspectives
    2. examine the central ethical dilemmas of contemporary or historical societies. These dilemmas can be personal, political, economic, or educational
    3. articulate and apply the formal theoretical perspectives and empirical research used in the social sciences.

The Natural World

How and why the world works as it does. This category is devoted to the scientific study of natural processes in the world.

Two courses, from different disciplines, each of which must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Criteria
    1. demonstrate a systematic understanding of some aspect of the natural world through learning the content, vocabulary, and interrelationships among well-supported scientific theories
    2. articulate the unique features of scientific methodologies, such as hypothesis testing based on empirical observations, and probabilistic conclusions.


Liberal education requires both the acquisition of knowledge from many disciplines and also the ability to connect and synthesize material from multiple perspectives. Through public programs representing diverse topics and perspectives as well as an upper-level interdisciplinary course, students will learn to understand and respond to complexity.

Critical Connections

•One course, to be completed during the junior or senior year.

  • Criteria
    1. explore a substantive topic or problem from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and modes of inquiry appropriate to the liberal arts
    2. analyze issues of importance
    3. develop increased capacity to confront complexity and ambiguity
    4. synthesize information
    5. respond to intellectual challenges.

Values, Ideas and the Arts

Through VIA programs, students will gain exposure to a range of intellectual and artistic ideas and values.

  • Forty programs (for a total of 1 credit hour).

The BA and BS degree

Bachelor of Arts

Students who seek the BA degree will demonstrate language proficiency, other than their native language, at the Intermediate level.

They will be able to interact with native speakers well enough to accomplish uncomplicated communicative tasks in the target culture; acquire information from various media, including broadcast and print, and make basic suppositions; and write to convey information and opinions. Students will demonstrate basic control of structures to express different time frames (present, past, future) and attitudes (conditional, subjunctive), and understand common gestures and forms of politeness.

Bachelor of Science

Students who seek the BS degree will demonstrate mastery of quantitative thinking skills at the level of introductory (conceptual) statistics or applied (non-theoretical) calculus or higher.

They will be able to construct and interpret graphs used to present data and mathematical relationships, and identify misuses of data and common fallacies in numerical reasoning. In a course on statistics students will learn the role of probability in drawing statistical conclusions, understand when causation is a valid conclusion rather than simple correlation, and apply basic statistical techniques. In a calculus course students will understand and apply common growth models (e.g., linear, quadratic, exponential), and analyze and interpret rates of change in applied settings.

Course Distribution: (52 hours total)

C-1 Foundational Skills: 3 courses

C-2 Physical Activity and Wellness: 4 courses

C-3 Integration Into the World: 3 courses

C-4 Ways of Knowing: 9 courses

C-5 Synthesis and Critical Thinking: 1 course, 1 semester hour for VIA attendance