About the Core: An Overview

What is Core? We are a group of students and faculty who love to read, to think, to look at, listen to, and study the world’s greatest works and ideas, and who love to talk about them with one another. And we don’t believe that the intellectual journey we share is limited to the classroom. Our conversations continue in museums, at the theater, in dorm rooms and barbeques, over coffee and wherever we meet. They bring in students and teachers from all majors and colleges at BU, upperclassmen who have graduated from Core, alumni, and anyone who shares our passionate love of ideas. We would love to have you join the conversation.

The heart of the Core community lies in our studies. Core students take four Humanities classes, two classes in the Natural Sciences, and two classes in the Social Sciences, usually during their first and second year. Core also gives students the opportunity to live on the Core Floor in Warren Towers, the primary first-year residence hall, or in the Core House, a refurbished specialty residence close to the heart of campus, shared by first and second-year Core students together with juniors and seniors who have graduated from the program. In addition Core students are welcome in any of the many activities Core students pursue, from the Shakespeare Society and the Core Journal to film nights or an excursion to New York to see a puppet version of Plato’s Republic.

Core classes work together. Humanities, Natural Science, and Social Science courses are designed to address questions common to all the disciplines, allowing Core students to examine both the common ground and the differences between the way, for example, that biology, religion and anthropology view nature and human nature. Core Humanities examines the interdependence of and the radical clashes between the greatest works of literature, art, music, philosophy and religion, from Gilgamesh through to the modern world. Because our students have read Virgil they are able to understand Dante, and because they have read the Bhagavad-Gita they are able to understand Leaves of Grass. In the Social Sciences the various views of Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, History, Sociology and Psychology are compared, as we ask what is most fundamental to society: nature, culture, economics, power, or social institutions. In our Natural Science classes we look, for example, at origins, contrasting the cosmic time of the Big Bang to the geological time of the earth’s formation, to evolutionary and biological time and contrasting these scientific views to the approach, studied in the Humanities, of Genesis or Plato.

Core is also a shared conversation. Because distinguished faculty from widely different fields and departments teach a shared curriculum we are able to continue the conversation across seminars, across disciplines, and across years. Students and faculty in different seminars and with very different backgrounds and points of view have a common ground of discourse in Aristotle, Machiavelli and Van Gogh, or in Karl Marx, Adam Smith, and Simone de Beauvoir. Seniors and Juniors who have completed the program share this as well, serving officially and unofficially as mentors, and joining with first and second year students in conversations about majors, about opportunities, about faculty, and about the works they have in common.

Because Core studies and contrasts what is most fundamental in all the various areas of the university Core students gain a unique perspective. If you know what major you want to pursue, Core will help you see both its roots and the broader framework that gives it greater meaning. If you are exploring the many possibilities BU offers, Core will allow you to move beyond the fragmentation of isolated courses and view all your choices in connection with one another. In either case, Core gives you the breadth of vision you need to move outside of the box.

Core students have no difficulty completing the program, as participation in Core exempts you from both General Education and Writing requirements. There is ample room in any schedule for Core alongside even the most demanding of majors.

We invite you to join the conversation. It is complex and sometimes difficult, absorbing, passionate, and at times infuriating, and it will help shape you into the person you become while here at BU.

I look forward to seeing you in Core.

Stephanie Nelson
Associate Professor of Classics
Director and Assistant Dean, Core Curriculum
nelson@bu.edu / 617-353-5404

Please contact me if there is anything else about Core that I can add.