Redeemer’s mission is to educate students in such a way that they become transformed into God’s agents of change. That can be seen in the track record of Redeemer alumni – for more than 30 years, they have been positively impacting business and politics, art and music, medicine and social work, community development and environmental sustainability and much, much more.
At the heart of Redeemer’s academic program is the Core, a set of ten courses that all students take, regardless of their major. This foundational curriculum provides students the breadth of knowledge, critical thinking skills and spiritual engagement that enables them to connect more deeply to their primary areas of study and to relate to broader societal and cultural issues.
At the same time, the Core provides students a firm Kingdom foundation which they use to learn from and grow in the knowledge of all of God’s creation, whatever their calling and career.
Over its history, Redeemer has adapted and altered the Core program to best meet the changing needs of students. In 2013, the Core curriculum was reviewed as part of the Redeemer 2020 strategic plan. One of the goals of the 2020 plan is to refresh and renew the Redeemer experience to meet the academic and spiritual needs of today’s students. The review included surveys, forums and meetings involving close to 700 stakeholders, including faculty, staff, current students and recent alumni. At the end of this inclusive exercise, the new Core curriculum was approved by Redeemer’s Senate in 2015. Students entering the University in September 2016 will be the first to benefit from the new curriculum.
Purpose and structure in renewed Core curriculum
Building on the strengths of the existing Core, the renewed Core will help students situate themselves in God’s unfolding story and relate their university learning to God’s calling for their lives. It will be relevant and engaging, while continuing to reflect Redeemer’s commitment to a worldview, theology and philosophy rooted in the Reformed tradition.
Overall, the Core program enables students to discover more about their world, to transform their minds, to think more deeply and creatively, to deepen and more fully experience their faith and to find a sense of calling for where God can use their gifts after they leave Redeemer.
The ten courses of the Core are integrated throughout all four years of each student’s academic program, building on and complementing the content of their chosen discipline. In Year 1, Redeemer students will discover more about how being a university student is intertwined with being a follower of Jesus Christ through three broad approaches:
By learning about God, Scripture and the Biblical Christian worldview. They will be able to relate who they are as a part of God’s story to who they hope to become through their university experience.
By discovering more about the history, culture and philosophical inheritance of Western civilization. They will be better able to understand where they came from and how the Western context of the global experience impacts the present.
By grappling with the effects of the digital technology and communication revolution. That will include understanding how people relate to knowledge, learning and information, as well as how they relate to each other, God and His creation.
In Year 2, students begin to dig more deeply into how academic study and knowledge in general are shaped by Scripture, the Christian faith and Reformed philosophical traditions. Students will also explore how to look at the world from perspectives very different from those of their discipline and major. For example, students majoring in the humanities will take Understanding the World through the Sciences. That course will enable them to appreciate the basic philosophies and approaches underpinning science today and provide a foundation from which to engage cultural and societal issues related to science and scientific research.
In Year 3 and Year 4, students begin to look beyond the familiar to connect what they have learned in foundational courses to new and relatively unfamiliar areas. Through electives in “non-Western” perspectives and “issues” courses, students will learn about other cultures and engage contemporary problems and challenges. These courses could also be part of students’ majors or minors, helping fulfill their program requirements.
Finally, the fourth-year Capstone experience will use project-based learning in an interdisciplinary setting to connect students to real world problems or challenges. This course will encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, presentation skills and teamwork, valuable skills for the workplace and for the communities which our graduates impact daily.
The outcomes of the Core
Ultimately, the Core seeks to help students discover both what they want to do and who they want to be. It seeks to be a critical part of the spiritual formation that occurs through university learning so that students grow in Christian character and in the acquisition of the critical skills needed to contribute positively to God’s world.
The outcome might sound ambitious, but it is really at the heart of Redeemer’s academic mission. Already there is a lot of buzz about the Core on campus and among prospective students and high school guidance counsellors.
Part of that interest in the Core is related to its uniqueness among universities in Ontario. At Redeemer, the Core reflects what it means to be a distinctly Christian university, one that prepares students to serve God in a variety of careers and callings. In today’s “job-training” culture of higher education, Redeemer’s new Core is radically counter-cultural because, for those who follow Jesus Christ, job training alone is not enough. Ultimately, we live to glorify our Creator, to discover His world and to walk more closely with Him in whatever work He calls us to do.