CORE In-Depth

A 21st Century World for Students

University students stand at the crossroads of history, at the forefront of major economic, political, social, environmental, scientific, and technological changes. They now face:

  • a complex global economy that combines industrial production and trade with information, knowledge and financial services,
  • a political context where national politics, geopolitical relations and governance demand new ideas about participation and empowerment of citizens,
  • a global environment that continually reminds us of its limits and demands changes in fundamental ways of relating to nature,
  • an ongoing series of revolutions in science and technology that have simultaneously made older modes of organizing societies obsolete while creating new challenges and opportunities to address fundamental problems of human existence, and
  • a sociocultural world which reveals that shrinking geographical distances and growing intercultural communication do not automatically imply vanishing cultural differences.

There is growing consensus in scholarship, policy-making, civil society and business that the 21st century worlds of work, governance, family, neighborhoods and communities are interdependent and in flux in more intense, intimate and unpredictable ways than any other time in human history. Into this world enter students, as future constituents of the workforce, as members of families, communities, institutions and societies, as thinkers, innovators, leaders, opinion-shapers and as citizens.


The Core

The University Core Curriculum or the Core is the “general education” program at William Paterson University designed to enable students to prepare for an increasingly complex yet interdependent world that simultaneously holds opportunities for creativity, new knowledge, connecting across conventional boundaries of thought and practices, cooperation and teamwork, and diverse modes of communication and building community.

The Core is WPU’s user-friendly yet intellectually rigorous response to 21st century educational demands.


What is general education?

General education has been an integral part of most undergraduate university curricula in the U.S.A. for over a century. In addition to specializing in a particular discipline, i.e., the student’s major, all students get the opportunity to explore a number of courses from other academic disciplines and to connect them to their major. Thus students are enabled to

  • build a generalized set of skills, knowledge, perspectives and literacies,
  • prepare to better appreciate what it means to be human and to be citizens,
  • motivate themselves to participate as better informed and engaged members of societies, communities, organizations and institutions, nations and the world,
  • better understand how research and creative expression is developed, critically evaluated, and used,
  • broaden their horizons of thought, capabilities, and knowledge, and
  • enrich their personal and professional lives


What Is the Core?

The Core constitutes a third of the entire undergraduate curriculum at WPU (40 credits). It contains a number of courses from across the university’s academic departments developed specifically for the Core program. Students create their Core experience by choosing a sequence of thirteen (13) courses from each of the following six areas of study.

Areas one, two and three are broadly viewed as “foundational” wherein courses will expose students to basic ideas, concepts, theories, perspectives, histories, methods, problems and debates from within any discipline in ways that clarify the meanings and scope of that area. Areas four, five and six are broadly viewed as “themes” that are core challenges in the 21st century. Courses in these areas will build upon the “foundational” knowledge and skills acquired by students. 


focusing on individual and public wellness and their interdependence.

  • One course

Our biological constitutions, values, beliefs, habits, and socially instituted practices and relations inform and shape our lifestyle behaviors. This has major consequences for our personal and public well being. Courses in this area will provide opportunities to develop the knowledge and critical skills necessary to support lifelong well-being for  personal and professional success, and examine attitudes and beliefs that govern personal behavior.


focusing on diverse forms of expression, representation, aesthetics and communication. This Area has three sub-areas:

  • Arts and Communications – One Course (3 credits )
  • Writing – One Course (3 credits )
  • Literature – One Course (3 credits )

This area enables students to explore and become cognizant of the varieties of expressive, aesthetic and literary genres, and of communication as a fundamental characteristic of all life forms. Courses in this area will combine an examination of the visual, oral, written and performing arts, through engagement with works of art, music, literature, film and communication. Students will gain the necessary skills for effective, thoughtful and creative written and spoken communication.


focusing on diverse modes of knowledge and perspectives about the natural and human world and their implications. This Area has five sub-areas:

  • Philosophical perspectives – One Course (3 credits)
  • Historical perspectives – One Course (3 credits)
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences – Two Courses (6 credits )
  • Scientific perspectives – One Course (4 credits , includes laboratory)
  • Quantitative thinking – One Course (3 credits )

This area enables students to learn about the nature of reality and change, approaches to knowledge production about the natural and social world and their implications, argument construction, research problem construction, nature and interrogation of evidence, quantitative reasoning, and problems and challenges facing humanity. Students will be challenged to critically appreciate the interconnectedness of and need for different and multidisciplinary approaches to real-world problems. 


focusing on challenges of difference, equality and justice.

  • One course (3 credits)

Our age is characterized by growing acceptance of the notion of multicultural societies and nations. This has meant public recognition of the fact of immense forms and degrees of diversity of human life, both nationally and globally. Simultaneously, this rich diversity has also been marked by growing economic, political and cultural inequalities between and within socially defined groups, and competing claims to justice leading to a global increase, resurgence and at times, renewal of forms of ethnocentrism, racism, homophobia and heterosexism, sexism and patriarchy, ableism, xenophobia, class exploitation, and other forms of discrimination and prejudice. Courses in this area build upon core skills, knowledge and attitudes to prepare students to participate more ethically in such a diverse and unequal society and world and rise to its challenges.


focusing on ideas and possibilities of community and participating effectively as responsible citizens.

  • One course (3 credits)

Part of the historic mission of William Paterson University is a commitment to public education is the production of knowledgeable citizens who actively engage in community and civic life. Underlying this commitment is the assumption that public life is valuable and worthy of pursuit by all regardless of social origins. In an age of greater awareness of individual social responsibility coupled with accountability of governance, citizenship is a notion that has generated tremendous inquiry into its possibilities and power. Despite living in a global era, it is common knowledge that the local and regional are the arenas where citizens are constituted, problems are framed, questions posed, and theoretical concepts are tested in real-world context and time. The courses in this area will build upon core skills and knowledge to enable students to participate more effectively in civic and community life.


focusing on local, regional and global connectivities, possibilities and limits.

  • One course (3 credits)

This area builds upon core skills and knowledge to prepare students to better understand the challenges of and participate more effectively in an increasingly interdependent, diverse and unequal world. Courses in this area will explore the interconnectivity of a globalizing world, in which capital, goods, services, technologies, knowledge, images, governments and peoples are increasingly in more intimate and intense interaction, and where histories and geographies, societies and cultures, livelihoods and environments, knowledge and technologies, and ideas and communication patterns are mutually constituted. Students will learn to appreciate the continuities and changes in today’s world by exploring the emergence of truly “global” issues and problems that demand regional, international and / or trans-national debate, deliberations and decision-making. 

Integrating Core With Majors

To allow for better integration of Core and student majors, Faculty Senate passed the following resolution on January 25, 2011:

Students may use up to three courses in their major to fulfill UCC requirements. One of these UCC/major courses may be a foundational course offered in Areas One, Two or Three. All UCC/major designated courses must be approved by the UCC Council.

Developmental Core

To ensure a developmental sequence of courses within the Core, students are expected to

  • Take at least 18 credits in Areas 1-3 before they take Area 4, and
  • Take Area 4 before they take Areas 5 and 6

Writing Intensive (WI) and Technology Intensive (TI) Requirements

WPU is committed to a nurturing learning environment in which writing and technology literacies are taken seriously across disciplines. Many courses at WPU are designated as “WI” or “TI.” These are attributes to courses which could be in any major discipline or in the Core. 

  • Four (4) Writing Intensive (WI) courses (one WI course at 3000 level or higher)
  • Two (2) Technology Intensive (TI) courses

Thus any course - within the Core, or any major, or any minor, or any free elective - that has been designated as a WI or TI course can be used by a student to satisfy the above requirements. 

Student Learning Outcomes and the Core

The Core is based on clearly defined student learning outcomes at both program and course levels. To learn more about the Core’s Program and Area level student learning outcomes, click here. The learning outcomes take into consideration the call from various employers for more emphasis on areas such as critical thinking, written and oral communication, complex problem solving, ethical reasoning, applied knowledge, intercultural competence, teamwork in diverse groups, creativity and knowledge of science and technology. Click here for the American Association of Colleges and Universities document.