Joliet, Ill. – For nearly 100 years, the University of St. Francis (USF) has provided high-quality academic programs built upon the pursuit of knowledge, a respect for people, and a desire to serve others. USF is dedicated to cultivating the humanistic engagement of the great issues of the human experience and fostering growth in students’ world-views and wisdom, developing citizens who can ask informed questions and foster social justice and equality through a deeper understanding of human histories and cultures. Now with funding provided by a grant worth close to $35,000 through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Foundation, USF will be able to strengthen its efforts to cultivate humanistic engagement of students through its new USF Pathways project.

The USF Pathways planning project will result in a program that integrates the humanities into USF students’ general education requirements. The planning project proposes to refocus general education requirements to include four different pathways/choices to fulfill several humanities and non-humanities curricular requirements. Each pathway will require six courses, including existing, revised, and new options that thematically link humanities and non-humanities general education requirements and incorporate the university’s mission.

“There were three things that we wanted to do.  First, we wanted to help bring some coherence to the general education program.  The students had reported that they had trouble seeing the coherence of the general education as they fulfilled their general education requirements.  So we thought that we could link some of the required courses using themes and that might help give some unity to the courses that they are required to take,” said Dan Hauser, Ph.D., professor of theology and one of the grant’s contributing writers.

“Second,” Hauser continued, “we wanted to set up an interdisciplinary dialogue between courses.  Each pathway would be made up of Foundations I and II; two courses in the humanities and two in other disciplines, for six total courses. All courses would meet general education requirements and so that there would be no extra required courses.”

“Finally, each pathway would have a capstone and the work would be recorded in portfolium, an e-portfolio.  Thus would help us to better assess the kinds and types of learning our students are doing in their general education courses. Here we could better assess communication and critical thinking outcomes,” Hauser concluded.

Grant acquisition efforts were led by Hauser and Debra Workman, Ph.D., associate professor of history. Hauser will now oversee the planning project and report monthly to appropriate USF committees. Four faculty members from both humanities and non-humanities departments, including Hauser and Workman, as well as Beth McDermott, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and Stephen Morrissette, Ph.D., professor of business administration, will implement the project. Work on the yearlong planning efforts will begin this summer, with academic implementation anticipation for fall 2021.

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Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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