The General Education Program

The General Education component of the curriculum at SJU enables students to examine the principal issues and achievements of the major fields of human learning, provides an opportunity to master skills required for more advanced study, and gives them students freedom to pursue further studies in areas in which they find an interest, to experiment with previously unexplored areas, or to enter a chosen field of study.

The Major Concentration component offers the opportunity for that deepened knowledge of a special area which is an essential characteristic of a full education and also provides a basis for an effective career or for study in graduate or professional school.

The curriculum is designed such that all graduating undergraduate students can meet the following goals:

1. Communication: Students will communicate effectively through written and oral modes of expression across academic, professional, and social contexts using appropriate technology.

2. Critical Thinking and Inquiry:  Students will think critically and construct reasoned arguments to support their positions using skills appropriate to the context, such as deductive reasoning, scientific inquiry, quantitative reasoning, aesthetic judgment, or critical examination of form, style, content and meaning.

3. Ethics, Social Justice, and Ignatian Values: Students will assess and respond to ethical and social justice issues informed by Ignatian values and other theoretical frameworks.

4. Diversity: Students will engage respectfully, in a local and global context, with diverse human beliefs, abilities, experiences, identities, or cultures.

5. Discipline or Program Specific Competencies: Students will acquire the essential knowledge and skills to succeed and make well-reasoned judgments personally, professionally, and in their chosen area(s) of study.

6. Jesuit Intellectual Tradition: Students will examine forces that have shaped the world they have inherited through instruction in the Ignatian educational tradition which includes the study of the humanities, philosophy, theology, history, mathematics, and the natural and social sciences.

Listed below are the specific requirements for the GEP curricula.

For the Adult Undergraduate GEP please see here.

General Education Program (GEP)

The traditional undergraduate programs include 40 courses distributed across three components: A General Education component divided into Signature Courses, Variable Courses, and an Integrative Learning requirement; a Major and Divisional component; and Free Electives. In addition to course requirements as specified in each area, students must complete one certified course in each of the following overlay areas:

  1. Diversity, Globalization or Non-western Area Studies,
  2. Ethics Intensive, and
  3. Writing Intensive. 

Overlay requirements are part of the forty-course requirement.

GEP Signature Courses

The Jesuit Tradition Common Core
PHL 154Moral Foundations3
THE 154Faith, Justice & the Cath Trad3
The Cultural Legacy Common Core
ENG 102Texts & Contexts3
HIS 154Forging the Modern World3
The Signature Variable Core
One Faith and Reason Course
One First-Year Seminar Course

One Faith and Reason Course

This requirement can be satisfied by any course certified as a "Faith and Reason" course, provided that the course is not at the same time being used to satisfy a GEP Variable or Integrative Learning requirement.  Faith and Reason courses provide students with appropriate intellectual and epistemological frameworks for exploring both the tension and cohesion of faith and reason in the contemporary world.  Moral Foundation (PHL 154) and Faith, Justice, and the Catholic Tradition (THE 154) are prerequisites.

One First-Year Seminar Course (This course must be taken in the first year, either fall or spring semester).

The First-Year Seminar is designed to introduce students to the adventures of learning in a college context. The challenge and excitement of intellectual exploration of a topic of shared interest is its prime purpose. Its only prerequisites are a genuine interest in the topic and a willingness to contribute to the success of the course through diligent individual effort and enthusiasm. First-Year Seminars, which are limited in enrollment size, focus in depth on a question or topic of disciplinary or interdisciplinary interest. By means of its specific focus, the seminar will explore the thinking, research, and writing practices in a particular field(s). Discussion based on careful reading of texts, writing assignments, both refection and research types, and in-class student presentations will be supplemented, as appropriate, with activities including guest lecturers, museum trip, attendance at local cultural events and or field excursions.

The first year seminar is specially designed for and open to freshmen, thus all freshmen should take a first year seminar during one of their first or second semesters at SJU.  However students who fail to successfully complete a First Year during one of their first two semesters at SJU will be required to take an additional Philosophy or Theology/Religion Studies course as a replacement for the FYS.  This replacement course cannot count for any other major or GEP requirement.

Note: For non-transfer students, these six signature courses must be completed at SJU.  Transfer students may use transfer credits to meet Signature Core requirements if course equivalency is approved by the CAS Dean's Office. Transfer students are exempt from the First-Year Seminar requirement.

Variable Courses

Please note students may earn AP credit and/or use transfer credits to meet these requirements. Students must take approved courses in the following areas:

  • One Art, Music/Theatre/Film, or Literature Course
  • One Mathematics-Beauty Course
  • One 4-credit Lab-Based (or two 3-credit lecture only) Natural Science Courses
  • Non-native Language Requirement (1-2 courses at the appropriate level, depending on language placement)
  • One Social/Behavioral Science Course
  • One Philosophical Anthropology Course (Pre-requisite PHL 154)
  • One Religious Difference Course
  • Writing Requirement (ENG 101 or AP credit)

Integrative Learning

This component includes three courses determined by a student’s primary major department or program. These courses must be College of Arts and Sciences courses outside of the major department. The Integrative Learning component aims to foster integration of the major with general education. The Integrative Learning component requirement is in addition to GEP Signature and Variable requirements.


Except for students majoring in Education, all students will have no fewer than six free elective courses.

GEP Overlay Courses

Students take one Ethics-Intensive course, one Writing-Intensive course, and one course from any of the following three areas of Diversity, Globalization or Non-Western Studies. Courses may be certified in multiple overlay areas.


Diversity courses analyze the construction and maintenance of social categories such as race, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, ability as well as the material, political, economic, social and ethical consequences of these identities. Each diversity course employs theoretical frameworks that provide sustained analytical inquiry. Each course emphasizes the ways in which social categories overlap and interact to produce multiple identities and attend to the complex consequences of these intersections. Diversity courses are not purely empirical, though they contain empirical components; rather, they are critical-seeking to account for and understand the significance of such social categories and, where appropriate, to investigate methods of challenging social institutions that promote injustice.


Courses in this area will address the theoretical foundations (economic, political, historical, cultural, environmental and ethical) of the international framework that is increasingly linking countries, cultures and peoples around the world. These courses will examine the ways in which global processes and interactions among nation states, societies, international organizations and individuals shape human experience, both in the past and present. These courses will focus on the forms of interaction and interdependency among the world’s peoples and the social structures that bring us closer to one another.

Non-Western Areas Studies

In identifying courses in this category, the "West" is used primarily in its cultural sense. This broad usage extends beyond the narrow geographical boundaries of "western Europe". These courses therefore focus primarily on cultures different from those emphasized in courses on "Western Civilization". Non-Western Area course do have a geographical component because they concentrate on the language, culture, history, society, economics and politics of one or more region outside of North America and Europe. These courses emphasize understanding a region and its cultures on their own terms and from the perspectives of their own peoples rather than in the context of the West or as part of global comparative systems. This may also include appropriate language courses above the intermediate level. The Diversity, Globalization, or Non-Western Studies overlay requirement may be satisfied by any approved course outside of the Signature Common Core and Faith and Reason. If so certified, any GEP Variable course, any Integrative Learning course, any First Year Seminar, any Concentration or Major course, or any Free Elective can satisfy this requirement, with the following exception: A course taken for Religious Difference GEP Variable credit may not at the same time count for Diversity, Globalization, or Non-Western Studies overlay credit.

One Ethics Intensive Course

Ethics-intensive courses evaluate ethical issues in a particular discipline or field. Such critical evaluation requires applying to the disciplinary material some of the theoretical frameworks and conceptual tools that students have acquired in their signature/core courses. Ethics-intensive courses will thus push beyond professional ethics (where "the good" is determined only by the rules of the discipline or field) and will rigorously investigate the subject matter of a course in light of more fundamental moral values and ethical principles (e.g., justice, human dignity, vocation, beneficence, utility, double effect, proportionality). Through this study, students will come to a deeper understanding of a moral life and will be enabled to better act with self-agency in their lives beyond. This requirement can be satisfied by any approved course outside of the Signature Core. If so certified, any GEP Variable course, any Integrative Learning course, any Concentration or Major course, or any Free Elective can satisfy this requirement. (pre-requisite PHL 154)

One Writing Intensive Course

Writing is a means of communication and a skill that develops with structured practice. It is grounded in the foundations of proper punctuation, grammar and thesis statement and development. This requirement can be satisfied by any approved course outside of the Signature Common Core and First Year Seminar. If so certified, any GEP Variable course, any Integrative Learning course, any Faith and Reason course, any Concentration or Major course, or any Free Elective can satisfy this requirement. (pre-requisite: ENG 101).