On its website, Brandeis poses a provocative question to prospective students, “What does it mean to be educated in the 21st century?” Their answer is simple, it’s the Brandeis Core. As of fall 2019, all new students must complete the Brandeis Core requirements in order to receive their degree. The requirements include a first year experience and courses of foundational literacies; school of thought; global engagement; health, wellness, and life skills. 

While newly implemented this year, the Brandeis Core has been in the works for many years. “The Brandeis Core was actually approved by the faculty and Board of Trustees in the spring of 2018,” said Elaine Wong, senior associate dean of Arts and Sciences for Undergraduate Education. “This is a rethinking after more than 20 years of what Brandeis graduates and students will need in order to succeed after they graduate and to ... help students understand what Brandeis values,” Wong said. Core was designed and created with the intention of rounding out the education that Brandeis students receive. In order to determine the new requirements, “There was a faculty committee,” Wong said. “There were two students that actually participated on the committee as well.”

The results of this can be seen in the way that certain requirements have been altered or changed since the new Core was implemented. “For example, the students were not as happy with the physical education requirement and they said they really needed more life skills, so we changed the physical education requirement to health, wellness and life skills,” Wong said. 

Thus far, Core has only directly impacted the class of 2023 and students who have  transferred into the fall 2019 semester. Perceptions of the requirements vary from student to student, “I think it’s a way to standardize learning for everyone because everyone comes from different educational backgrounds so everyone has the same footing, ... specifically with UWS,” said Alessandra Flores, a first year intending  to major in International and Global Studies. “Every school has some sort of core curriculum, so I was kind of assuming Brandeis would have one,” she said. Others are somewhat unsure of what Core really is. “It’s about taking classes from different fields to have a broad view of the different fields that Brandeis offers,” said Hriday Talreja ’23. 

However, some students expressed displeasure with the idea of taking classes outside of their field.  “I just don’t understand why I have to take English classes when I’m a Bio major,” said Cole Nelson, a first year. “I didn’t even know [Core] existed until I got here,” he said. “I don’t know enough about it. They keep on talking about it but never about what it is. ... They’re just like, ‘Core’,” he said. 

To other students, the requirements have provided insight into skills that could be beneficial to all areas of study, “Part of the class [I’m taking] fulfills the digital literacy requirement because we have to build a website and it’s 20% of our grade, ... so I have no idea what I want to do but knowing how to make a website will probably be helpful in like anything I want to do,” said Amy Jarkow ’23, who hasn’t decided on a major yet. 

Brandeis’ new Core requirements will shape the way future Brandeis students receive their education. This represents a fundamental shift in the way students will experience an education at Brandeis and the effects of these new requirements will only be visible as the years go on. 

— Editor’s Note: Eliana Padwa works for Academic Servcies and did not participate in the editing of this article.