Department of Core Studies

What We Do

The Department of Core Studies is designed to help first-year students in their academic transition to University life. As a unit, the three courses comprising the Department of Core Studies – First Year Writing, Scientific Inquiry, and First Year Seminar – assist first-year students in becoming their own intellectual “gatekeepers” as they are exposed each day to large amounts of information from a wide variety of sources.

The Department of Core Studies has five basic educational goals:

  1. Helping students to develop critical thinking and information literacy skills.

  2. Familiarizing students with the evidentiary bases of scientific knowledge, the use of quantitative and qualitative research skills, and the distinctions between correlation and causation in the transmission of knowledge.

  3. Assisting students in developing the writing capabilities and oral communication skills necessary to express their own thoughts and feelings and questions about the world around them.

  4. Encouraging students’ understanding of and appreciation for the uniquely multi-cultural nature of the New York City Metropolitan area.

  5. Actively engaging students in the University’s Vincentian mission of service to the community by emphasizing Academic Service Learning.

The Department of Core Studies mission is grounded in the Mission of St. John’s University. The program’s emphasis on the critical importance of science in the modern world and its recognition that scientific reasoning can be fully compatible with religious faith are classically Catholic. The Department of Core Studies mandate for Academic Service-Learning (AS-L), with its emphasis on the interpersonal connections and mutual responsibilities shared by all members of the human community, is notably Vincentian. And the program’s focus on New York City as the primary American venue of culture, art, intellectual activity, and social diversity, coupled with its emphasis on scientific reasoning and the importance of communication through written expression, is unmistakably metropolitan in nature.

Each of the three classes comprising the Department of Core Studies plays a distinct but ultimately interrelated part in achieving these goals.

Learn More about the Department of Core Studies

For general information on the Core courses or the Institute for Core

Studies, contact Dr. Phyllis Conn at [email protected].

Current students are urged to contact their instructor for help with understanding course material and grades. Your instructor is the most important person to turn to for help with these matters.

This core course encourages students to engage both intellectually and personally with the remarkable city that not only provides the setting for St. John’s University, but is also home to people from all over the world. Faculty members develop FYS courses using their own disciplines as conceptual frameworks for teaching students to think critically, develop information literacy skills, and see New York City through the arts, business, social and political relationships, literature, and media.

With the course mandate for Academic Service Learning, students experience the city as home to a diverse population in need.


Phyllis Conn

Full-Time Faculty

Elizabeth Albert

Phyllis Conn

Marilyn Dono-Koulouris

Paula Kay Lazrus

Heidi Upton 

Scientific Inquiry introduces students to the way scientists think about and view the world. Through a specific theme, such as evolution, atomic theory, energy, or plate tectonics, students will develop their critical thinking and quantitative reasoning skills. The historical development of the specific theme is explored to learn how scientific theories change and develop over time as new discoveries occur. Science is empirical in nature. To understand the process of science, students investigate how experiments are designed and the results interpreted. Students learn the logic of the scientific method and how it may be used to solve problems in their everyday lives. In science, the data are the data, but how they are interpreted and presented has implications on all our lives, from government funding, to medical decisions, to the food we eat. They also learn how data may be biased and misinterpreted using historical examples. Finally, because science is not conducted in a vacuum, and it impacts the world around us, the students analyze societal issues that deal with science in terms of values, ethics and responsibilities.

All St. John's University students are required to take FYW 1000C First Year Writing.

FYW faculty design their own courses, which are connected by a shared set of learning objectives designed by the faculty. Our faculty meet with students for one-on-one consultations periodically throughout the semester. In their First Year Writing courses, students will learn to recognize that writing is a social activity, a matter of experimenting with the rhetorical conventions of different genres and negotiating the expectations of audiences; use technology to design and share information across multiple communities; engage writing as an epistemic and recursive process and apply a variety of knowledge-making strategies in writing; understand that academic disciplines employ varied genres, styles, syntactical patterns, uses of evidence, and documentation practices that call for a variety of reading strategies; demonstrate the ability to locate, critically evaluate, and employ a variety of sources for a range of purposes; and build cross-cultural connections and relationships with others to solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought.

Tara Roeder
Associate Professor
Coordinator, First-Year Writing
[email protected]