Institute for Core Studies

The Institute for Core Studies (ICS) is designed to help first-year students in their academic transition to University Life. As a unit, the three courses comprising the ICS, Writing Composition, Scientific Inquiry, and Discover New York assist first-year students in becoming their own intellectual “gatekeepers” of the large amounts of information from a wide variety of sources to which they are subjected each day. The ICS 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 student understanding of and an 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 ICS 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 ICS mandate for Academic Service Learning, 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 ICS plays a distinct but ultimately interrelated part in achieving these goals.

Learn More

For general information on the Core courses or the Institute for Core Studies, contact Phyllis Conn at [email protected]

Current students are urged to contact their instructor for aid in the instructional process. Your instructor is the most important person to turn to for help with your understanding of the course material and your grades.

You can locate your instructor's office location, email address and phone number by choosing the Institute's Discover New York faculty listing, English Composition faculty listing, or Scientific Inquiry faculty listing.

Faculty who are not part of the Institute yet teach Core courses can be located on their departmental website.

The Institute of Core Studies, in cooperation with the University Freshman Center, assists both students and faculty.

The University Freshman Center is a student support center which welcomes each freshman into the St. John’s University community and assist with students’ overall transition, acclimation and integration into the University setting.

If faculty feel that a freshman in their class is in need of assistance, faculty are urged to use the Faculty Early Alert referral form.

Students in Core courses are important to us! Let your instructors know you are here so they can be of the most assistance they can to you in your studies.

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 DNY 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.


Judith DeSena

Phyllis Conn

Full Time Discover New York Faculty

Elizabeth Albert

Phyllis Conn

Marilyn Dono-Koulouris

Paula Kay Lazrus

Heidi Upton

Adjunct Faculty

Kendra Chiu

Judy Cooperman

Matthew Donnelly

Roxanne Earley

Victoria Funez

Nancy Greco

Amelia Ingram

Daniel Kelly

Haiba Khalil

Edward L. Olive

Peter Pantina

Samapti Rahman

Albert J. Silvestri

Dejan Trickovic

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. 

The First-Year Writing Program is comprised of faculty dedicated to the teaching of undergraduate writing. These faculty and the program are housed in the Institute for Core Studies. These faculty consistently have some of the highest student evaluation of teaching scores in the University. Full-time faculty in the program have published articles in College Composition and Communication, Composition Forum, English Journal, College English, Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning, Pedagogy, PsyArt,  Radical Teacher, Workplace, and Writing on the Edge; chapters in books published by Parlor Press, SUNY Press, and the University of Georgia Press; and written books with Parlor Press and the University of Missouri Press. Among them, these faculty have given over 100 presentations on panels, roundtables, and workshops at conferences such as the Association for Literature and the Environment, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the Contemplative Campus Conference, the CUNY Feminist Pedagogy Conference, the Feminisms and Rhetoric Conference, the Hofstra "Who Owns Writing?" Conference, the Modern Language Association, the New England Writing Center Associatioon Conference, the Northeast Modern Language Association, National Council of Teachers of English, the Thomas R. Watson Conference, the SUNY Conference on Writing, the Trauma and Learning in Post-Secondary Education Conference, the University of CT Conference on the Teaching of Writing, and others. First-year writing faculty are also active in publishing literary nonfiction, novels, short fiction, poetry, and even film.

All St. John's University students are required to take FYW 1000C "English Composition," and the First-Year Writing program is responsible for designing and teaching the curriculum for this course. All 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.

Sharon Marshall
Associate Professor
Coordinator, First-Year Writing
[email protected]