The Saint Leo University LINK (Learning INterdisciplinary Knowledge) General Education Program forms the foundation of a Saint Leo University education. The LINK Program includes Foundation Courses in writing, mathematics, computer science, first-year studies, and wellness. The program also includes Perspective Courses that provide students with an introduction to a liberal arts education and learning in the arts, the humanities, the social and behavioral sciences, the natural and physical sciences, and religion and philosophy, all taught through the lens of social justice.
Mission of the LINK Program
Inspired by the University's Benedictine tradition and a belief in the transformative power of learning, the LINK (Learning INterdisciplinary Knowledge) Program introduces students to interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge and enables them to communicate that knowledge effectively to others. The University holds this knowledge as indispensable for a balanced, accomplished, and principled life.
A popular approach to general education prompts the student to select courses from various categories until a requisite number of credit hours have been completed. Although this model can introduce the student to interesting introductory subject matter, it tends to produce learning that is fragmentary and piecemeal.
Saint Leo University believes that a different approach is needed. We believe that students should attain not just knowledge but a form of knowledge that becomes part of a greater understanding of the world and of the student in relation to the world, to the past, and to the possibilities of the future.
We believe in interdisciplinary, contextual understanding. An example: One of the worst disasters in the history of the United States occurred on the morning of September 11, 2001, as terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center, destroying it, and into the Pentagon, seriously damaging it, and killing more than 3,000 innocent people in the process. A comprehensive study of this horrible tragedy requires the use of the "lenses" of many different academic disciplines, for each offers insights that coalesce into a broader sense of the meaning of that fateful day:
- Political scientists examined the attack in terms of the political tensions between radical Muslims and their perceived enemies in the West.
- Historians analyzed this event in terms of similar attacks that have happened over time.
- Physical scientists studied how and why the Twin Towers fell.
- Life scientists investigated the harm caused by the dust and chemicals released after the explosion.
- Psychologists studied many aspects of the situation, the most obvious one being the trauma felt by both the survivors of the attack and the surviving relatives of the victims.
- Sociologists looked at how the networks of people working in World Trade Center offices were reassembled in new formats by workers who survived the attack.
- Criminologists analyzed the event as a case: how and why the terrorists were able to accomplish their goal.
- Architects and urban planners examined the change in lower Manhattan's skyline.
- Theologians discussed the tensions between modern Islam and modern Christianity.
- Philosophers weighed the ethics of the United States' decision to go to war in the Middle East.
Each area of study produced valuable and often profound insights regarding 9/11, but only when taken as a whole did a comprehensive understanding of the tragedy begin to emerge. Interdisciplinary study allows such a level of understanding.
The LINK Program introduces students to five perspectives that collectively include many academic disciplines. Students take a first-tier course in each perspective (two courses in the Scientific Perspective) that looks at issues from the multiple lenses of that perspective. The second- and third-tier courses are more discipline-specific, allowing students to take a more concentrated interest in an academic area introduced to them in the first-tier setting. The level-by-level requirements are outlined below. Also, frequently asked questions are answered on the SLU website at the following address:
The University's goal is to develop students who have a comprehensive, mature understanding of the world, their relation to that world, and their relation to others.
Goals and Objectives of the Link Program
Here are the types of skills and knowledge that the LINK Program seeks to develop in our students and that they should be able to understand and demonstrate upon their completion of the program:
- Demonstrate critical thinking skills
- Demonstrate quantitative skills
- Understand how living things and physical systems operate and the relationships among them
- Demonstrate knowledge of diverse populations and differing belief systems, values, and norms
- Understand issues and events in terms of historical, political, and economic context
- Demonstrate appreciation for various forms of creative human expression
- Communicate clearly and effectively using multiple types of media: listen attentively/ speak articulately, read critically/write clearly
- Understand Catholic and Benedictine-inspired values and traditions
The LINK Program curriculum provides undergraduate students with an understanding of Saint Leo University's Benedictine-inspired values and Catholic traditions while focusing on the liberal arts and sciences and introducing undergraduate students to an understanding of the knowledge needed to succeed in college and in lifelong learning. Based on the educational experiences that students have while in the LINK Program, Saint Leo University seeks to graduate students:
- Who exhibit skills in learning, writing, reading, critical thinking, information and technology literacy, and numerical applications
- Who exhibit skills in dealing with fundamental human questions regarding the nature of human reality and the ways in which human beings come to know the world and issues of human morality
- Who have learned to love learning, who understand the importance of the liberal arts as a basis for all learning, who find the curriculum relevant, and who are prepared to become lifelong learners
Foundation courses in writing, mathematics, computer science, first-year studies, and wellness prepare students to deal effectively with the rest of their coursework at Saint Leo University. These essential courses lay the groundwork for undergraduate students to succeed by providing them with the basic skills and tools that are required in upper-level courses. The six Foundation courses are as follows:
For most undergraduate students, college-level writing is a difficult skill to master and one that requires constant practice. Therefore, many LINK courses are writing intensive because the ability to write well is central to learning and effective communication. Our Foundation writing courses, and , are designed to prepare undergraduate students to:
- Express themselves intelligently and clearly
- Synthesize and integrate information from various disciplines
- Write academic papers that are sound and compelling
- Write academic papers based on accepted standardized formats
- Use original material as well as properly use and cite source material from a wide variety of venues in academic papers
A minimum grade of C is needed to fulfill the degree requirement.
The ability to use quantitative reasoning is another educational skill that is essential to success in college and lifelong learning. The formulas and procedures learned in MAT 131 enable students to advance to and succeed in higher-level mathematics and related courses that use mathematics, as well as to develop quantitative skills used in everyday life.
Success in MAT 131 also helps undergraduate students to:
- Develop increased proficiency in logical progression
- Gain increased understanding of scientific structure and applications
- Increase their ability to deal effectively with mathematics-related formulas found in other disciplines
A minimum grade of C is needed to fulfill the degree requirement.
To succeed in college and beyond, students must be computer literate. "Computer literate" does not mean being able to access the Internet; instead, this term requires that the student be able to use modern programs designed for word processing, spreadsheets, presentation management, and databases.
Training in COM 140 will allow students to:
- Have a comprehensive ability to use modern, standard software programs
- Be prepared for the expectations of today's workplace
- Improve their understanding of the ethical issues caused by modern computer technology
Many first-year students in University College are on their own for the first time in their lives. SLU 100 is a course that helps students with the skill sets that they will need to succeed in college. (This course is not required for Continuing Education students.)
SLU 100 helps students:
- Improve their study skills
- Improve their time-management skills
- Understand the University's academic expectations
- Examine negative or self-defeating behaviors
- Look toward the future and toward developing a career
A minimum grade of C is needed to fulfill the degree requirement. This course is not required for Continuing Education students.
It is extremely important for undergraduate students to gain an increased understanding and appreciation of the significance of physical education and wellness as a part of their LINK experience. Students need to be able to assess their current state of wellness and prepare strategies to maintain and/or improve their physical well-being. In addition, PED 102 helps undergraduate students:
- Maintain positive attitudes and actions
- Increase their ability to deal with the rigors of academic life
A minimum grade of C is needed to fulfill the degree requirement. This course is not required for Continuing Education students.
Gaining an understanding of how knowledge is gathered and assimilated is an important part of the LINK experience. This is accomplished through five critical perspectives and twelve interrelated courses, all of which are taught through the lens of social justice.
The Aesthetic Perspective
The Saint Leo University LINK curriculum would be incomplete without ensuring that students have a strong appreciation of the important role the arts have on shaping cultures and everyday life. Students' lives become greatly enriched when they have a deep understanding of the roles played by theatre, music, dance, film, and creative writing through history and in modern society.
The Aesthetic Perspective courses investigate various creative and interpretive styles and motifs and allow Saint Leo University students to experience them directly or through visual, audio, or tactile simulation. These aesthetic experiences can help students:
- Develop a clear understanding of the role of the arts in their society
- Better appreciate the sometimes subtle impact of the aesthetic element on their everyday, personal lives
- Understand the interdisciplinary nature of the aesthetic perspective
- Gain a greater understanding of the tools and creative processes used in the realm of the visual and performance arts
The Global Perspective
As the world becomes smaller by virtue of modern technology and as national and cultural boundaries become blurred, it is essential for Saint Leo University undergraduate students to understand the implications of this phenomenon from a personal as well as a global perspective. They need to appreciate how the current globalization is changing the character of the economy, politics, and even their national identity.
Viewing globalization from a historical perspective provides a time frame for the investigation of changes that have already occurred. Viewing globalization from a cultural perspective provides a defined context for examining the issues of identity and diversity. Viewing globalization from a communications perspective provides an increased understanding of the international transfer of knowledge and capability. Viewing globalization from a conflict perspective provides a specific backdrop for understanding power, privilege, militarism, xenophobia, and genocide.
In the final analysis, Saint Leo University undergraduate students need to have a firm grasp of the differences between people that extend beyond national borders and parochial social boundaries. The Global Perspective courses help students:
- Develop a deeper appreciation of how modern technology is changing the processes by which people acquire and maintain their identity
- Understand the constructs of national, cultural, and religious identity and how they are explicitly and implicitly reinforced by national and global influences
- Appreciate how stereotyping people along national origin, ethnic, racial, or religious lines has an impact on politics and economics, and often promotes global antagonism
- Acquire an increased understanding of how globalization can actually help bridge the political, economic, social, and cultural gaps between people by highlighting similarities among groups and transforming old perceptions
- Understand how advances in technology have contributed to increased interaction between world cultures and be able to articulate the positive and negative ramifications of this development
The Human Behavior Perspective
It is essential that Saint Leo University undergraduate students examine human behavior within a broader social context. They need to understand the limits society places on people as well as the opportunities it affords them. They also need to appreciate how their own values coincide or conflict with those held by the greater society in which they live.
Students need to recognize that social norms are very complicated and often contradictory and that all acts are relational and independent at the same time, that a seemingly simple individual act can have major complex social consequences. Additionally, the Human Behavior Perspective challenges students to:
- Acquire a deep understanding of the compelling social forces that shape human behavior
- Develop a keen awareness of the dynamics of social interaction and normative behavior
- Examine human behavior using established scientific constructs
- Explore local and global social issues that are antagonistic toward or in support of current social norms
The Religion and Philosophy Perspective
In the spirit of the Catholic intellectual tradition, religion and philosophy represent the person's quest for wisdom and meaning. In a Socratic manner, philosophy questions unexamined assumptions about life and the choices people make. Such reflection nourishes the key Benedictine virtue of humility.
Courses in religion invite students to examine the various faith responses to the search for wisdom. Catholic theology—"faith seeking understanding," as St. Anselm said—seeks to develop a reflective understanding of what Pope Benedict XVI has described as the "new horizon" that the encounter with Christ gives to life. The example of St. Benedict nurtures an appreciation for the contemplative dimension of life. The courses in this perspective help students to:
- Investigate philosophical and faith responses to the search for wisdom
- Question unexamined assumptions about life
- Examine Scripture from a critical-historical perspective
- Develop a reflective understanding of life lived within a Catholic horizon
- Acquire an appreciation for the contemplative dimension of life
- Describe the ethical and cultural implications of a transcendent understanding of life
- Develop a practical theology and spirituality to help the People of God serve others and practice social justice
The Scientific Perspective
Progress in contemporary sciences continues to have a significant, ongoing impact on the way humans live. In rapid progression, humans have moved through the Industrial Revolution to the age of instant communication and immediate, worldwide information availability. These changes have reshaped human lives and, in consequence, how people learn and understand what they experience.
The Scientific Perspective prepares Saint Leo University undergraduate students to evaluate the impact of the sciences on the world through critical thinking. It promotes a healthy respect for the disciplines of science as students are exposed to basic scientific concepts and fundamental scientific issues. This perspective also teaches undergraduates how society and the sciences influence one another and how that interaction has an effect on humanity. These implications are:
- Viewed from the philosophical, sociological, psychological, political, and historical points of view
- Examined from a personal point of view in light of direct experience and expectations
Assessment of Skills Developed in the Link Program
Saint Leo University uses three methods to document the effect of the LINK program on student learning:
- proficiencies assessed in the ETS® Proficiency Profile
- performance on assignments that are embedded in LINK courses
- feedback gathered through the Senior Exit Surveys
These measures help faculty members to improve the LINK Program while working to develop the skills of individual students.
The Proficiency Profile assesses critical thinking, reading, writing, and mathematics¡X skills that students develop and refine in the LINK courses. First-time-in-college students who are attending University College complete the Proficiency Profile as part of SLU 100 . Throughout their time at Saint Leo, students should aim to strengthen skills identified for improvement through the Proficiency Profile and through instructor feedback and grades earned in LINK courses. Academic advisors will use these results when meeting with their student advisees.
All students (transfer and first time in college) will take the Proficiency Profile within a general education course in their junior or senior year. The test results provide the student and the advisor with additional information useful in identifying academic strengths and areas for further development.
The LINK embedded assessments are assignments that students complete in select LINK courses across all locations. The assignments are a part of the course and course grade, and the assignments provide the university with an assessment of students' skills of critical thinking, reading, writing, and mathematics in the context of specific LINK courses. In addition to meeting a course requirement, the students' work is used to assess the extent to which students are achieving the LINK program objectives. An expert panel of faculty members reviews students' work on the embedded assessments and uses the results of that review to improve the LINK Program.
Saint Leo University solicits students' feedback about their teaching and learning experiences in LINK through the end-of-course evaluations that students complete for each course and through the Senior Exit Survey. The Senior Exit Survey asks graduating students about their experiences and perceptions regarding content and skills specific to the LINK Program objectives.
Students who transfer to the University are not expected to complete the entire core, for we recognize that other colleges and universities have legitimate alternative means of providing students with a firm basis in the liberal arts. Students transferring to Saint Leo University with an associate of arts degree will have LINK (general education) requirements met with the exception of COM 140 - Basic Computer Skills (or successfully pass a PC applications competency examination) and a religious studies course at the 300 or 400 level.
All students who graduate from Saint Leo University must have completed a minimum of 36 credits in general education.
All students (transfer and first time in college) will take the Proficiency Profile within a general education course in their junior or senior year.
Students transferring under the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) articulation agreement will be considered to have met all LINK requirements, with the exception of COM 140 - Basic Computer Skills (unless an equivalent course is transferred or the PC applications competency examination is successfully passed) and a religious studies course at the 300 or 400 level.