Curator: Jordan Klohr
These artifacts are a range of Fontbonne Catalogs from throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries from the Archives. They illustrate Fontbonne’s struggle to balance liberal arts with a changing world and things like enrollment and time management, highlighting the school’s history with General Education Requirement (GER) and the changes to a liberal arts education that comes with time.
A liberal arts education is tricky. The need to balance students’ needs with what is required for a degree by the school is important for many reasons. A big reason is enrollment in individual classes and the university. Classes were discontinued due to a lack of professors to teach it or a lack of students expressing interest. That is the main reason for why certain classes are offered and not offered at the school today and vice versa. Classes like French and Spanish used to be offered but aren’t anymore because of those reasons.
Recently, though, Fontbonne has focused on trying to bring its own brand of liberal arts to the world. When the school restructured General Education in the early 2010’s, they felt that a focus on the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet’s mission and catholic social teaching was important. With fewer sisters living on campus, the committee in charge of the change felt it was necessary to try and preserve their mission and what they stood for, not just as Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, but as Catholics as well. They ended up creating a new system that had this notion of Common Good at the forefront, as the “heart” of this new GER system that revolved around creating educated people who understand the sister’s mission of serving the dear neighbor and implement it in their daily lives. The sisters’ legacy was not the only thing that was supposed to be addressed with the recent changes, though. The old GERs were clunky and outdated, and students were having a hard time completing a degree in 4 years. So, they changed the GERs to 42 total credit hours, with emphasis on essential histories, communication classes, sciences, and math, which is the new “Pillars” system.
The Pillars system has, to an extent, reimagined the GERs of Fontbonne. Focusing on a core of a few subjects central to a liberal arts education rather than a wide swath of courses helps keep the process quick and easy. It helped streamline the process of taking GERs and major classes so more students could finish a degree in four years rather than more.
This text is the first Fontbonne Catalog to be used. Of the 64 credit hours required in this year’s catalog, all of them seem like GERs. Being the first year, there was little need for four-year degree programs. Instead, the college focused on laying out the groundwork of GERs for the larger degree programs they would require the following years. The nature of these classes focused on a wide breadth of knowledge, though no classes about succeeding in a capitalist market were offered. Women were still expected to be, at least in the upper class, stay-at- home mothers and good wives.
General Education Requirements: Sister Mary Lucida Savage's Fontbonne College Bulletin (Fourth Annual Catalogue), 1926-1927
Having this artifact be a sister’s personal one is special. Her notes provide extra knowledge about the way schedules were set up because there are several instances where she offers insight into the reasoning behind certain degrees. She clarifies the process of picking a “sequence,” their equivalent of a major, and how it fit into the four-year degrees they offered. Different fields are available to study, with fields like home economics and sociology being available to do a “primary sequence” in. Home economics is talked up especially hard, stating the goal is to make women love housekeeping instead of seeing it as a “deadening drudgery,” emphasizing the idea that women aren’t necessarily meant for other professions like doctors or scientists the way men were.
This catalog is particularly interesting because of how it lays out the course schedules. It explicitly offers majors unlike the 1926-1927 catalog. There are only a few majors: fine arts, sociology, music, home economics and a minor of physical education. Each program comes with a schedule that is planned out per semester. There is no explicit list of GER classes, but each degree program roughly requires the same classes the first few years. Each program requires varying amounts of English, history, and modern language classes to be completed, normally during the first few years. This implies a general understanding that some classes are necessary because they are the basis for a liberal arts education.
This catalog reflects an institution that is devoted to upholding its new, self-identified value of the common good. The addition of the Mission Core classes and restructuring of the GERs that took place in 2015 fundamentally changed how the program worked. A system that relies on Mission core being the “heart” of the GER program with “pillars” of knowledge supporting the “structure” of Fontbonne is an important change. The institution is now focused on bringing its own version of a liberal arts education to its students rather than a more standardized one, coming close to finalizing the vision started in the 1970s.
This catalog reflects an institution that is devoted to upholding its new, self-identified value of the common good. The addition of the Mission Core classes and restructuring of the GERs that took place in 2015 fundamentally changed how the program worked. A system that relies on Mission core being the “heart” of the GER program with “Pillars” of knowledge supporting the “structure” of Fontbonne is an important change. The institution is now focused on bringing its own version of a liberal arts education to its students rather than a more standardized one, coming close to finalizing the vision started in the 1970s.