Theses Doctoral

An Inter/Intro/Retro-spective: The Traditions, Evolutions, and Personal Flair of the Columbia College Core Curriculum

Davis-Porada, Natalie

To this day, Columbia College maintains one of the most robust liberal arts curriculaa mong the tertiary education landscape, an institutional decision that has been both lauded and denounced by students, professors, and cultural critics alike. As this dissertation examines, high tensions from all angles largely stem from the Core Curriculum’s dual commitment to two seemingly oppositional values: its original mission and its ongoing evolution.

My interpretive study of this unique undergraduate program begins with an examination of the cultural tradition from which Core derives—the West—considering how the notion of the liberal arts has evolved from antiquity to present day by pinpointing artifacts that demonstrate each era’s practices and priorities. Atop this foundational context, whose relevance persists in its establishment of citizenship, reciprocity, self-determination, and amateurism as underlying values of the liberal arts, I then examine university archival records dating back to the Core’s inception in 1919 and engage with personal stories, collected through interviews with alumni and former instructors of the program.

These retrospective and interpersonal examinations are further complemented by the weaving in of my own experiences from my time as a student in the program, adding an introspective angle. In service of determining what is, was, and should be at the core of this curricular phenomenon, I neither defend nor rebuke the Core’s existence, but rather wonder and imagine its universal potential, ending with a call for more finite iterations of the program’s long-lasting values.


  • thumnail for DavisPorada_columbia_0054D_18344.pdf DavisPorada_columbia_0054D_18344.pdf application/pdf 3.57 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
English Education
Thesis Advisors
Vinz, Ruth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 10, 2024