Briar Cliff | General Education

General Education Requirements

Briar Cliff offers a liberal arts education, which blends intense study of a special field (the major) with a general education that informs all the intellectual, emotional and religious actions and aspirations of the human person. General Education at Briar Cliff has four components: Intellectual Foundations, Competencies, Service and Fransciscan Core. Each must be completed for the student to graduate. 

Intellectual Foundations (one class required for each)

1. Aesthetic Foundation (AE): This foundation promotes the ability to comprehend the creative, expressive and structural dimension of the arts by expanding the knowledge and appreciation of various art forms and of their application throughout history.

2. Physical and Life Sciences Foundation (PL): This foundation promotes an examination of the physical and biological world by scientific modes of thinking. 

3. Social and Behavioral Sciences Foundation (BS): This foundation promotes an understanding of self and society by examining what the social and behavioral sciences have learned about human behavior and social systems: the processes that are used to discover, describe, explain, and predict the behavior of humans and social systems, and the interdependent nature of the individual and society in shaping such behavior and determining quality of life.

4. Multicultural Foundation (MC): This foundation promotes an awareness and understanding of cultures different from one's own. Students will be able to identify significant components of cultures different from their own and understand reasons why cultures differ.

5. Historical Consciousness Foundation (HC): This foundation promotes the critical analysis of events and ideas within a historical context as a means of understanding changes and continuities within the human community.

6. Religious (RE) and Ethical (EM) Foundation: This foundation promotes examination and reflection on the religious experience of human persons in light of the Judaeo-Christian theological tradition and provides an opportunity for the critical examination of human choices and behavior in light of ethical or moral principles from a philosophical or theological tradition. This foundation requires one course in theology and one course in ethics or morality.

7. Global Foundation (GL): This foundation presents an integrative study of contemporary global realities focusing on the increasingly interdependent relationships that are developing within the human community. This foundation requires one course.


Competencies are a set of practical abilities, at a specified level of performance, which enable individuals to function and adapt in a diverse and changing world. Briar Cliff students must prove to their academic department that they are competent at critical thinking, oral communication, writing, quantitatve literacy, reading and information technology.


The Service Component consists of activities that help students to develop a lifelong willingness to contribute to the communities in which they live and a sense of their responsibility and relationship to those communities. Academic departments will define the service component for their majors and determine if students have fulfilled this requirement. The minimum requirements must include either a 10-hour service project or a service-learning experience.


To introduce students to the University's heritage as a Franciscan institute of higher learning, Briar Cliff requires all students to take one of the courses from our "Franciscan Life" series (CORE 100/101/110). These courses provide students with a basic understanding of who St. Francis of Assisi was, what he stood for, and what the founding principles of his order are. Traditional first-year students, as well as students transferring in with less than 30 credits will need to take either CORE 100 or 101. Students transferring in with 30 credits or more may opt to take Core 110. 


Kendra Kersting at The Cliff

"I really enjoyed my time here. I encourage people to try new things and get out of their comfort zone," she said. "I'm so glad I stayed and it was because of the people here."

Kendra Kersting

Environmental Science and History