North Central students at Naperville train station

Cardinal Directions: Curriculum Reimagined

An innovative approach to the General Education Curriculum

There are no two college students that are exactly alike, and neither are their paths to graduation. That’s why North Central College created Cardinal Directions, a revolutionary approach to the General Education Curriculum that puts your journey through college in your hands.

Cardinal Directions Compass

Find your path

As part of Cardinal Directions, you will select one of eight iCons, or interdisciplinary connections, which will guide you through a series of engaging, inspiring and vigorous courses, every one of which will center on an idea or topic that you are passionate about. Want to protect the planet for future generations? Become a true citizen of the world? Break down divisions between people? Whatever your calling might be, your chosen iCon will serve as a centerpiece of your undergraduate experience.

students walking around campus

Building a foundation for exploration

Along the way, you’ll go beyond your iCon to learn and participate in the community. You’ll conduct research, intern, work and design your own capstone project. You’ll gain essential skills in the liberal arts, study the places in your life that mean something to you as well as your place in them, learn how to maintain physical and emotional wellness, and participate in high-impact practices that make the most of your college experience.

Students sitting around table in classroom

Fulfill your ambitions

Cardinal Directions will make you a curious, thoughtful, ethical student—and your majors and minors will take you the rest of the way to fulfilling your ambition. At North Central College, we recognize that an undergraduate degree should not be about checking requirements off a list. These years are about finding your passion, awakening your drive to learn and readying you to make an impact in a dynamic world. So chart your own course. We’ll provide the map.

students stuyding online

Students studying on campus

iCons: Interdisciplinary Connections


students walking around campus

Why We Created Cardinal Directions

Supplemental Experiences 

North Central College strongly encourages you to engage in additional opportunities outside the classroom during your college career. These include studying away, traveling during May term as part of a course and completing service-learning trips and internships. Learning in these contexts will broaden your mind and introduce you to new perspectives, illuminating the lessons you'll take from Cardinal Directions. Contact your advisor to learn more about these opportunities and find out which ones are right for you.

Student volunteering abroad


There are a myriad of ways you can approach your general education experience here at North Central College. We are happy to provide you with outlines, course options, and iCon frameworks that will assist you in getting the most out of your education.

North Central College Old Main Entrance sign "Be Central"