All students enroll each year in liberal arts and sciences seminars, courses in which students consider multiple perspectives on personal, social, and philosophical issues by reading, discussing, and writing about the seminar topics. According to their class standing, students choose from a variety of seminars exploring the topics listed below.
- Freshman Seminar: The Examined Life (100 level)
- Sophomore Seminar: Life in Community (200 level)
- Junior Seminar: A Life’s Work (300 level)
- Senior Seminar: The Good Life (400 level)
While liberal arts and sciences seminars are taught by instructors from various disciplines representing alternative approaches to the general topics, they share several features. As seminars, they are courses in which students, led by an instructor, investigate problems, design projects, explore resources, and share findings. They are, that is, courses in which students learn with and from one another. The seminars are thematic. Building on each prior semester, they take as their departure point questions, problems, and issues that are both universal and urgent—questions, problems and issues that engage the whole person throughout life.
Because all seminars at each class level share a common general topic and a common text, they place at the center of students’ Dominican education a shared experience; they embody for students the distinctive community of learners they have joined.
Most important, the seminars are integrative. They help students see and articulate connections between information and ideas originating in other courses. They help students see and articulate connections between their course work and their lives beyond the classroom. They help students see and articulate connections between their own lives and the lives of others—past, present, and future—in the communities and, ultimately, the society to which they belong. And, as seminars, they place the individual student at the center of this activity of mind: the student, in the company of others, makes her or his education coherent.
Specifically, the seminars help students engage texts from diverse fields of study, connect ideas and experiences across contexts, assert a defensible response to the questions under consideration, communicate effectively in oral forms, and communicate effectively in writing.
Students will “take” from their seminars no more and no less than they “give” to them. By engaging actively the materials encountered and the ideas of classmates, by first informing themselves, then participating thoughtfully in class discussions, and by completing diligently their portion of the work of the group, students gain new information, new insights, and new perspectives. More important, though, is that they gain a “new” way to learn and new respect for the power of the mind that they will carry with them into their lives beyond the classroom.
LAS Seminar Learning Goals and Outcomes
As they engage texts (e.g. written, visual, oral, or experiential) from diverse fields of study, students will be able to
- identify and explain the main idea or ideas within the texts;
- discern distinct positions within the text or between and among texts; and
- make judgments about the text in relation to the guiding questions for each seminar level.
In connecting ideas and experiences across contexts, students will
- draw on relevant examples of personal experience to explore the guiding questions under consideration at each seminar level;
- demonstrate an awareness of diverse responses to the guiding questions for each seminar level; and
- make connections across disciplines in ways that illuminate the guiding questions at each seminar level.
To assert a defensible response to the guiding questions under consideration, students will
- articulate a clear response;
- situate one’s response in relation to others’ responses; and
- defend the rationale for one’s responses.
To communicate effectively in oral forms, students will
- demonstrate attentiveness to the oral contributions of others;
- contribute to discussions in ways that build upon or synthesize the ideas of others; and
- foster a constructive class climate.
To communicate effectively in writing, students will
- articulate a clear, specific, and complex thesis in response to the questions;
- support the thesis with appropriate evidence; and
- demonstrate correct syntax and mechanics.
Seminar Themes, Guiding Questions, and Common Texts:
Freshman Seminars: The Examined Life
Freshman seminars begin the process of examining one’s life and take as a focal point these fundamental questions:
- What is the self?
- Who am I? How did I become who I am? Who will I be in the world?
- What does it mean to live mindfully and reflectively? What helps and hinders that process?
Common text: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Living Buddha, Living Christ
Sophomore Seminars: Life in Community
The central questions raised in all sophomore seminars are:
- How are personal identity and group membership interrelated?
- What are the causes and effects of inequality among and within groups?
- What does it mean to live in diverse communities and cultures?
Common text: Diana Eck’s Encountering God
Junior Seminars: A Life’s Work
Although the topics that serve as departure points for individual junior seminars vary widely, all seminars have in common a systematic exploration of the following questions:
- What is the place of work in the life of the individual and in society?
- How do technology and leisure shape our lives?
- What part does making a living play in making a life?
Common text: Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition
Senior Seminars: The Good Life
In the senior seminar, students take up the questions:
- What does it mean to be good, to lead a good life?
- How does one reconcile self-interest with a sense of social responsibility?
Common text: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics