College Seminar: The Quest for Meaning

3 credits

 

Description

The College Seminar is an introduction to college-level academic study though a multidisciplinary examination of a topic of enduring human significance. Each seminar prepares students for subsequent academic work by emphasizing development of critical reading and reasoning skills, argumentation, information literacy, and academic research. Attention is also given to cultivating an appreciation for intellectual virtues that are characteristic of a person educated in the liberal arts, such as curiosity, open-mindedness, creativity, perseverance, and independent thinking. Several seminars are also thematically linked to another requirement of the Core Curriculum, creating a shared two-course learning community. Collectively, the seminar and learning community enable deep study of a perennial issue, sustained interaction with peers and professors, and practice in making connections across courses.

Quest for Community

“Community” is ubiquitous. We speak of local and regional communities, of national and global communities, of ethnic and religious and political communities, of physical and virtual communities. The term’s prevalence, of course, reflects its deep conceptual importance in our lives. How do communities provide us with a sense of belonging—to neighborhood, school, church, nation, organization, profession, and so on?  How do various communities answer our lifelong quest to be accepted, to interact and forge relationships? How do communities influence the way we learn values and strengthen beliefs? How do communities both foster and limit our ability to develop independent identities? What is our proper role in the community? How do we exercise both dependence on and responsibility to others? While sections will vary, each will consider the complex roles that communities play in our everyday lives.

Quest for Identity

“Who am I?” is a fundamental question we begin asking ourselves at a very early age. How we answer it is influenced by a myriad of variables, including gender, age, social class, religion, occupation, ethnicity, and nationality. How do these variables shape who we are and what we become? What elements of our identity are beyond our control? What elements are the result of affiliations and designations that we freely choose?  How do the questions of identity drive human behavior, choices, and self-perception? Why are questions about identity often so ambiguous and difficult to answer definitively?  Sections of this seminar will vary topically, but all will consider the complexity of understanding one’s identity and how it gets formed.  

Quest for Love 

It’s been said that love is the most powerful force in the universe. It is a consistent theme in literature and art and has been debated in every imaginable context, from the theological or philosophical to the biological or psychological. The pervasiveness of this enigmatic concept throughout cultures and across time illustrates its conceptual importance to our lives. But what is love, exactly? How does romantic love differ from what we feel for parents, children, siblings, friends, and neighbors? What does it mean to love a nation, nature or God? What human behaviors can be justified by love? How does love contribute to the decisions we make? This seminar examines our quest to feel, find, and understand love in context with ourselves and our local and global communities.   

Quest for Truth

Human beings are, at their very core, thinking creatures. We inevitably form ideas about the way things really are, about what the truth is. What, if anything, do we know? By what means and methods do we know what we know? Through personal experience? Through the systematic empirical observation and hypothesis construction encouraged by scientific disciplines? Through intuition? Through philosophical investigation, theological reflection, or artistic inspiration? In our pursuit of the truth, how often are we forced, despite our strong desire for certainty, to settle for--instead of well-grounded confidence--(modestly) reasonable beliefs, or even (half) guesses? When we form our beliefs, must we do so only on the basis of evidence? Or is it sometimes permissible to believe something because of the advantages it brings? What is the psychology or sociology of belief? That is, how does the pursuit of truth function within a person or within a group? One or several such questions will be the focus of a College Seminar course categorized as "Quest for Truth."    

Quest for Beauty 

We call many things beautiful—a sunset, a turn of phrase, a dance, a face. But what exactly is beauty? How is it to be defined? Is it only “in the eye of the beholder”? Is beauty determined solely by cultural standards in a given time and place, or are there universal, timeless standards upon which all cultures would agree? Can beauty be measured mathematically or scientifically? How can intangible things—a life, for example—be beautiful?  And why are we so drawn to beauty? What is the connection between beauty, love, and truth? Why do we describe encounters with beauty as transcendent and sublime? Should we resist certain notion of beauty? How, for example, is a critique of certain ideals of beauty a critique of power? Courses under this category will explore a section of the conversation about beauty, addressing a range of different notions of the beautiful, as well as the experience of beauty. 

Course Contacts

  • Dr. Neal Bukeavich, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of Arts and Sciences
  • Dr. James Wallace, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences
  • Dr. Regan Reitsma, Professor of Philosophy

Master Syllabi

Communication and Creative Expression

12 credits, 4 courses

 

Description

Courses in this group—Writing, Oral Communication, Literature, and Arts—are designed to cultivate a student’s capacity to appreciate, analyze, and engage the human experience in its diverse creative forms.  In some courses, students will develop their capacities to move, educate, convince, and entertain audiences; tell their own stories; reflect on their learning; discover and reveal attitudes and feelings; defend beliefs, opinions, and interpretations; and contribute in diverse, creative, and meaningful ways to the lives of those with whom they live and work. Other courses will develop students’ abilities to identify and analyze the formal and thematic features of a variety of artistic and literary works and to explain how the creation and reception of those works was influenced by aesthetic, cultural, historical, and social factors. All of the courses in this category will develop students’ ability to use methods of human expression—to invent, design, write, speak, and perform—in creative and effective ways.  In short, the courses in this group will help students probe for deeper understanding and meaning in the cultural works they encounter and to create meaning through their own artistic works and their written and spoken communication. To complete the requirement for this group, students take one course from each of the following four categories.

Writing

A student educated in the liberal arts must be able to express ideas clearly and effectively in writing. As a creative art, writing shapes experiences into knowledge and is therefore essential to the development of the mature and socially responsible person. As a facet of effective communication, writing is also a practical art, one that society respects and regards as necessary for success in all careers and professions. The academic writer communicates purpose and meaning in writing that is organized, coherent, and developed through rhetorical methods such as description, comparison/contrast, argument, and cause-effect analysis. Good, clear writing is grammatically sound and free of errors in usage and mechanics. The requirement in writing is met in ENGL 110: Academic Writing. Some students may be required to take an extended, two-semester version of writing instruction, which begins with ENGL 105: Composition. Course descriptions can be found in the English section of the College Catalog.

Oral Communication

Oral presentation skills provide enlightened citizens with essential tools for cultural survival and always have. The educated citizen should be able to assimilate, deliberate and articulate ideas, beliefs and experiences in a clear and affecting manner. To this end, a course in public speaking provides foundational training for the liberal arts student. Effective oral communication is more than learning to speak publicly, however. It encompasses understanding of and training in a variety of skills applicable to communicating intelligently in contexts both public and private, on matters of both individual and collective concern. At King’s, these skills include, but are not limited to, developing pointed purpose statements, strategically organizing messages, validating messages with substantive support, effectively wording messages, outlining messages for effective execution, delivering messages with confidence, and accurately analyzing the messages of others. The Oral Communications requirement is met by taking COMM 101: Oral Communication. A course description can be found in the Mass Communication section of the College Catalog.

Literature

We read literature for a variety of reasons. Literary texts provide reflections on cultural values and concerns, windows into the past, and a chance to escape or to confront the troubles of our lives. Through literature we can analyze human actions and motivations and meditate on our common humanity and the world we share. In literature we also find the epitome of artistic expression and models for our own writing. Short stories, novels, plays, poems, and essays invite us to exercise our imaginations and our capacity to feel and to empathize. By studying such texts, we deepen our ability to understand and to experience life on a range of intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic levels. Courses in this category will introduce students to the genres of poetry, fiction, and drama with emphasis on improving students’ interpretative skills and capacities for critical self-reflection. English courses numbered 140-149 will fulfil the requirement for Literature. Course descriptions can be found in the English section of the College Catalog.

The Arts

The arts—a diverse range of human activities, creations, and expressions that appeal to the senses or emotions—are important constituents of human culture. Vital to a liberal arts education, studying the seven lively arts—architecture, painting, sculpture, dance, drama, music, and literature—provides students with not just a deeper understanding and appreciation for the intrinsic value of creative expression, but also with an opportunity to more fully explore the experiences, concerns, desires, and emotions shared by the human community. Studying the arts has practical implications as well, since success in many professional fields relies in part on the dispositions that studying the arts can provide: a deeper sense of empathy, for example, or a stronger desire to create and sustain beauty in the world. In short, studying the arts can give students tools for making a more productive and satisfying life. Arts courses numbered 100 and 149 will fulfill the requirement for The Arts. Course descriptions can be found in the "Non-Departmental Core Courses" section of the College Catalog.

Course Contacts

Writing

  • Dr. Jennifer McClinton-Temple, English Department Chairperson

Oral Communication

  • Dr. Scott Weiland, Mass Communications Department Chairperson

Literature

  • Dr. Jennifer McClinton-Temple, English Department Chairperson

Arts

  • Mr. Dave Reynolds, Theatre Department Chairperson

Master Syllabi

Citizenship

6-9 credits, 2-3 courses

Description

Courses in the Citizenship group promote critical awareness and engagement with today’s complex global issues. These courses emphasize the study of the world through its history, cultural diversity, and contemporary economic, political, and social contexts. Language instruction and study abroad experiences help students bridge academic study with the skills and habits of mind needed to face the challenges of our increasingly interdependent world. The aim of the group is to foster social responsibility in our students and prepare them to act in service to the common good. Students completing this group should have an enhanced sense of their identity as citizens of a global community. Completing this group requires a course in History, a course in Global Connections, and an Intercultural Competence experience, which includes either a global languages course or a qualified study abroad.

History

Courses is the history category are designed to give students a broad-based introduction to the subjects and practices of history. These courses develop skills essential to contemporary global citizenship. History fosters engagement with diverse perspectives, encourages critical analysis of complex and competing sources, develops empathy, and builds careful and effective argumentation. History courses offered in this category of the core are introductions to various fields of historical study. These courses emphasize engagement with and interpretation of primary historical texts alongside modern historical studies. Students will build understandings of change over time, the importance of historical context, and causal factors influential in historical development. History courses numbered 100 to 149 will fulfill the requirement for this Core category. Course descriptions can be found in the History section of the College Catalog.

Global Connections

Global connections courses engage students in a critical study of the interdependent nature of the global system and the consequences of this interdependence for local and global communities, past and present. The courses in this category will prepare students to move from global awareness to global citizenship, challenging them to consider their responsibility to the common good. Courses will be sorted into two investigative tracks, historical and social scientific, which emphasize varied approaches—quantitative and qualitative analysis, social theory, historical inquiry, analysis of primary and secondary sources, etc.—to historical and contemporary issues. Through these analyses, students will come to understand the contours and complexities of active citizenship on local and global scales. Courses in this category are offered in several departments--Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, and Sociology--and are numbered 150 to 199. Course descriptions can be found in the relevant sections of the College Catalog

Intercultural Competence

A student who develops college-level intercultural competency can engage with members of various cultures in a productive and sensitive manner. Interaction with others is the foundational principle of both choices in this category of the Core—Global Languages and Cultures, and Study Abroad. Both selections provide opportunities for developing the dispositions needed to face the challenges of an increasingly interdependent world.

The Languages and Cultures courses integrate language instruction with the study of culture. Through interactive speaking exercises, reading and listening in the target language, and comparisons between the student´s native culture and the cultures studied in the course, students will expand their communicative abilities in the target language, enhance their appreciation of the cultures studied, explore the relationships between local and global concerns and develop greater intercultural competency. Qualifying courses include FRENCH 101 to 105, GERMAN 101 to 105, and SPANISH 101 to 115. Course descriptions can be found in the Foreign Language section of the College Catalog.

The second option in this category builds intercultural competency in the context of an approved Study Abroad program. Through interaction with citizens of the target culture and a variety of immersive cultural experiences, students learn to listen well, to interpret cultural realities, and to act appropriately and effectively with that understanding. This direct engagement with the target culture is accompanied by course work conducted before, during, and after the trip that teaches students to process and critically reflect upon their experience to develop their intercultural competency. For more information, see Study Abroad in the Academic Services section of the College Catalog.

Course Contacts

History

  • Dr. Nicole Mares, History Department Chairperson

Global Connections

  • Dr. Beth Admiraal, Political Science Department Chairperson

Intercultural Competence

  • Dr. Anne Massey, Foreign Languages Department Chairperson
  • Ms. Margaret Kowalski, Study Abroad Director

Master Syllabi

Quantitative and Scientific Reasoning

12 credits, 4 courses

Description

Courses in this group prepare King’s graduates to be scientifically literate members of society.  Over time, the quest for truth and understanding has led inquisitive people to ponder questions about the physical world and to discover – through the process of hypothesis, experiment, and observation – the rules, both simple and complex, that govern natural phenomena.  In this vein, the overarching goals of the courses within this group are to inspire students to be curious about the world around them and to provide the mathematical and analytical tools necessary to draw sound conclusions from observations and evidence. From the study of the matter in the universe, the organization of matter into complex living organisms and ecosystems, and the effects of human behavior and organization on the physical world and each other, students will ultimately form connections between the governing principles of scientific inquiry and our human experience within the natural world. The foundational knowledge developed in the Quantitative and Scientific Reasoning group will enable students to identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and to utilize their skills of quantitative and scientific analysis to respond in meaningful and ethically responsible ways to issues of contemporary importance to society. To complete the requirement for this group, students take one course from each of the following four categories.

Quantitative Reasoning

A person educated in the liberal arts should appreciate both the beauty and utility of mathematics. Studying mathematics increases the intellectual sophistication of students by engaging them in rigorous thought, increasing the aptitude for dealing with abstraction, fostering the ability to approach problems creatively, and requiring precise communication of ideas. As a result, mathematics contributes significantly to a liberal arts education by enhancing the ability of students to learn how to learn. In addition, it has become imperative in a society grown more and more quantitative for the well-educated person to have a deeper understanding of mathematics. No matter one’s primary field of study, a college student will be confronted in school and beyond with arguments and decisions that are rooted in mathematics. It is thus essential for students to enhance both their understanding of how mathematics plays a role in everyday life and their overall perception of mathematics as a discipline. The requirement in Quantitative Reasoning is met through MATH 120: Mathematical Ideas. A course description can be found in the Mathematics section of the College Catalog. Some students may be required to take an additional math course, Math 100, which counts as elective credit.

The Scientific Endeavor

While every educated person may not be a scientist, he or she must have enough knowledge of the scientific method and of fundamental concepts of the natural sciences to understand and make informed decisions affecting both private and public issues of health and the environment. In the Scientific Endeavor course, students will examine the empirical methods scientists use to gain knowledge about the world and how this knowledge shapes our human experience. The course offers a study of the scientific approach, its limitations, and what distinguishes science from other approaches to understanding the world.  Students will learn how scientific observations and data become accepted scientific theories, how controversies are settled, and how science and scientists retain credibility and authority. The Scientific Endeavor requirement is met through NSCI 100: The Scientific Endeavor. A course description can be found in the "Non-Departmental Core Courses" section of the College Catalog.

Science in Context

In the Science in Context courses, students will have the opportunity to build upon their existing scientific knowledge. Courses in this category may offer students a broad introduction to an unfamiliar discipline or may provide a detailed topical investigation into a more familiar one. The Science in Context course teaches students to explore new areas of scientific knowledge, to draw connections with other academic disciplines, especially within the Core Curriculum, to examine contemporary issues and topics, and to evaluate how science shapes our everyday lives. Science in Context course descriptions can be found in the "Non-Departmental Core Courses" section of the College Catalog.

Human Behavior and Social Institutions

Knowledge of the substance, motivation, and consequences of both individual and collective human behavior is essential to the person educated in the liberal arts. No educated person can hope to comprehend the complexity of contemporary society without some understanding of how that society is organized and how its various components relate to one another. Courses in Human Behavior and Social Institutions will increase students’ systematic understanding both of themselves as functioning human beings and of their individual similarities to and differences from others. Courses will enhance students’ understanding of the nature and significance of their conscious experience and will help them recognize the forces that shape their interpersonal attachments and interactions. Each course offered in Human Behavior and Social Institutions will introduce students to the goals, methods, theories, and research findings associated with disciplines within the social sciences, which includes economics, geography, political science, psychology, and sociology. Courses in this category are offered in several departments--Economics, Geography, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology--and are numbered 150 to 199. Course descriptions can be found in the relevant sections of the College Catalog.

Course Contacts

Quantitative Reasoning

  • Dr. Weiwei Zhang, Mathematics Department Chairperson

The Scientific Endeavor

  • Dr. Kristi Concannon, Physics Program Director

Science in Context

  • Dr. Kristi Concannon, Physics Program Director

Human Behavior and Social Institutions

  • Dr. Valerie Kepner, Economics Department Chairperson

Master Syllabi

Wisdom, Faith and the Good Life

12 credits, 4 courses

Description

How do faith and reason help us to know what is good and true? What does faith have to offer reason, and what does reason have to offer faith? Faith opens new horizons for reason, and reason challenges faith to greater understanding and refinement. Theology is the free, rigorous, and methodological study of God’s self-revelation in the person of Jesus Christ encountered in community. Philosophy is the free, rigorous, and methodical use of logic and argument in search of truth. The courses in this group introduce students to the experience of doing philosophy and theology, both where they converge and where they diverge. The experience of doing philosophy well is of discovering new, surprising, wonderful, and sometimes baffling depths and complexities to existence, our lives, and our beliefs. The aim of theology is the good life as informed by the critical study of sacred scripture, the lives and ideas of people who search for God, and the moral investigation of the personal and common good. Theology integrates the methods of many disciplines such as philosophy, history, literature, and science. This group plays a special role in the Catholic mission of King’s College to transform minds and hearts with zeal in communities of hope. To complete the requirement for this group, students take one course from each of the following four categories.

Introduction to Philosophy

Philosophy is the attempt to answer, through rational reflection, the deepest and most fundamental questions of human existence. What is the meaning of life? How can people achieve true happiness and fulfillment? Does God exist? What do we mean by God? Why should we be moral? How should we decide what is right? Are people really free? Do humans have souls, or are we just physically complex organisms? What is a soul? Is there life after death? What can we know and how can we know it? This course invites students to critically reflect on these and other perennial issues through contemporary and historical texts. PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophy fulfills the requirement for this category. A description can be found in the Philosophy section of the College Catalog.

Philosophical Investigations

An exploration of one or more of the main areas of philosophy: ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, political philosophy, or aesthetics. The courses offered in this category are intended to build upon the introductions to the main areas of philosophy that students receive in the first philosophy course. There is no prerequisite for courses in this category, but PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophy is strongly recommended. Philosophy courses numbered 170 to 199 will fulfill the requirement for Philosophical Investigations. Course descriptions can be found in the Philosophy section of the College Catalog.

Theology and Wisdom

Theology is faith seeking understanding.  Seeking to understand faith means, on the one hand, carefully studying the foundational sources of Christianity as encountered in the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, and on the other hand exploring the living traditions of the Catholic and broader Christian community, traditions that change as histories and cultures change.  Theology courses will explore issues and questions of faith, introducing some of Christianity’s long history of such exploration, and engaging in dialogue with a variety of other perspectives, from the Jewish traditions from which Christianity sprang, to questions that arise from today’s global and interfaith world. Theology courses numbered 150-159 will fulfill the requirement for Theology and Wisdom. Course descriptions can be found in the Theology section of the College Catalog.

Theology and the Good Life

Moral Theology is the discipline of reflecting critically and constructively on the Christian way of life. Students are encouraged to engage with and examine the ways in which Christian beliefs and practices form and reform the imagination, language, and actions of believers, and to describe and judge the variety of ways in which the Christian way of life has contributed, or has failed to contribute, to making God’s reign present to the world. Theology courses numbered 150-159 will fulfill the requirement for Theology and the Good Life. Course descriptions can be found in the Theology section of the College Catalog.

Course Contacts

Introduction to Philosophy

  • Dr. William Irwin, Philosophy Department Chairperson

Philosophical Investigations

  • Dr. William Irwin, Philosophy Department Chairperson

Theology and Wisdom

  • Dr. Janice Thompson, Theology Department Chairperson

Theology and the Good Life

  • Dr. Janice Thompson, Theology Department Chairperson

Master Syllabi