Thursday, April 21, 2011

Collegiate seminar Roman, Christian & Early Medieval Thought

Collegiate seminar

In addition to these general education courses, students must take four Collegiate Seminar or Great Books courses. Although modeled after the academic programs at St. John's College, this program is unique to Saint Mary's College in that only the four courses are required, and that they are integrated into all majors of study (including non-liberal arts majors such as business and science). The four courses must be taken in order, two freshmen year, and the other two during the sophomore, junior or senior years. These classes deal with the most important literature and philosophy of the time, and are meant to include discussion of the text rather than lecture. Most notably, all teachers, even those who generally teach subjects far from literature and philosophy, teach seminar classes. Since all professors teach seminar, one criticism of the program is that the experience varies widely depending on the teacher. Some are prone to lecture even during discussions and dominate the conversation, while others will remain silent even if the students are not discussing the text. However, the program's advocates argue that Collegiate Seminar encourages students to ask questions about the texts rather than rely on professors to dictate information, and teaches them to logically articulate their thoughts and ideas more than students who do not go through such a program. There have also been discussions for decades about whether the program is too focused on western civilization.
Below are the four seminars and a sampling of some of the texts read:
Greek Thought
  • The Odyssey
  • Lysistrata by Aristophanes
  • Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
  • Several dialogues by Plato including Plato's Republic, Meno and The Apology.
  • Nichoma chean Ethics by Aristotle
  • Poetry by Sappho
  • Propositions by Euclid
  • Euripides V
  • Sophocles I
  • Aeschylus
Roman, Christian & Early Medieval Thought
  • The Aeneid of Virgil
  • The Nature of Things by Lucretius
  • Dante's Inferno
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Confessions by St. Augustine
  • Say I Am You by Rumi
  • Epictetus
  • Lucretius
Renaissance Thought
  • The Prince by Machiavelli
  • Don Quixote
  • On Christian Liberty by Martin Luther
  • Emma by Jane Austin
  • The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare
  • Second Treatise of Government by John Locke
  • Discourse on Inequality by Rousseau
  • Discourse on Method by Rene Descartes
  • Candide by Voltaire
  • Answer/La Repuesta by Delacruz
Modern Thought
  • Wage-Labor and Capital by Karl Marx
  • The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • The Uses of Knowledge by John Henry Newman
  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  • Nature Walking by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau
  • Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Integral program is a major at Saint Mary's College that incorporates the Seminar method for all of its classes, modeled almost completely after St. John's College. It is a four year program, with students unable to enter Integral after freshman year. Instead of just taking four classes integrated as part of the general education, Integral majors' entire curriculum, including subjects not traditionally related to the "classics," is done in the Seminar style. For example, math is taught through reading and discussing Euclid and Galileo, rather than actually completing numerical problem sets. In addition, the Seminar portion of the program, while twice as long (eight semesters vs. four), moves much more quickly and covers more material than the traditional Seminar program. The program does not have any tests, and students average 100-200 pages of reading per night.
Because of the small number of students, those students who are in the program remain with the same class for their entire four years. While many students enjoy the uniqueness of the program and the intimate class setting, others find that either the isolation of the program from the rest of the campus (aside from a small number of electives that are allowed, Integral majors take classes only with other Integral majors, and only Integral students take Integral classes, which are all taught by a small number of exclusively Integral professors) or the intense focus on the classics are not for them. These students may transfer after their sophomore year to another major, with almost all of their general education requirements fulfilled.
While the Integral program is housed in the School of Liberal Arts and Integral majors receive a Bachelor of Arts degree, integral students graduate separately from the other Liberal Arts majors and are the last students to receive their diplomas during the commencement ceremony. Many students go on to graduate school for pre-med or pre-law studies.
January Term, or Jan Term for short, is a unique academic session in which during the month of January students are required to take one class and encouraged to take one outside their major. Jan Term classes are more intensive than a normal fall or spring class. Instead of meeting two or three times a week, they meet four times a week for two hours and 30 minutes, and students must take four Jan Term classes to graduate. This differs from many colleges at which January Term or "Intersession" is optional. Each year, a committee meets to determine the year's Jan Term theme, and the process includes a vote of the final three selections by the community. Classes during Jan Term range from Shakespeare to Star Trek, and students have the option to travel abroad for their January class. There are also optional quarter credit classes for Jan Term and during the semesters, such as digital photography or weight training.

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