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Freshman Seminars

Freshman Seminars: The Examined Life

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
-Socrates in Plato’s Apology

The freshman seminars introduce the search for meaning by examining the life of the individual, or what we sometimes call the “self.”

What are the key influences on a person’s development? How does “the self” interact with a community?

In the first semester, all freshmen take a freshman seminar, each designed around this common theme. Your seminar professor will also serve as your academic advisor, helping you to make wise choices about your course of learning in your first year.

Your freshman seminar will introduce you to a wide range of materials from a variety of academic disciplines. Because the course is a seminar, which emphasizes class participation, you will be expected not just to “absorb” the materials presented but, working with others, to forge connections—to discover links among your own experiences and insights, the experiences and perspectives of other students, and the worlds of meaning you will encounter in assigned texts. To foster intellectual development, you will be given many opportunities to write about what you learn and to share your discoveries, informally through class discussion and formally through class presentations.

All freshman seminars cover the theme "the examined life." But of course life - your life, any life - may be examined from various angles. So each seminar is distinctive in its design or subtheme. The seminar in which you are placed may, for example, have as its special focus the self in relation to social media or music, the quest for truth exemplified by Socrates or other great searchers, the "inner" life in relation to one's "outer" life, the "rites of passage" on life's journey, or the relationship of what we do to who we are.

But whatever seminar you find yourself in when classes begin, certain enduring questions to be explored with others will be the same. The common text for all freshman LAS seminars, Thich Nhat Hanh's Living Buddha, Living Christ, enhances this common intellectual experience for first-year students. As befits the theme "the examined life," the author will invite one and all to be ever "mindful" - mindful about your seminar experience, mindful about your Dominican education, mindful about your life.

Portfolio Development

All freshman will be placed into a Freshman Seminar for Fall 2014. Would you like to enroll in a Freshman Seminar that includes an additional 1-credit course that helps you collect your best work, connect your in-class and out-of class learning, and develop a portfolio that tells others who you are, what you can do, and where you are going? The course would meet one hour each week and is described below.

ID 190 Portfolio Development (1 credit, meets 1 hour per week)

For first-year students seeking to build and maintain a portfolio of their work at Dominican, with particular attention to integrating learning across courses and over time. Students enrolled in the course will reflect on their academic and co-curricular experiences at Dominican, and connect ideas, theories, and methods encountered in multiple courses. At the end of this course, students will have assembled a portfolio of their best work, which may be developed in their subsequent years in college and, ultimately, shared with others (potential employers, graduate admissions committees, etc.).

Freshman Honors Seminars: Thoughts and Passions

Anchored in a reading of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, the Freshman Honors Seminars explore the complexity of thought as it is impacted by our passions and how passion can be impacted by thought.

This choice of texts reflects the theme of “Thoughts and Passions” which is the first in the sequence of seminar themes, followed in the sophomore year by “Human Being and Citizen,” and in the junior year by “Human Being and Natural Being.” Seniors read King Lear and Job to explore the themes of “Wisdom and Power.” Taken together, these seminars prepare us for the diverse perspectives that influence our lived experiences.

You will be placed into a Freshman Honors Seminar, which is only open to students admitted to the honors program.

These seminars serve as a window into other exciting aspects of the Honors Program, including the opportunity to study with world famous scholars who hold the Lund-Gill Chair, and a chance to work one-to-one on research with your professors in your field of study, the options of honors courses in areas that meet core curriculum requirements, and social and cultural events drawing upon Chicago’s best theaters, concerts, and museums.