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Adrian, Michigan – Today, when career education is getting more and more attention, Siena Heights continues to act on the conviction that the base of a liberal arts education prepares the whole person to be about his or her purpose in our world, in whatever career that purpose unfolds, from a solid and holistic approach.
This preparation of the whole person occurs in various ways throughout the university, from service and social growth opportunities in student engagement, to participation in times of spirituality, prayer and reflection in campus ministry, to the building of skills and self-discipline on the athletic courts and fields, to the development of understanding a variety of aspects of our world in course related activities. This report focuses on course related activities, and some unique activities that Siena presents to its students.
The late professor Tim Leonard, who taught political science and geography, often said that a liberal arts education should answer the questions, “Who am I? Where am I? Why am I here?” Adequate answers to these questions require integrating insights from a variety of disciplines.
Siena’s four core seminars invite students to reflect on those questions through the lens of the Dominican pillars. First-year students take the course “Diversity in Community.” Sophomores address “Inquiry and Truth.” Juniors take on the exploration of “Contemplation and Action,” while seniors take on the challenge of “Justice and Peace.”
Additionally, Siena invites its students to discipline-integrating activities on two stop days each year. In this context, a stop day means that classes are not held during the day so that students and faculty may participate in the cross-disciplinary events.
The first stop day is Common Dialogue Day, when an integrating theme is explored from the various disciplines that students study at Siena. This year the theme was justice – marking the first year that the senior seminar on “Justice and Peace” was taught. The keynote speaker was Bryan Stevenson, author of the book Just Mercy that the first-year students had read over the summer.
The keynote was followed by a number of breakout sessions in which faculty and students were invited to “cross disciplines” to consider what we learn about justice from philosophy and science, from the arts and business. Often the facilitators who present and kick off a dialogue are faculty members, but in recent years, groups of students have taken on this task as well.
Last year, under the leadership of Dr. Julie Barst, Siena instituted a day-long Research Symposium. Nearly every undergraduate major at Siena requires that students present a senior project. At the Symposium, following a keynote speaker, students present their projects in breakout sessions and poster presentations.
Last April, the keynote, “Dissent and the First Amendment in the Twenty-first Century,” was presented by Dr. Ann Larabee. Seniors in off-campus or online classes were encouraged to post their work online so that others could view it as well. The student work was impressive. Both morning and afternoon poster sessions were held in Benincasa, since there was not enough room to accommodate all the posters at once. The student-faculty and student-student discussions were quite lively and invited students to look at issues from disciplines other than their own.
Interested? This year’s symposium is scheduled for Wednesday, April 20.