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Hope College's Senior Seminar is the only upper-division requirement in the general education curriculum. As at other institutions, students ordinarily take core courses before completing work on an academic major, but Hope's Senior Seminar is designed as a capstone course and is therefore required late in a student's undergraduate career.

The specific purpose of the Senior Seminar is to confront questions of value. Emphasizing neither a specific methodology nor specific course content, the Seminar is distinct from other courses in raising fundamental questions about human values■what they are, how they are formed, and how and why we become committed to them.

Moreover, these questions are not considered abstractly but in regard to each student's own life and choices. In keeping with the mission of Hope College, the Senior Seminar encourages an examination of value commitments in the context of the Christian faith, though faith commitment is neither required nor assumed of any particular student.

Faculty members who teach the Seminar come from a wide variety of disciplines and approach their task in widely different ways. A member of the religion department, for example, teaches a seminar on medical ethics; a physical education professor teaches a course called "Ethical Issues in Sports"; a professor in the math department teaches a seminar called "Infinity and the Absolute" that was recently recognized for its excellence by the Templeton Foundation.

Despite this variety, continuity is encouraged and maintained. Two key ingredients are required in each seminar: an emphasis on discussion and a "life view" paper. Sections are small (normally no more than twenty students) in order to facilitate discussion, and faculty members elicit questions, encourage reflection, and require student presentations. Dialogue between students, as well as with the professor, is a substantive aspect of learning in the Senior Seminar.

The "life view" paper is a substantial essay that each student must write as the culmination of the course. This essay must be thoughtful and well reasoned, but it must also be personal. Reflecting on an entire undergraduate career, as well as the content and discussions of the particular seminar, the life view paper requires students to articulate their own sense of value and how and why they have come to have that sense.

Faculty members who teach the Senior Seminar maintain common purpose and camaraderie in two ways. First, they meet frequently (about once a month) for discussion on a common topic. Usually dinner meetings, these gatherings often focus on an all-campus lecture by a visiting speaker, who is also invited to the meeting. Second, every three years faculty members attend a three-week renewal workshop. Designed as a Senior Seminar for faculty members, these workshops focus on common readings, dialogue with invited speakers, intensive discussion, and the writing of a life view paper by participants.