/ General Education

Senior Seminar

Senior Seminar is a unique and essential part of a Hope education. As the milestone of graduation approaches, senior students gather in interdisciplinary seminars and forge communities devoted to the exploration of their beliefs, values, worldviews and life goals.

In the four-credit Senior Seminar, you’ll ponder questions such as:

  • What is a good life and how do I achieve it?
  • What does it mean to be a lifelong learner?
  • What are my abiding beliefs and convictions and how can I live them out?
  • What is my worldview?
  • How can I make a difference in the world?

Professors from across campus design and offer a range of fascinating and diverse seminars. Faculty will guide you as you bring together the life of the mind, the resources of faith, the lessons of experience and the critical practices of reading and reflection, discussion and writing. The catalog lists regularly offered Senior Seminars.

As the historic Christian faith is central to the mission of Hope College, so Senior Seminar explores how Christianity provides vital beliefs, vibrant virtues and a life-giving worldview. Throughout history and around the globe, believers, admirers, scholars and students have turned to the Christian faith for direction and insight. At the same time, Hope College affirms that faculty and students of the Liberal Arts can find valuable understanding and moral reckoning in all places and among all peoples in this world so loved by God. For this reason, the Senior Seminar often draws on many academic fields, varied forms of artistic expression and insights from daily life.

Indeed, every student, regardless of religious background, is an indispensable member of Hope College and the Senior Seminar. Every student brings to the course intellectual expertise and hard won life lessons. In fact, the Senior Seminar only succeeds when each student identifies deep yearnings, asks hard questions and renews personal integrity; when everyone both shares and gains wisdom. The examination and discussion of diverse viewpoints helps students to refine their own convictions even as they learn to comprehend, consider and evaluate perspectives different from their own.


In the Senior Seminar you will:

  • Articulate and explore
    • Christian ways of knowing and acting, living and learning 
    • Your commitments and convictions in conversation with the Christian faith
    • Your understanding of the diverse and life-giving purposes and perspectives by which people live
  • Deepen your ability to discuss your differences openly and sensitively, reasonably and honestly
  • Consider, discuss and develop your own philosophy of life and write about it in a compelling, coherent and disciplined manner

The director of the Senior Seminar program is Prof. Matthew DeJongh of the Department of Computer Science.

See the catalog for a full description of the Senior Seminar requirement.

Spring 2019 Course Descriptions

To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please use the Registrar’s course scheduler.

IDS 452.01 Education and Christian Ways of Living
As future teachers, you serve a long and intensive “apprenticeship of observation.” Since kindergarten, you have watched teachers do what you yourself will do. In addition, you have seen teachers portrayed in movies, plays, books and a variety of other mediums. Given these observations and portrayals, this seminar will explore thinking around the central question, “In whose image do you see yourself as a teacher and how does this impact your teaching?”  Related questions will revolve around contemporary images of teachers, as well as those that reflect power, spirituality, social justice, the life of the mind, vocation and teacher reform. In short, what is the image of “teacher” that you claim, and what do you aspire to? Note: All students taking Senior Seminar during the student teaching semester will take a section of IDS 452 – the seminar designed for this purpose. No other Senior Seminars may be taken during the student teaching semester.

IDS 452.02 Education and Christian Ways of Living
The focus of this Senior Seminar is to examine and understand the rewards and consequences of following a vocation, both generally and specifically as teachers. We will do this by reflecting on both readings and films. The centerpiece of our discussion will be the spirituality of teaching. How does our relationship with God shape our personal and professional journeys as individuals who believe we have been called to teach? Note: All students taking Senior Seminar during the student teaching semester will take a section of IDS 452 – the seminar designed for this purpose. No other Senior Seminars may be taken during the student teaching semester.

1DS 452.03 Education and Christian Ways of Living
In her bestselling children’s book Tale of Desperaux, Kate Dicamillo writes, “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.” Jonathan Auxier offers a different perspective. In his young adult novel, The Night Gardener, one of his characters reflects “A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens 'em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide.” Tim O’Brien, author of the Vietnam War memoir The Things They Carried, offers yet another perspective on story. He writes, “… story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth… That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth.” In this Senior Seminar, we will use “story” as a framing concept for our discussions about what shapes us as individuals and as a society. We’ll encounter and discuss a variety of stories throughout the semester — children’s picture books, young adult literature, memoirs, films — as a way of reflecting on the different purposes of storytelling, different ways of telling stories, criteria for evaluating stories and how stories can affirm or push against our own worldview beliefs. Note: All students taking Senior Seminar during the student teaching semester will take a section of IDS 452 – the seminar designed for this purpose. No other Senior Seminars may be taken during the student teaching semester.

IDS 492.01 The Art of Listening
Author Adam McHugh wrote, “The sort of people that we become is, in large part, determined by the voices that we choose to listen to.” In this class we will explore listening to the voices of both God and others and learn about the beauty and deep value of silence. We will engage in conversation over cups of tea, and we will listen deeply to the stories of others. Be prepared to check your phone at the door, enter with a curiosity for what you will hear and leave the class with a newfound attentiveness that allows you to, in the words of poet Mary Oliver, “every day see or hear something that more or less kills you with delight."

IDS 492.02 Sports and Ethics
What does it mean to act well? What does it mean to live a good life? And how does sport fit in to a good living? In this course we will examine these questions before analyzing ethical issues more specific to sport: circumstantial sportsmanship, performance-enhancing drugs, genetic engineering, gender/sexuality, sport on campus, commercialism and, most importantly, how Christians can and should engage with sport.

IDS 492.03 Faith & Friction in Literature
With Kafkaesque craftiness, I have metamorphosed earlier seminar topics into Faith & Friction in Fiction/Film/Nonfiction into a single course that explores novels, memoirs, short stories and films. Scary “F” words — fate, failure, foolishness, fear, friction — meet sacred “F” words — faith, family, friendship, freedom, forgiveness — in this course. Students of every belief and disbelief are welcome to examine issues of dogma and doubt, grace and good works, suffering and salvation, relativism and reconciliation. Many writers echo Christian beliefs, but some open doors into the riches of world religions. For every assumption, another challenge appears; for every answer, another question surfaces. Writers on the list of finalists are Frederick Buechner, Dorothy Day, Annie Dillard, Mahatma Gandhi, Graham Greene, Rhoda Janzen, Stephen King, Anne Lamott, Mary Doria Russell, Mark Salzman and Philip Yancey. Students will select the film options.

IDS 492.04 Bringing Hope to our World
This seminar will examine the writings of a variety of Christian authors who have linked together the topics of faith, service, learning and vocation. Authors such as Henri J.M. Nouwen, F. Buechner, Mother Theresa, Ronald Sider, John Schneider, Tony Campolo and others will be read and discussed. The course will require extensive reading. More importantly, the course will require active involvement in reflection and reaction to the material presented. Developing reflective skills will be a higher priority than memorizing content. This format will require you to be a thoughtful participant both in and out of class. We will use a format of large and small group discussions, presentations, readings and guest speakers to accomplish the objectives. Sensitivity to the views of all class members is a value to be nurtured in this format.

IDS 492.05 The Untethered Soul, A Journey
From viewing Alvin Ailey’s Revelations and his pictorial of African Americans to Francis Fukuyama’s written work, “Our Posthuman Future,” to Joss Whedon’s motion picture, Serenity. From science fiction to physical art, what can we discover while exploring the spectrum from disobedience to compliance and imagination to obligation in our world today? What are our responsibilities as we discover our life’s purpose? What role or service does faith, spirituality and religion have or not have in our lives? There will be some theoretical and physical activities or exercises designed to assist the student in clarifying their voice, exploring a path(s), to unearth their future self.

IDS 492.06 Leap of Faith
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” —Joseph C. Pearce. To step onto the field, the stage or into the arena (literally or metaphorically) subjects one to public judgment, comparison, and the possibility of failure or pain. One must learn to trust the self, the power of the practice and have faith. As a senior, you have been in training: Are you prepared to step on to the next stage of your life? In this course, discussions of experiences with shame, doubt and fear intersect with vulnerability, faith, love, forgiveness and curiosity, to better understand what it means to be a courageous, creative, resilient and faithful human. Students enrolled in this course should be prepared to move, play and explore.

IDS 492.07 Vocation and Health Care
This course is designed to explore what it means to think about the meaning of vocation (from the Latin vocare, to call) especially but not exclusively in the context of health care. Using the concept of vocation suggests several questions that might be addressed: What would it mean to be "called" as a care-giver or healer? How would health care be different if one approached it as a vocation than if one considered it simply a career? How does theology, spirituality and ethics become an integral part of the vocation to care for those who are sick? When we consider our vocation we do not only think about jobs. Our life is more than our work, and our sense of calling can inform all of life: our relationships, leisure, citizenship, use of natural resources and our service to the wider communities we live in. So, while we will often talk about vocation in the context of health care, we will also expand our considerations to the whole of our lives. The way we frame our questions and answers will unavoidably draw on the religious or philosophical perspectives we bring, so our topic is inescapably concerned with our worldviews. Throughout the course it is my intention that the class provide a safe and nurturing context in which each student can explore, clarify, verbalize and question his or her worldview.

IDS 492.08 Global Journeys: Identity and Community in Motion
How can we understand our own identities and our lives in community in an interconnected world shaped by the movement of people? What can we learn from travel? What does it mean be hospitable to those who journey to our communities? In this Senior Seminar we will explore these questions with writers whose lives, worldviews and faith have been shaped by global journeys. We will also use the Designing Your Life curriculum to think about next steps in building a life after Hope, wherever that may take us.

IDS 492.09 Memoir-izing Your Walk
Coming to the realization: “I am alive!” Surviving abject poverty and addiction in Ireland. Facing execution for hiding Jews in the Netherlands during WWII. Walking out of the Andes after being left for dead. Learning to live in harmony with nature in Appalachia. Escaping isolation and forced religion in Idaho. These (mostly) real-life events found in memoirs and memoir-esque pieces of literature (such as Dandelion Wine, Angela’s Ashes, The Hiding Place, Alive, The Education of Little Tree, and Educated) will provide this Senior Seminar with talking points. We’ll also use those conversations to inspire writing in response to our reading. Where does religion intersect with life? How does one navigate a faith walk? How can “writing one’s life” (inspired by a liberal arts education) enhance or clarify that walk? Students of every belief and disbelief are welcome to join this literature-inspired and writing-rich conversation.

IDS 492.10 Unpacking Study Abroad and Repacking for Global Citizenship
This Senior Seminar course will explore the study abroad experience in light of the Hope College global learning outcomes of curiosity, empathy, knowledge, responsibility and self-awareness. Our mission statement includes that Hope College will prepare students for lives of service and leadership in a global society. What does it mean to be a global citizen today? How has the study abroad experience helped to shape my worldview? How does faith influence my actions in my community, both locally and globally? Note: Reserved for students who have studied abroad.

IDS 492.11 Genocide & Reconciliation
The course will discuss (via the Genocide in Rwanda and other works) the concept of reconciliation and forgiveness in Rwandan society, our culture and our personal lives. We will focus on the need each of us has not to hold grudges or not to reconcile with others and forgive one another. We will be reading a book by Frederick Buchner and two books on Rwanda and its reconciliation and forgiveness of many of the people who committed genocide against the survivors by killing their family members and friends.

IDS 492.12, 13 Pilgrimage as Worldview
Human beings have sought meaning for their lives through transcendent experiences for thousands of years. The pilgrimage is one such transcendent experience. A practice that has a place in all of the world's great religions, the act of pilgrimage is many things to many pilgrims — retreat, extended prayer, penance for sins, an opening to spiritual or religious conversion. This course will provide students with an opportunity to learn more about pilgrims and pilgrimage, including historical, religious, cultural, artistic and economic perspectives. More important, students will engage in reading, conversation and experiences that will help them frame their worldview through the lens of pilgrimage, and to conceive of their lives as purposeful journeys to God.

IDS 492.14 Adulting 101: Life After College
This course will examine sociological theories and research on young adulthood to traverse the issues faced by college students transitioning into adulthood. This course will provide students with practical, actionable advice, helping students navigate areas of post-college transition from faith, work, money, dating, health, and personal growth.

IDS 492.15 Choosing Justice: Journeys that Make a Difference
You’ve been on a journey your whole life, making choices that have shaped you and your Hope experience. But your journey is not for you alone. The life well-lived is lived for others. While this will look different for each of you, certain questions will remain the same: How can you advocate for others, invite in those at the margins and build on your understanding of social justice while continuing to grow in empathy and responsibility? In short: How can you choose and work towards greater social justice as you transition from Hope? In this course, we will examine theories of justice from Christian and other faith perspectives, and study the journeys of people who made a difference in their communities and beyond. We will focus, too, on practical ways that each of us can choose justice in our various spheres of influence, including work, family and worship. This section is geared towards past participants of the Phelps Scholars Program, Emmaus Scholars Program and students who have completed any coursework in the following minors: Ethnic Studies, Peace and Justice and/or Women's and Gender Studies.

IDS 492.16 Run For Your Life
This course will examine the intersection of running and worldview. Students will create their own life view by drawing on their personal experiences from running and that of other runners. The course will take a holistic approach to this process by having students explore the historical, cultural, physical, social, psychological and spiritual aspects of running in relation to life. Students in this course will discuss a variety of questions together in seminar format. How is running a metaphor for life? What life lessons does running teach us? Should we view life as a race to be won or a run to be cherished? How might running teach us to deal with adversity, suffering and pain? What have others learned about life from running and what can we learn from them? Students should expect to run during the semester both individually and with other students in the course. Students will journal about their running experience. Runners of all levels from beginner to expert are welcome.

IDS 492.17 Power and Choice in Daily Life
This course explores the nature of choice and the act of choosing, and how these relate to ideas about power, self-determination and free will. We will explore both secular and spiritual implications of choice and power, including in the area of calling and vocation, as well as how selected thinkers from a variety of academic disciplines understand these phenomena. We will work toward personalizing the course content by examining how choice has helped to shape our lives, and we can begin to develop an understanding of choosing in a way that may assist in future choices.

IDS 492.18 Life Stories
Ever been to a story slam? Story slams are open mic story telling competitions where contestants stand up and in five minutes tell a true story connected to the night’s theme. Curious? Look up The Moth Radio Hour by the Public Radio Exchange. Life stories come from our personal experiences. Those we remember and choose to tell reflect who we are and how we see the world. Our life stories can shape and define us, both fairly and unfairly. Through reading memoirs that examine human experience in all its crazy complexity, we will examine who we are, what we believe and whom we would like to become. We will examine how our perceptions are not always based on reality. Our personal stories can also change in response to external factors such as environment or even health. The course will be structured on discussion of the readings, and writing and then telling our stories in the style of story slams. The Life View paper will arise from the telling of stories that have shaped us and ponder how we would like the story to unfold.

IDS 492.19 Project Playlist | Project 110
Music and photographs have always been a part of our lives. We all have pieces or songs that have carried us through pain, elation, frustration, doubts and victories. Our photographs remind us of times, places, things and people. Music and photography have become forever braided into the fabric of our existence; indeed, for many, these sister arts have been an integral part of our contrapuntal journeys of education, career, love and faith. If you could tell a photographic story of the 110 days of the spring semester of your senior year, what would you capture? If you could tell the story of your life through music, what would it be?