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. Jonathan Hagood of the Department of History.

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

Fall 2017 Course Descriptions

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

IDS 402 Christianity & Literature
Animated discussions of books we will be reading, and the students' lives and experiences on and off campus. We will be writing regular response papers and preparing for our Life View papers toward the end of the course.

IDS 431 Female, Male, Human
This course explores the ways in which gender, sexuality, race and class shape our ideas about God and humankind, our faith, families, work and lives. It also examines the ways in which assumptions about gender and sexuality are shaped by Christianity, culture and the family environment.

IDS 452 Education and Christian Ways of Living
An examination of how Christians think they ought to live, how and why they think they ought to live that way, and how Christian ways of living can and should affect teachers, teaching and learning. Special attention is given to the influence teachers have on the values of their students.

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 455 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 healthcare. 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 healthcare be different if one approached it as a vocation than if one considered it simply a career? How do theology, spirituality and ethics become an integral part of the vocation to care for those who are sick? If you do not expect to be working in healthcare, similar questions can be posed within the context of your own life and work. When we consider our vocations or callings, we do not only think about jobs. Our life is more than our work, and our sense of calling can (and I think ought to) inform all of life: our relationships, leisure, citizenship, use of natural resources and service to the wider communities we live in. So, while we will often talk about vocation in the context of healthcare, we can and should expand our considerations to the whole of our lives.

IDS 465 Issues in Science & Religion
A course that considers from a brief historical perspective the issues between modern science and Christianity, particularly as they relate to the issue of origins. We will survey our current understanding of the origin of the universe, including our galaxy and solar system, by considering the most recent big bang theories and our knowledge of the evolution and formation of starts and the origin of life. On the other hand, we will develop an approach to the Scriptures and examine how they inform us on the creation of the cosmos.

IDS 478 Life Together
In order to honor the philosophy of this course, we will start by reading from two authors, one an acclaimed philosopher, and the other a historian, Arthur Holmes and Mark Noll, respectively, to consider both the idea of a faith-based liberal arts institution and the historic problems of such constructs in their works, The Idea of a Christian College, and The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, respectively. From there, we will go on to tackle the ever-present problem of "race, racism and racialization” and its role in fracturing community/communities. Here we will be reading texts by Sara Mills to theoretically think through cultural “structures," norms and “epistemological" patterns, and Beverly Daniel Tatum to define “race" and think through race identity development. We will also read Eduardo Bonilla-Silva's work to tackle the historic, practical and “slippery" current-day issues of racism. We will then read a range of authors, topics and textual genres to reflect on similar issues of faith, learning, race and community, represented by authors John Perkins (Mississippi) and Grace Lee Boggs (in nearby Detroit). Finally, we’ll come full circle by reading the classic works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship, to reflect on the semester, your four years at Hope as a whole, and the next chapter in your own lives.

IDS 479 Making Good on Your Dreams
Backpacking across Europe. Signing on for an extended service project. Getting accepted by your top choice of grad schools. Interviewing for your dream job. Establishing a relationship with a significant other. Growing in your knowledge of yourself and your world. As you think about college and about graduating from college, what do you imagine to be your absolutely top-notch, sparkling, over-the-top, utopian experience? In this class, we’ll think about the ways we define our perfect worlds on several levels: personal, political, global. We’ll talk about our responsibilities in shaping, in making this utopian adventure, and we’ll examine what our ideas of “the perfect world” mean within the context of the Christian faith. We'll consider how we respond when the world we live in doesn’t meet our expectations. (Not just “why do bad things happen to good people,” but why do bad things sometimes happen to me and how do I deal with them?) We’ll read some great writing by others who have dreamed of what a perfect world might look like — and by some who are scary-good at pointing out the challenges to such idealizations. Energetic class discussion will be our goal. Disagreement and rebellion will be encouraged. Writing assignments will include reading responses and short essays which will culminate in the Senior Seminar Life View paper.

IDS 495.01 George Washington and the Presidential Role Model
Why are approximately 26 cities, 241 townships, 12 colleges or universities and 15 mountains in the United States named after George Washington? Is it simply because he was the first president, or is there something more? This senior seminar will explore the life, times, character, work, faith and legacy of George Washington as a way to inspire students to evaluate their own worldviews, faith and roles in society. Leadership, and particularly the presidency, is currently under tremendous scrutiny. In many ways George Washington had it so easy, and in other ways he had it so hard. In this course, Washington will be examined as a presidential role model, and several subsequent presidents will be discussed in comparison to the Washington legacy.

IDS 495.02 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, 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 495.03 Genocide & Reconciliation
This seminar will be talking about genocide and reconciliation in countries around the world, reconciliation in families, between churches and among individuals. It will look deeply into the concept of costly discipleship versus cheap discipleship. Each student will be encouraged to examine his or her own life regarding areas where reconciliation and forgiveness need to be offered in order for each of us to grow as whole human beings. The readings will focus on Rwanda and its attempts at reconciliation, on love and forgiveness, on God's reconciliation with us.

IDS 495.04 Remembering Rightly: Conflict, Peace and Reconciliation
Peace is essential to Christianity and the vocations of all Christians. But what is peace? For that matter, what is conflict? Scripture seems to clearly hold up peace as central to the heart of God. So Christians must surely seek to respond to this calling to be peacemakers. Right? But what about the pain and suffering experienced in this fallen world? If ultimate peace and reconciliation are found in Christ, what hope is there for such outcomes for a world that is not filled entirely with followers of Christ? What then is peace? And how then is conflict overcome and reconciliation pursued? These are tough questions that we will explore at micro- and macro-levels. We will consider what peace is — drawing from a variety of perspectives on peace as personal peace with God, as the negative lack of conflict or strife, as certain political stances and decisions, and explore how these relate to our own inter- and intra-personal lives as well as to our communities, nation and world. We will center this investigation of peace (and conflict) on the role that remembering plays — for example, we will explore such questions as can we forget atrocities we have experienced? For the peace to which God in Christ calls us, do we have to forgive those who have wronged us? Does Christ call us to hope for the final reconciliation of all the wronged and all wrongdoers alike, even if it means spending eternity with perpetrators of evil? We live in an age when it is generally accepted that past wrongs – genocides, terrorist attacks, personal injustices — should be constantly remembered. But are there situations that warrant the (radical) idea that letting go of such memories — after a certain point and under certain conditions — may actually be the appropriate course of action. And are there situations in which our memories may be wrong, our perceptions skewed, and thus our own conflicts or lack of pace may be due more to our own “seeing in part” than to the actions or intent of others?

IDS 495.05 Project Playlist | Project 102
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 * 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?

IDS 495.06 The Things That Matter
What are the things that matter? What sustains and motivates us, who helps us learn and grow, where can we go for meaning and comfort? We often look to other lives to understand aspects of our own: childhood, growing-up, love, family, friendship, faith. This senior seminar will do just that — we’ll read essayists and novelists, biographers and memoirists, to talk about and grapple with central questions. What makes a good life, why do people suffer, what are we afraid of, what gives us joy, what are the things that matter? We’ll also look to our readings for inspiration for how to write our own life stories.

IDS 495.07 From Facebook to Faces
Where do you belong? To whom do you belong? What do you want your place to be in the world once you graduate? How will you find or create that place, that community, in person and online? These are the questions we will explore in this course. We begin by reflecting on the families we are born into and the relationship networks they provide for us. Our parents or guardians give us a place to live and an established set of relatives, friends and social structures such as neighborhoods, schools and church. As adults, when we establish our independent lives, we have more choice about the organizations and communities we want to belong to. We choose what relationships and traditions to retain from our families of origin, what new relationships and roles to take on, and our own ways of participating in society as citizens. We do this through face to face interaction, but also through our online relationships and communities. In the course you will identify and reflect on the values you live by, or aspire to live by, how are they shaped by (or not) the Christian faith, and the liberal arts education you have received at Hope College. Course work includes:

  1. A 20- 25 page world-and- life-view paper
  2. Short response papers for weekly readings
  3. Student-led discussions of readings.