/ 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.

Objectives

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.

Fall 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 492.01 Composing a Life
Mary Catherine Bateson has suggested that we “compose” our lives in at least three ways:

  1. We grow them over time, as is true of the unfolding manner of creating an artistic masterpiece
  2. We stitch together episodes with transitions which ultimately become a larger tale than the sum of the pieces
  3. We actively tell and retell our life stories in different ways in different contexts, always composing and recomposing who we are as we know ourselves better or differently

In this Senior Seminar we take Bateson at her word, reading a number of autobiographies and memoirs, viewing some life-changing movies and hearing the input of others, all while writing chapters of our own life stories, discussing the meaning of key concepts that develop our worldviews and presenting to the class our senses of personal meaning as we launch into the next phase of our life compositions.

IDS 492.02 The 10 Rules of Life, Plus One
This class discusses the 11 simple rules needed to address life's large and small questions. Students will examine both their pasts and futures through readings, films, podcasts, class discussions and movement exercises, ultimately learning the skills and tools needed to live a full life post college.

IDS 492.03 Making Good on Your Dreams...With Creativity and Grace
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 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?) Energetic class discussion will be our goal. Disagreement and rebellion will be encouraged. Writing assignments will include short essays which will culminate in the Senior Seminar “Life View” paper.

IDS 492.04 Confessions

IDS 492.05 God, Earth and Ethics
Many professional earth-watchers report that we are in the midst of a growing ecological crisis. Is religion, and especially Christianity, the culprit, as some argue? In this course we will ask questions about God and God's relationship to the earth, about the earth and its well-being, and about our ethical responsibilities as humans to care for the earth.

IDS 492.06 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 492.07 – Lifelong Learners: What Does One Look Like Really?
You may have heard during your time at Hope the expression lifelong learner, but how will you know one when you see one? What do they look like? And, more importantly, how can you be one? We’ll generate answers by examining the cases of several lifelong learner-scholars, each addressing important issues like:

  • Whether people are becoming less intellectual and too entertainment-minded
  • How to keep patients alive after surgery during the grisly days of Victorian medicine
  • How do people deceive us and how can data help us get at the truth
  • The implications of taking the Christian Bible literally.

We’ll explore how each writer demonstrates lifelong learning and how we might get inspired to become our own brand of lifelong learner. Whatever your background of study or plans for life, there’s plenty here for you. Seriously.

IDS 492.08 Issues in Science and Religion

IDS 492.09 Female, Male, Human
How have you come to be the person you are? This course uses memoirs (Maya Angelou, Eboo Patel, Kevin Jennings, Lewis Smedes, Roberta Bondi, Malcolm X, Barbara Brown Taylor) to explore the role of gender, race, class, sexual orientation and religion in shaping our lives.

IDS 492.10 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 102 days of the fall 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 492.11 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 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.

Spring 2020 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.

IDS 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 Jesus I Never Knew
An exploration of the basic tenets of Christianity through books, Scripture, film, reflection, conversations and interactions with the Spanish-speaking community in Holland. Note: This class is taught in Spanish.

IDS 492.02 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. Navigating a study-abroad semester gone wrong. Escaping isolation and forced religion in Idaho. These real-life events found in memoirs and memoir-esque pieces of literature (such as Dandelion Wine, Angela’s Ashes, The Hiding Place, Miracle in the Andes, Waiting to Be Heard, 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” enhance or clarify that walk? Students of every belief and disbelief are welcome to join this literature-inspired and writing-rich conversation.

IDS 492.03 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 492.04 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 492.05 What Makes for a Meaningful Life?
How do people construct a meaningful life? What components lead to a flourishing and fulfilling existence? Taking an interdisciplinary approach to how people find meaning in life, this class will wrestle with big existential questions of what it means to be human and will tackle broad topics, including death, religion, relationships, suffering, virtues and the good life.

IDS 492.06 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 492.08 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 492.09 Female, Male, Human
How have you come to be the person you are? This course uses memoirs (Maya Angelou, Eboo Patel, Kevin Jennings, Lewis Smedes, Roberta Bondi, Malcolm X, Barbara Brown Taylor) to explore the role of gender, race, class, sexual orientation and religion in shaping our lives.

IDS 492.10, 14 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 492.11 A Christian Examination of Placemaking: Housing, Home, and What Makes a Place
A Christian examination of home – housing, homemaking, homelessness and finding home at Hope and in life beyond the college experience. We will explore housing issues, policies and struggles faced in communities across our country in the seeking of housing and home. We will do so in the context of also immersing ourselves in a consideration of how communion with God, ourselves and others are key characteristics for Christian understandings of housing, home and place-making. Thus, though right now many places are plagued by sorrow, sin and displaced affections, one day a perfect Christ will make a perfect place for his people. We find home in Christ now but will find perfect home and rootedness place in Christ in eternity. We will explore how we live out this “now” and “not yet” of home in everyday life. The ability to hope in Christ even in the broken wandering and placelessness we face now, this is the hope to which Christians cling, in life and death, in homelessness and rootedness. Amid sickness, grief and the groaning of creation, Christ will one day redeem the brokenness, gather the homeless, and create an eternally glorious place for his people. At the heart of the Christian gospel is the message that we are all homeless, but that there is a home in which our yearning hearts can and will find rest. The Christian gospel, in other words, is a grand story of redemptive homecoming that is at the same time grateful homemaking. This promise of a restored and perfect home motivates Christians who are making places, longing for places, or wandering from places in this world to press in and press on to the end. We will together explore what these realities mean in finding home and making home in students’ final days at Hope and in whatever comes next for each of us.

IDS 492.12 What Does It Mean to Be An Adult
This course will examine what it means to be an adult in the age of information. After a brief meditation, we will engage in conversations as a community about how “to adult” through the lenses of health, work, play and love. A Life View paper will naturally develop from introspective analyses of these conversations. Students will also explore different worldviews by comparing socio-cultural perceptions of what an adult is from around the world. Students who complete this course will have a better understanding of how they fit in this world as an adult.

IDS 492.15 Faith & Friction in Literature and Film
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, Stephen King, Anne Lamott, Mary Doria Russell, Mark Salzman, Craig Thompson and Philip Yancey. Students will select the film options.

IDS 492.16 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 do 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 492.17 Designing the Greater Good
Human-centered design principles stimulate innovation by aligning the human experience to every part of the problem-solving process. They are rooted in empathy and challenge problem solvers to develop solutions that suit the needs of the people involved. But where does human-centered design fit at a Christ-centered college? In this course, students will not only learn the process and skills of design-thinking but how reflecting on God's vision for our world can deliver profound solutions to our most pressing problems.

IDS 492.18 Our Lives as Story and Music
What music helps tell your story? What is the connection between music and your deeply held beliefs? Where is “home” for you? Through reading Toward Center by James Jordan and Nova Thomas and reflecting on other materials, including music, students will have an opportunity to consider their life stories and to discern where their center or home is. Along the way, the classroom, as a community of explorers, will allow students to draw upon their stories and music, to learn about each other, and to determine where they want to go. The major project in our seminar will be the “Story of Your Life” as told through music and journal entries that will come together in the life view paper.

IDS 492.19 Making Good on Your Dreams... With Creativity and Grace
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 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?) Energetic class discussion will be our goal. Disagreement and rebellion will be encouraged. Writing assignments will include short essays which will culminate in the Senior Seminar “Life View” paper.