/ 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.

Course Descriptions

May and June 2022

 May Term

492.01 Faith and Finance – On-Campus
Civilization existed before money, but an integrated global society would have been unimaginable without it. The invention of money was a revolutionary milestone. It aided in the development of civilizations and has made it easier for human beings to amass wealth. Today, humans use money as an intermediate for exchange of goods and services and as a method for comparing the values of dissimilar objects. The focus of this course will be to provide students with an opportunity to learn some historical and religious perspectives on faith and finances in a modern global society. Students will engage in readings and experiences that will help them frame their worldview through the lenses of faith and finances. We will also explore the role of stewardship and how both faith and finances require human action.

492.02 The Art of Listening – On-Campus
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.”

492.11 Human Rights and Human Wrongs – Online

June Term

492.01 Composing a Life – On-Campus
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.

492.02 Confessions – On-Campus

492.11 The Social Dilemma: Finding Community in a Digital Age – Online
This course examines the ways in which we connect with one another and create community, both in face-to-face and digital/online contexts. We will critique our consumer society, examine the decline of community and neighborhoods in modern U.S. culture, consider ways to build community after graduation, and reflect on the possibilities and limitations of virtual community. Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age will be used as a foundational text as we examine the ways in which our communication is both impacted by and fundamentally changed by digital technology. The course concludes with examining what is Christian community, and the ways in which the historic Christian faith encourages us to be in community with one another. Readings, discussion, journaling and a final paper (world-and-life-view paper) will provide a framework for reflecting on the key questions of your course. 

Fall 2022

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?

492.01 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 reflecting on course readings and other materials, including listening to music, students will have an opportunity to consider their life stories, music and the meaning of home. 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.

492.04 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.

492.05 Becoming a Self, Living a Life
How does one become the person one is meant to be? How do we become ourselves? How do we live, in the words of Parker Palmer, “the life that wants to live in me?” This seminar will reflect on what it means to become a self and the process of becoming a self. We begin with the assumption that each one of us is led or called to be a unique self. But what is meant by a “calling”? And called by whom? In this seminar we will consider the traditional Christian view that each of us is called by God, through an inner leading, to become our true self, a unique image of God, expressed through a life of service in the world. We will also consider alternative views on selfhood and how to live a meaningful life. And we will consider how we might hear this call, this inner leading, by becoming better listeners to ourselves and others. Self and other, inner and outer, spiritual and secular – these are some of the tensions that arise in the journey toward selfhood. We will reflect on how these tensions manifest in our lives, and how we might be able to harmonize them into one undivided life. By the end of the seminar each of us should have a better sense not only of the person one is, but the person one is called to be.

492.06 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.”

492.07 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.

492.11 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.

492.12 Film and the Meaning of Life
Movies provide an interesting gateway into discussions about identity, worldview and culture. They are a major part of our shared experience, and their stories are deeply rooted in our daily life. They shape who we are and what we think. In this course, we will explore how movies have captured our emotions and intellect through their fascinating creativity. Documentaries, fictional dramas and even comedies will inspire us to think about our journey in life.

492.13 Issues in Science and 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 stars 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.

492.14 The Creative Life: Creator & Creativity
A contemporary Christian creed proclaims: “We believe in God who has created and is creating.” This seminar explores the arts as one reflection of a God who is still creating in your life and in this world. How can our lives echo a God who is creative and generative? How can you identify and develop your creative gifts? How can we connect to cultural, spiritual, and intellectual resources that explore what is life-giving? This seminar delves into these “creative questions” as a pathway to integrate creativity into vocational pursuits, personal practice and engaging with God’s world.

492.16 Perspectives on Bioethics and Health Care
Health care is complicated… it always has been and always will be. Besides anatomy or physiology, health care patients and professionals are also confronted with issues related to access, economics, technological advances, politics and ethics that both surround and confound the process of giving or receiving care. This course will help participants explore and engage ways of understanding and thinking about complicated health care topics. We will consider and discuss how the Christian faith applies to these topics, and develop our own personal health care philosophies as part of a broader philosophy of life.