/ 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.

May 2020 Course Descriptions

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

IDS 492.01 Faith and Finance
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.

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.”

July 2020 Course Descriptions

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

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.

Fall 2020 Course Descriptions

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

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 Quest and Call: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
An exploration of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ring Saga as a journey through the epic and romantic traditions. Following the odyssey of the characters within Tolkien’s philosophical and theological vision, we shall reflect on the journey of life and its perennial themes, such as vocation, ambition, companionship, stewardship, kingship, discernment, duty, devotion, homecoming, with special interest in food, drink and song as spiritual nourishment. From this vantage we shall consider our personal journeys, both individual and communal, and come to articulate a vision of who we are — and could become.

492.02 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.”

492.03 The 10 Rules of Life; Plus 1
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.

492.05 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 492.06 Faith and Finance
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.

492.07 Global Journeys
This class is structured around examining journeys: our personal journeys, our journey as a community, and the journeys of others who have traveled or migrated from one culture to another. It is broken into three parts.

In Part 1 we will think about our past, how it shaped us and our identities, and how to write about it. We will read excellent memoirs about people who moved to foreign cultures as children, and we will write about how our own identities have been shaped by our experiences growing up.

In Part 2 we examine our worldviews in the present: who we are, what we believe, and what we think matters. We will read the story of an American Christian whose worldview was deeply shaped by her encounters with people of other faiths on the other side of the world. In Part 2 we will write about our own present worldviews.

In Part 3 we will think about our futures. We will work through the Designing Your Life curriculum created by two design professors at Stanford. Our goals here are to think about possible futures and plan concrete steps towards achieving vocational and life goals. During this section we will write about our possible futures, wherever in the world they might take us.

492.08 The Altar Table – Connecting God, People and Culture
The altar is a place of communion and connection. It is a place of sacrifice and reciprocity. A place to give and receive. Making, finding and maintaining meaningful connections are a core element of being human. How do we make meaningful connections that allow us to give and receive? In an age of data and social distancing how do we connect to people? In a postmodern society how do we connect with Truth? How do we connect with the ancient conversations of art, philosophy and the Christian faith in a meaningful way? Where are the altars in these places and what do you put on the table? This course will seek answers to the question of connection through reading, writing, discussion and reflection. We will see what each discipline offers as we seek jobs, careers and vocations. We will find connections that help us live life to the fullest.

492.10 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.

492.11 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.

Spring 2021 Course Descriptions

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

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?

452.02 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.

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

492.04 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 Technology and the Future of Being Human
Most of us can't remember what life was like before computers, cell phones and the internet. Where is technology taking us? Better yet, where do we want technology to take us? In this course we will reflect on what it means to live a good life, and discuss the role that technology may play in the process. We will delve into the insights of authors who have wrestled with the siren call of novelty. And we will begin to envision how each of us can participate in shaping a good future in the midst of rapid technological change.

492.09 Unpacking Study Abroad and Repacking for Global Citizenship
Note: Reserved for students who have studied abroad.
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?

492.10 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.

492.11 & 16 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.

492.12 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.

492.13 Human Rights and Human Wrongs

492.15 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.

492.18 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.

492.19 Life-Long 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.

492.20 Cultivating Compassion
Is it possible that The Golden Rule is a unifying principle that can cultivate and promote compassion across cultural, identity and religious divides? Can we teach compassion — the will to not only empathize with others but to actually engage in action to alleviate others’ suffering? Can we extend our compassion beyond our immediate family and friends to encompass people we do not know or with whom we differ? How do we develop our capacity for compassion through regular practices of self-compassion, and how do we cultivate compassion in ourselves and others to promote civic engagement and collaborative problem-solving to address global challenges? This course will explore the impact of the author Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion and the organization's over 750 compassion initiatives in 250 cities in 50 countries.

492.21 Faith, Race and Community