/ 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

Fall 2021

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 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.

492.02 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 eleven 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.

492.04 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 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.

492.07 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.

492.08 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.

492.09 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.

492.10 Confessions

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 2022

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.

452.03 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.

492.01 The Jesus I Never Knew
Note: this class is taught in Spanish and counts as a Spanish elective.
An exploration of the basic tenets of Christianity through books, scripture, films, group conversations and interactions with Spanish-speaking members of the Holland community. We will be reading C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew, works that complement each other by examining Christianity from the outside and the inside, challenging personal and cultural assumptions we may hold. An experiential component of the course will be to engage the Spanish-speaking community of Hope/Holland through intentional conversations and visits to local churches. This course is taught in Spanish and students should have completed SPAN 341 Intro to Lit or have equivalent fluency in the language.

492.02 The Soundtrack of My Life
Everyone listens to music. It permeates our lives, often when we don’t realize it. What music we choose to listen to and when, can say a lot about who we are and where we have come from. What music do we enjoy in social situations? In religious situations? When we are happy or sad? Through triumphs and heartbreak? Through discussing, listening and writing our life papers we will discover how our tastes in music have changed (or not) over four years at Hope College and where we think we may be going in the future.

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.”

492.04 Learning from the Margins
Did you know that around the world, many colleges and universities read and reproduce eurocentric ways of knowing that are considered universal knowledge? Did you also know that such epistemologies only represent a small fraction of knowledge production? Hence, this course takes the question posed by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in 1999, “Can the subaltern speak?” earnestly. But who is the subaltern? In postcolonial studies, the term subaltern describes those at the margins of power or the “Other,” broadly speaking.  In this seminar, I propose not only to let the subaltern speak but, more importantly, to let Hope students listen to and learn from voices from the margins. We will do this by reading Miguel De La Torre’s The Politics of Jesús: A Hispanic Political Theology; Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks; Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s The Undocumented Americans; W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk; among others. 

492.05 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.

492.06 Into All The World: Living Lives of Service And Leadership In a Global Society
Hope’s mission statement articulates that we will “prepare students for lives of service and leadership in a global society.” What does it mean to be a responsible and engaged member of a global society? How do we make sense of our global experiences and identities in order to have a positive impact on those around us? How does faith influence my actions in my community, both locally and globally? How do we define “service and leadership” in the context of justice issues, and what does our responsibility to engage in these critical issues look like as global citizens? This Senior Seminar course will dig into these questions and more as we prepare to step out into all the world. We will explore global citizenship through the Colleges’ global learning outcomes of curiosity, empathy, knowledge, responsibility and self-awareness. Highly recommended for students who have studied abroad and international students.

492.08 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.

492.9 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.

492.10 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.

492.11 Peace is the Way
This seminar takes its title from Hope College alum A. J. Muste, also known world-wide as the “American Gandhi,” who famously proclaimed, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” And this seminar finds its motivation in the view that our means, i.e., what we say and do now and which we consciously choose, are our ends, not a method by which we achieve some unguaranteed, ultimate end later on. Likewise, moral ends do not justify immoral means. If true, what does that mean about how the world, the nation, the state, the community — the college graduate going forward — should conduct themselves? Readings by Muste and others — especially regarding issues of peace and justice — and our writing and discussion in response, will help us consider this view that what we actually choose to do and say right now and all along our way reflect our values much more than do our abstract beliefs, wishes, goals and intentions.

492.12 Global Journeys
This class is structured around examining journeys: our personal journeys, our journey as a community, and the journeys of others who have travelled or migrated from one culture to another. It is broken into four 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 compelling memoirs of 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. In Part 4 we will focus on race and racism in America as important forces that shape our society and our understandings of ourselves.

Throughout the course we will learn not only from authors, but also from podcasts and films. We will approach our Lifeview Paper in manageable chunks and use guided writing exercises to get our ideas flowing. We will work together in writing groups to craft and edit our work throughout the semester.

492.13 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.

492.14 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.

492.15 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.

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.

492.017 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.