/ 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.


In the Senior Seminar you will:

  • Articulate and explore
    • Christian ways of knowing and acting, living and learning 
    • Your commitments and convictions in conversation with the Christian faith
    • Your understanding of the diverse and life-giving purposes and perspectives by which people live
  • Deepen your ability to discuss your differences openly and sensitively, reasonably and honestly
  • Consider, discuss and develop your own philosophy of life and write about it in a compelling, coherent and disciplined manner

The director of the Senior Seminar program is Prof. Jonathan Hagood of the Department of History.

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

Spring 2018 Course Descriptions

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

IDS 402: Christianity & Literature
We read a number of famous books written by a collection of non-American writers, but presenting a Christian perspective. We discuss the readings and write short papers reflecting our initial thoughts. We also prepare for the writing of a Life View Paper toward the end of the course.

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

IDS 452-01: Teachers and Teaching: In Whose Image?
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?” We will do readings and other activities that focus on issues of our inner life: identity, integrity, fear and community. In short, what is the image of “teacher” that you claim and to what are you aspiring? 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 & 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: Composing a Life
Life is a process. Becoming the people we are is a bit like creating a work of art over time. How do the bits and pieces and experiences and memories and relationships fit together? What will shape the trajectories for our future expectations? Our "Composing a Life" Senior Seminar is designed to help us look at these things through hearing one another's stories, reading great memoirs and biographical snippets, viewing powerful movies and writing our own first autobiographies, all in the context of guided reflections and discussions. 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 464: Faith & Friction in Literature
With Kafkaesque craftiness, two previous seminar topics — "Faith and Friction in Fiction" and "Faith and Friction in Nonfiction" — have metamorphosed into one course that explores many genres: novels, memoirs, short stories, films and biographies. Scary "F" words — fate, failure, foolishness, fear and friction — meet sacred "F" words — faith, family, friendship, freedom, forgiveness. Students of belief or disbelief examine issues of dogma and doubt, grace and good works, suffering and salvation, relativism and reconciliation. Most writers echo Christian perspectives, but some open doors into the riches of world religions. For every assumption, another challenge appears; for every answer, another question surfaces.

IDS 465: Issues in Science & Religion
A course that considers from a brief historical perspective the issues between modern science and Christianity, particularly as they relate to the issue of origins. We will survey our current understanding of the origin of the universe, including our galaxy and solar system, by considering the most recent big bang theories and our knowledge of the evolution and formation of 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.

IDS 471: Dying, Healing & Thriving
How do we best deal with disappointment, setback and suffering on the way to the "good life"? How do we lead robust lives in the shadow of death? Based on literature, film and student contributions, this seminar explores how people of faith have understood and experienced dying, healing and thriving.

IDS 474: 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 495-01: Global Journeys: Identity and Community in Motion
How can we understand our own identities and our lives in community in an interconnected world shaped by the movement of people? What can we learn from travel? What does it mean be hospitable to those who journey to our communities? In this senior seminar we will explore these questions with writers whose lives, worldviews and faith have been shaped by global journeys.

IDS 495-02: Choosing Justice
You’ve been on a journey your whole life, making choices that have shaped you and your Hope experience. But your journey is not for you alone. The life well-lived is lived for others. How can you advocate for others, invite in those at the margins and avoid the many, many traps of our selfish and materialistic culture? In short: How can you choose justice? In this course, we will examine theories of justice from Christian and other faith perspectives, and study the journeys of people who chose justice and made a difference. We will focus, too, on practical ways that each of us can choose justice in our various spheres of influence, including work, family and worship.

IDS 495-04: Who am I? Is there anything I can do about it?
Through the exploration of a wide variety of sources, from classical literature to modern medical research, we will explore what it is that makes us who we are — and what control we have over it. We will examine philosophical and scientific approaches to these questions, emphasizing the influence of personal, professional and spiritual experiences and perspectives… and do our best to express our answers (and new questions) through conversation and writing.

IDS 495-05: Between the World and You
Between the World and You is a course on writing letters. An epistle, as a form, naturally allows for introspection to occur during the process of its composition, for as Thoreau notes, “You will perceive that I am as often talking to myself, perhaps, as speaking to you.” As such, you will write so that you might begin this great enterprise to tell another person who you are and thus listen to yourself composing yourself, i.e. what we wish in a Senior Seminar at Hope College. The critical discourse will be funded by letter writers such as Paul, Benjamin Franklin, Nelson Mandela, Henry David Thoreau, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Ta-nehisi Coates. From them we will gather how to write as well as examine the subjects of their attention. Your personal letter writing will oscillate between discerning your gifts and meeting the world’s great needs. You will be asked to find one of the Grand Challenges of our world; you then will be asked to write yourself within this scene thrusting itself between the world and you.

IDS 495-06: Project Playlist | Project 110
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 110 days of the spring semester of your senior year, what would you capture? If you could tell the story of your life through music, what would it be?

IDS 495-07: 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 495-08: 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 495-09: 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 495-11: The Jesus I Never Knew
An exploration of the basic tenets of Christianity through books, Scripture, films, group conversations and interactions with Spanish-speaking members of the Holland community. Note: Course is taught in Spanish. Cross-listed with Span 495. All students register under IDS 495-11.

IDS 495-12 and IDS 495-13: 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 495-14: 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.

IDS 495-15: Genocide & Reconciliation
The course will discuss (via the Genocide in Rwanda) and other works the concept of reconciliation and forgiveness in Rwandan Society, our culture and our personal lives. We will focus on the need each of us has not to hold grudges or not to reconcile with others and forgive one another. We will be reading a book by Frederick Buchner and two books on Rwanda and its reconciliation and forgiveness of many of the people who committed genocide against the survivors by killing their family members and friends.