While most seniors probably assumed they left Problem of God in the dust of freshman year, they might be surprised to hear of its new, reincarnated version: a non-credit, senior-only seminar being marketed as “Problem of God, Part Two.” Chances are, though, seniors will not be confusing this with their freshmen theology class because this seminar has no grades, no books and no homework.

According to Fr. Christopher Steck, S.J., the coordinator of the new program, selected professors from the English, science, government, business, and art, music and theater faculties will lead five different hour and a half discussions with seniors on the “big questions of life,” with the first taking place on Friday at Wolfington Hall. While he said it is only a pilot program, Steck thinks that it can play a valuable role for seniors.

“We want to help seniors make their senior year all it can be, and that includes finding new ways to energize their intellectual life,” he said.

As a free-forming, non-credit seminar just for seniors, the program, Steck said, is designed to offer students a unique opportunity to engage and interact with faculty.

“The desire is not, of course, that faculty will offer `the’ answers to the questions or comprehensive treatises. Rather, the object is to energize student thinking, to prime the intellectual pump,” he said.

Part of the impetus behind the nascent seminar stems from the findings of both the Intellectual Life Report and the report from the provost’s curriculum committee, Steck said. In particular, he noted the lack of an academic mechanism to integrate much of what a student learns in his first three years, especially concerning the general education requirements, and a growing consensus among faculty and administrators that there was a need to do something more for seniors.

“Seniors return from their summers and, perhaps, junior year abroad, often re-energized and eager to make the best of their final year,” Steck said. “Presumably, they are more mature both intellectually and socially, and in a position to fruitfully engage in broad intellectual conversations with their peers and mentors.”

None of the participating professors will be Jesuits, Steck said, nor will they be from the philosophy or theology departments, areas that he said give students more of an opportunity to explore broad questions on the meaning of life.

Steck did emphasize that, while bringing this program into the regular, credit-based curriculum has been discussed, there is no plan currently in place for this.

“It is certainly a possibility that this could become part of the university curriculum, but that’s not the intention here,” he said. “It wouldn’t happen if seniors don’t find it intellectually satisfying.”

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