A revised Liberal Arts Seminar will return for incoming freshmen this fall after leaders of the program put it on hiatus for a year to revise the curriculum.

LAS in its past format was a year-long, multidisciplinary 18-credit course devoted to a comprehensive study of the 19th century and offered by the Georgetown College from 1968 until its year off starting in fall 2010.

Fr. William McFadden, S.J., a longstanding professor for the seminar who served on the restructuring committee, said that one longtime professor’s retirement and another’s sabbatical allowed for consideration of changes and improvements to the program this year.

Different departments were asked this year to submit proposals in a competitive process to teach the new Liberal Arts Seminar. The chosen plan focuses on developments in Europe from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment periods.

History professor Tommaso Astarita, one of the four professors who will teach the new seminar, said that the mechanics of the program have not changed much.

Although it will now count for six credits per semester rather than nine, LAS will continue to be taught by four professors to a group of 30 students over two semesters while fulfilling the general education requirement for history and humanities and writing.

Astarita also said the focal time period would shift away from the traditional 19th century spotlight.

“The focus for the four of us teaching it next year will be European culture …with special focus on Europe’s encounter with the New World, on the struggles of faith and science, and on the links between literature, society, music and the arts,” he wrote in an email.

Bryan McCann, a history professor, and Anthony DelDonna, a professor in the music department, will teach the group of students in the fall and focus on the impact of the New World on European culture and mindset.

Astarita and English professor Patrick O’Malley, who was a faculty member of the previous LAS, will teach during the spring semester and focus on the broader historical implications of the transition from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment.

McCann said that students who join the course will experience a challenging, worthwhile learning process that will create a cohesive group of students.

“I think the principal selling point is the sense of cohort and shared discovery this will foster. Students will experience an intense year-long bonding process as they work through the intricacies of these texts and debates together,” he wrote in an email.

James Pickens (COL ’12) participated in LAS during his first year at Georgetown. He said after spending three hours a day, three days a week with the same group of students, he formed close friendships with all of the members of the seminar, one of whom is now his roommate.

“My experience with the LAS was it was an amazing educational experience that has formed the background for all of my education at Georgetown,” he said.

Pickens was disappointed, however, to hear that the focus had shifted from the 19th century to the Renaissance to the Reformation,

“I personally would advocate that they return to the 19th century, because while many of the writers of the 19th century reference the past, it’s also the start of many institutions of the modern world. I think that by shifting the focus further into the past you lose the direct connection to so many other courses that I have experienced,” Pickens said.

Incoming first-year students may apply to LAS over the next few months and will be notified of their acceptance in July.

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