BY ELIZABETH SCHMITT
St. Norbert College, as a liberal arts institution, prides itself on cultivating well-rounded students who have taken a diverse set of courses. This education has served me and countless others well. However, many seniors leave St. Norbert without ever taking a required class in their major with other senior students from their major. The way the Senior Colloquium and Advanced Requirements are structured now do not require a senior to take a class with just his or her peers from their major. I believe that students would benefit from taking a required final seminar with other seniors in their major. This would benefit students in two ways: through a final course to complete a major and through a rigorous meeting of the major students.
Universities similar to St. Norbert, such as Carleton College, require philosophy majors to write a senior thesis and participate in a two-semester Advanced Seminar. St. Norbert could adopt a similar approach to the senior year of any major area of study. SNC would require seniors to take the seminar course. This would allow students to build knowledge in areas already covered in lower level courses. A senior seminar would also ask students to grapple with more difficult concepts, topics and readings. The seminar could vary in topic from year to year, perhaps rotating teachers between Associate Professors and Professors in a given department. This way, professors would develop a course in their area of expertise. Students in a particular major would leave college with a deeper understanding in one area, instead of just a broad, limited understanding in many.
The most exciting part of a senior seminar is getting all of the senior students in one discipline into the same class. As SNC has structured core curriculums now, it is unlikely that a course will have all of the majors in a discipline in an upper level course. For example, Political Science does not require a GS12 to be taken in the Political Science department; one can take a course in History to fulfill the GS12. This means that a Political Science major’s capstone course could be in History instead of their area of interest. A senior seminar would be a continuation of studies, rather than an abrupt and disjointed finish from an unfamiliar area of study.
Majors such as Spanish and Business Administration do have capstones or seminar courses. However, this is not the case for other majors, such as political Science or philosophy. Building a senior seminar into each major would bring every student in a graduating year into the same room. The course would be required of all majors in their senior year. This would allow the most developed and enthusiastic minds in each major to converse and think critically on advanced issues in a given area of study.
Creating a senior seminar for each major on campus would require some restructuring and require professors to rearrange their teaching schedules. However, I believe that the benefits of a senior seminar greatly outweigh the inconveniences. Students benefit, professors are given an opportunity to teach in their area of expertise and St. Norbert follows in the footsteps of colleges who are pushing their seniors to the last minutes of their studies.