Ignatius Seminars

Who may apply?

All first-year students in the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences.

Course/Credit Equivalencies

One course and three credits.

Requirements Fulfilled

The Ignatius Seminars touch on almost every core requirement and multiple major/minors. Please see each Seminar for more details.

Anna Dewey

“My Ignatius Seminar was absolutely foundational to my transition into Georgetown’s learning community. The environment fostered through this unique experience sprouted friendships, insightful discussion, and a quaint community of like-minded–yet different–first-years.” – Anna Dewey, C‘26

About the Program

Ignatius Seminars offer students an enormous range of questions and subjects to explore, each course designed by a faculty member invited to teach something personal, something intimately meaningful to them. The variety represents the richness and diversity of the College’s intellectual community. But in this variety these seminars share a common thread and inspiration, beyond the texts and contexts, that make these Ignatius Seminars.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuit order in the 16th century, offered a number of educational insights that animate Georgetown’s curriculum still in 2023. Close faculty-student interaction, reflection, whole person education, and cura personalis characterize the open and electric atmosphere in our Ignatius Seminars, which in turn provide an important orientation to our deepest educational values and priorities.

Fall 2023 Ignatius Seminars

Labrador puppy

Requirements Fulfilled: 
Science For All

Taught by: Jennifer Fox

Course ID: IDST-1491-01

Course Meeting Times: MW 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

In this course we will explore evolutionary mechanisms to understand how they have shaped many aspects of our daily lives, such as our health, the foods we eat, the pets in our homes, our relationships with each other. We will also discuss how we can apply these ideas to understand current problems, like emerging diseases or antibiotic resistance, and to prevent future ones.

About Jennifer Fox

My fascination with evolution grew out of interests in science and history; evolution marries these disciplines. Studying evolution has sent me on many adventures – I’ve time traveled into the past and been to incredible places like the bottom of the most polluted lake in the US and the New Zealand and Swiss Alps and the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan. My desire to share the grandeur of evolution in particular and biology in general led me to teaching. At Georgetown I teach courses about evolution, ecology, and environmental issues.

Polluted water

Requirements Fulfilled:

  • One half of the core history requirement for students with eligible AP or IB scores, or eligible international exam scores.
  • One History major or minor elective, or
  • One Justice and Peace Studies major or minor elective, or
  • One Environmental Studies minor elective

Engaging Diversity: Global or Domestic (students may choose by taking a subsequent course that fulfills the other half of the requirement)

Taught by: Meredith McKittrick

Course ID: IDST-1491-02

Course Meeting Times: MW 9:30 am – 10:45 am

In this seminar, we’ll look at the world through the unequal distribution of environmental resources and environmental harms and ask how it got that way. We’ll trace the legacies of colonialism, slavery, and industrialization. We’ll get off the Hilltop and see how environmental inequality manifests itself in DC and its surrounding areas. And we’ll research cases of environmental inequality and environmental justice in the places we all call home. 

About Meredith McKittrick

I do most of my research in southern Africa, home to the continent’s largest white population, to some of the world’s most unequal countries, and to some of the planet’s most unique environments. Living and working in a place so shaped by race and the natural world drew me to explore how people conceptualize the environment and how political, economic and social factors shape our relationships to the non-human world. I’ve published on the histories of industrial agriculture, rivers, climate knowledge, and rainmaking. One of my current projects examines a 1920s scheme to engineer the climate and create a white utopia in South Africa; another traces the history of how we have imagined and exploited a resource that we cannot see: groundwater, which constitutes 98 percent of the earth’s available freshwater.

Confucius temple area, famous tourist destination in Beijing, China

Requirements Fulfilled:
Theology (One of Two; Equivalent to The Problem of God)
Engaging Diversity: Global
One Theology major or minor elective

Taught by: Erin Cline

Course ID: IDST-1491-03

Course Meeting Times: TTh 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

From the sages and philosophers of the Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions to those of the ancient Greek, Christian, and Jewish traditions, we will travel the world through some of the greatest texts ever written in search of what human flourishing meant not only throughout human history, but what it means for us today. 

About Erin Cline

Erin Cline

Professor Erin Cline

I grew up on the beaches of Homer, Alaska, the daughter of a cultural anthropologist and a music teacher.  A love of bluegrass and traditional Irish music originally led me to major in music in college.  But after studying abroad in China, my fascination with ancient Chinese texts—especially what they taught me about other cultures and my own culture—led me to graduate school to study Chinese and comparative philosophy.

My first three books argue that Asian philosophical and religious traditions can help us respond to a variety of contemporary challenges and engage in dialogue with other traditions, including the Ignatian tradition which is central to Georgetown’s mission. My latest book, Little Sprouts and the Dao of Parenting, explores how Chinese philosophy can enrich our daily lives in a variety of surprising ways, drawing upon my personal experiences as the mother of three.

Requirements fulfilled:
Engaging Diversity: Domestic
Social Science (one of two with Sociology)
One Sociology major elective

Taught by: Corey Fields

Course ID: IDST-1491-04

Course Meeting Times: MW 2:00 pm-3:15 pm

In this seminar, you will gain a broad introduction to interdisciplinary perspectives on contemporary social movements. Specifically, the course uses the experiences of African Americans to provide a more general understanding of the historical development, cultural impact, and political successes of a range of post-1960s US social movements.

About Corey Fields


Professor Corey Fields

Growing up in Memphis, TN, I was always fascinated by how the groups you belonged to had such a powerful force in day-to-day experiences. Whether in conflicts between jocks and nerds, students and teachers, or indie rockers and hip-hop heads, questions of identity – the boundaries we draw between “us” and “them” – were simultaneously cognitive, political, and moral. The groups with which we identify shape how we see the world and outline viable and acceptable routes of action. This has been true in my own life and animates my intellectual interests. Today, my research explores the role of identity – at both the individual and collective level – in structuring social life, and contributes to the ongoing analysis of the relationship between identity, experience, and culture.

Requirements fulfilled:
Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture (HALC)


Taught by: Francesco Ciabattoni

Course ID: IDST-1491-05

Course Meeting Times: T 3:30 pm-6:00 pm

A close reading of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and its persistence in later literature and popular culture. Students will learn about Dante’s most extraordinary journey, from the pit of Hell to the heavenly vision of God. Critical discussion (individual and in group), as well as written assignments and trips to Dantean places in town will be the core of the course.

About Francesco Ciabattoni

Professor Francesco Ciabattoni

Born and bred in Italy, I moved to the US to study literature. My scholarly interests range from the Middle Ages to twentieth-century literature, with emphasis on the relationship between literature and music. At Georgetown I developed a bilingual website about Italian songs (www.theitaliansong.com) and dedicated my efforts to teaching Italian culture and medieval studies.

Photo of open books in front of a mountain

Requirements Fulfilled:

General Philosophy

Taught by: Kate Withy

Course ID: IDST-1491-06

Course Meeting Times: MW 3:30 pm-4:45 pm

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra has been described as both a failure and a masterpiece. We will read this philosophical-literary text closely, asking how it challenges us to reconceive our lives and what it takes to read such a book. Students will gain skills in interpretive reading and analytic writing as well as an in-depth knowledge of Nietzsche’s text.

About Kate Withy:

Kate Withy

Professor Kate Withy

I like reading difficult books—books that need to be read and reread, books that make you wonder how to read them, books that make you see things differently. In my research, I work on one of the most difficult books in German philosophy: Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time. I started reading this book more than 20 years ago, and I haven’t finished yet! Difficult books such as this need to be read more than once and in the company of other curious and smart readers. Reading a book in this way is one of the great pleasures of a well-rounded life, and I firmly believe that we should all do it more often.

Person skateboarding

Requirements Fulfilled:

One half of the core history requirement for students with eligible AP or IB scores, or eligible international exam scores.

One history major or minor elective

Engaging Diversity: Global

Taught by: Bryan McCann

Course ID: IDST-1491-07

Course Meeting Times: WF 2:00 pm-3:15 pm

Skateboarding emerged in California in the 1960s. As it expanded around the globe, new adherents sought to retain its countercultural edge. Skateboarding became more diverse, and took on new manifestations. But skateboarding is now a billion dollar industry. Has its countercultural veneer worn thin? We will explore the growth of skate scenes around the globe. We will visit local skate parks, meet key practitioners, and conduct research on the meanings and implications of skateboarding around the world.

About Bryan McCann:

Bryan McCann

Professor Bryan McCann

I’m a social and cultural historian, primarily of Brazil. I was a skate punk in the mid-1980s, then abandoned the sport for thirty years, picking it up again in the process of teaching my children to longboard. This prompted me to explore how skateboarding had changed in the meantime, and to combine my scholarly interest in the deep cultural patterns guiding our pursuits and my rediscovered love of skating.

Requirements fulfilled:

Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture (HALC)

Engaging Diversity: Domestic

One Theater and Performance Studies major or minor elective, or

One English major or minor English elective

Taught by: Christine Evans

Course ID:  IDST-1491-08

Course Meeting Times: MW 12:30 pm-1:45 pm

We live in a noisy, anxious world. Here, we slow down to explore a new approach to creative writing. Through a combination of structured silent writing time, meditative techniques, and visits to view visual and performing arts, students will complete one open-genre creative project, and learn how to develop their writing as a technology of thinking, rather than as a transcription of ideas.

About Christine Evans

Christine Evans

Christine Evans

I’m Australian, grew up in three different countries, and began my artistic life as a traveling musician. Now I write plays, opera libretti and novels: the common thread is socially engaged topics through a poetic and feminist lens. I’m inspired by what silence, contemplation and cross-art-form practices can offer, in both my own writing practice and my teaching.

People sitting together on a bench

Requirements Fulfilled:

General Philosophy

Taught by: John J. DeGioia, President, Georgetown University

Course ID:  IDST-1491-09

Course Meeting Times: M 9:00 am-10:45 am

The philosopher Charles Taylor defines social imaginary this way:

…(T)he ways people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and [others], the expectations that are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images that underlie these expectations.” (Modern Social Imaginaries, p. 23)

In this seminar we shall explore the territory this definition suggests, with our lenses focused primarily, and intentionally, on Western Europe and America, past and present. Through extensive and intensive reading and the classroom discussion it animates, we will meet the efforts of academics from various disciplines, novelists, and film makers who illuminate, explain, and challenge the expectations we normally hold about what, and how, we imagine things to be in our “social existence”.

The intent of this exploration is to begin to define a practice that helps us to broaden – to expand – our social imaginaries.  Why does that matter?  What is the “work” involved?  Indeed, why is this a practice at all?  Isn’t there just a single pathway to one right answer?  These are the kinds of questions we will keep asking as we ourselves expand our understanding of the assumptions that underlie our relations to one another. 

About President John J. DeGioia

Georgetown University President, John DeGioia.

Georgetown University President, John DeGioia.

I discovered my vocation here at Georgetown. I arrived as a first-year student and I have been here ever since. At every stage in my formation, Georgetown provided me with an opportunity to develop myself to the very best of my talents and abilities. Here, I studied with extraordinary individuals—the faculty of Georgetown—as well as incredibly gifted students. There is a generosity of spirit that has characterized my experience with our faculty and students. As an undergraduate, my major was English, with a focus on poetry. When it came time for my graduate studies, the emerging strength of our department of philosophy in practical ethics made this the very best place for me to be. For more than 35 years now, I have served in a range of administrative positions. In this Ignatius Seminar, I hope all these experiences help to animate our discussions as we expand our social imaginaries, individually and collectively.

Requirements fulfilled:
This course will fulfill one half of the core history requirement for students with eligible AP or IB scores, or eligible international exam scores.

One history major or minor elective

Engaging Diversity: Global

Taught by: Michael Kazin

Course ID: IDST-1491-10

Course Meeting Times: TTh 2:00 pm-3:15 pm

This is a course about one of the most significant and most contentious philosophies, movements, and governing ideologies in the history of the modern world. From its visionary beginnings in the early 19th century to the collapse of the Soviet Union near the end of the 20th century to the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders, socialism has given rise both to grand dreams of equality and freedom and to fears – and the reality – of state tyranny.

About Michael Kazin

Professor Michael Kazin

I have taught history at Georgetown since 1999 and have been fascinated by the history of socialism since my days as a New Left activist in college during the late 1960s. I regularly teach courses on other “isms” too, such as radicalism and conservatism in the United States. For twelve years until 2020, I also co-edited Dissent, a leading magazine of the American left, which began in 1954. I have written seven books, the most recent of which is What It Takes to Win: A History of the Democratic Party.

Requirements Fulfilled
General philosophy

Taught by: Huaping Lu-Adler

Course ID: IDST-1491-11

Course Meeting Times: MW 3:30 pm-4:45 pm

This course philosophizes about “self” from various angles—what it is, how it is formed and transformed, and how one knows it. We’ll approach these questions with a multicultural lens and from diverse perspectives including (decolonial) feminism and critical philosophy of race. We’ll also explore various “self and x” themes, where x= friendship, familial connections (or ruptures), social media, and more.

About Huaping Lu-Adler

Huaping Lu-Adler

Professor Huaping Lu-Adler

As a woman, an immigrant, a historian of philosophy, and an intellectual trained in both eastern and western traditions, I am interested in how one’s embodied experiences can profoundly influence how one sees and navigates the world. As a professor, I consider it my primary duty to give students the tools they need to live a flourishing and authentic life.   

Requirements Fulfilled
Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture (HALC)
Engaging Diversity: Domestic or Engaging Diversity: Global (students may choose by taking a subsequent course that fulfills the other half of the requirement)
One Anthropology major or minor elective

Taught by: Sylvia Önder

Course ID: IDST-1491-12

Course Meeting Times: MW 2:00 pm-3:15 pm

This course will examine the myriad ways that language use can shed light on the most human of activities – the making, shaping, and breaking of culture. We will read works translated from several languages, examine controversies about diverse forms of American English, experience the visual language of American Sign Language (ASL) through a visit to Gallaudet University, and, in conjunction with the National Museum of the American Indian, consider what is lost when a language goes extinct.

About Sylvia Önder

Professor Sylvia Önder

I came to Georgetown in 1998 to teach Turkish language and culture, after writing a dissertation about the healing practices of rural women on the Black Sea Coast of Turkey.  Over the course of my time here on the Hilltop, I have come to appreciate the connection between local social justice movements and transnational political concerns. I look forward to sharing insights I have formed while studying and teaching the Turkish language as well as anthropological insights about the constructed nature of culture and how humans act through and are acted upon by language.

Requirements fulfilled:
This course will fulfill one half of the core history requirement for students with eligible AP or IB scores, or eligible international exam scores.

Engaging Diversity: Global

One history major or minor elective

Taught by: David Collins, S.J.

Course ID: IDST-1491-13

Course Meeting Times: MW 3:30 pm-4:45 pm

Historical controversies over the structure of the cosmos and modern-day debates over the science curriculum in U.S. high schools are offered in support of the conclusion that science and religion exist in an unrelenting state of warfare. The aim of this course is to test that generalization by examining the actual history, focusing on key episodes in which scientific and religious interests have intersected from Antiquity to the Present.

About David Collins, S.J.

Fr. David Collins, S.J.

I am a historian of medieval religion and science. I also write about magic and what it did and didn’t have to do with the other two. I blame my strange interests on two things: the religious household I grew up in with parents who were a physicist and a mathematician, and the Jesuits, who mixed up my mind by sending me into situations where what “common sense” and “good reason” are isn’t so obvious. Figuring out the strange is hard work, whether in the deep past or right next door. But it’s what I love about being a Jesuit historian.

Requirements fulfilled:
This course will fulfill one half of the core history requirement for students with eligible AP or IB scores, or eligible international exam scores.

One history major or minor elective

Engaging Diversity: Global

Taught by: Alison Games and Amy Leonard

Course ID: IDST-1491-14

Course Meeting Times:  TTh 3:30 pm-4:45 pm

What is a witch? This seminar engages this question in a wide-ranging exploration of the phenomenon of witchcraft in Europe, Africa, and the Americas over the course of several centuries. It looks at witchcraft both as a set of practices and beliefs and as something that could be transformed into a crime by changing ideas and by cultural collisions. We will explore witchcraft within the Christian tradition in Europe and beyond, including the variety of beliefs held by Africans and Native Americans and the impact of colonization and cultural contact on the expression of those beliefs. We will read about witchcraft in iconic places, such as Salem and Germany, as well as less familiar locales, ranging from Iceland to New Mexico. Along the way students will meet “witches” as diverse as shamans and Jesuit priests, midwives and healers, children and the elderly. The seminar will introduce students to original trial records and other surviving primary sources. This class will take advantage of resources in Washington and at Georgetown. Students will have the opportunity to carry out independent research.

Games and Leonard wear masks and witch hats in a cemetery

Alison Games (left) and Amy Leonard (right) at Oak Hill Cemetery in December 2020

About Alison Games

I have taught History at Georgetown since 1995. My interest in the history of witches and witchcraft began with children’s books and excursions to Salem, but my knowledge and expertise have fortunately matured since then. I research and write about different aspects of the early modern world, including migration, colonization, violence, witchcraft, and empires, and I have been active in developing the field of Atlantic history at Georgetown.

About Amy Leonard

I have taught European history at Georgetown since 1999. I research and teach about women, gender, sexuality, nuns, Germany, and the Reformation. My Eurocentric focus on witches and their persecution has been forever broadened and altered by teaching with Professor Games, to the benefit (I hope) of generations of students.

Requirements Fulfilled:

Engaging Diversity: Global or Domestic (students may choose which portion they’d like to fulfill by taking a subsequent course that fulfills the other half of the requirement)

Theology (One of Two; Equivalent to The Problem of God)

One Theology and Religious Studies major or minor elective

Taught by: Paul L. Heck

Course ID: IDST-1491-15

Course Meeting Times:  TTh 11:00 am-12:15 pm

This course is designed to help students understand religion in light of the magis, a Jesuit term that means “the greater good.” Throughout, we will pursue course topics in light of today’s current crises (from climate to opioids to inequality) to garner perspective on the way religion is deeply invested in the needs of society.

About Paul L. Heck:

Professor Paul Heck

I finished my doctorate in religion just as 9/11 happened. The story of the century made heavenly devotion seem crazy, but I had to explain why it’s a good thing. What I’ve realized after twenty years of research and reflection is that all human experience, rightly discerned, is religious, drawing us into a goodness that lies beyond policy-making. I now bring my insights to the wider university, heading a new major in Theology on Religion, Politics, and the Common Good (RPCG), advancing the Theo-Humanism Project (THP), and teaching an Ignatius Seminar on the workings of goodness in both soul and society, goodness—not the metaverse—as the really real.

Requirements Fulfilled:
Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture (HALC)

Taught by: Paul Elie

Course ID: IDST-1491-16

Course Meeting Times: Th 3:30 pm-5:30 pm

The literature of our time is rich in accounts of the personal search—books in which author and reader venture forth to make sense of their lives and the world around them. We’ll discuss acclaimed nonfiction books, and students will write personal essays (aspiring writers welcomed).  We’ll aim to understand the search and the ways it can be framed through the art of narrative. 

About Paul Elie

Professor Paul Elie

Flannery O’Connor said that the emerging writer is inspired to write not so much by life itself as by the work of other writers. That has been my own experience. In my life as a writer—growing up in upstate New York; exploring the Manhattan literary scene while working with Farrar, Straus and Giroux; teaching at Georgetown—I’ve found that many of the books that mean the most to me are accounts of a personal search. At Georgetown, I see education as a search undertaken by students and teachers together—a search I am eager to take further in this Ignatius Seminar.

Requirements Fulfilled:
Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture (HALC)

Taught by: Michael Kessler

Course ID: IDST-1491-17

Course Meeting Times: Th 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm

This Ignatius Seminar explores philosophical and theological visions of craft, labor, and creativity, and their connections to moral and political life, as a way to think about how our laboring, crafting, creating is a fundamental part of what constitutes the good life.

About Michael Kessler

Professor Michael Kessler

I grew up in the cornfields of Indiana, in a small community of craftspersons and tradespeople. Our self-reliance was a way of life—we built and made things and we made ourselves and our community through that making. Even while I pursued study in theology, ethics, political theory, and the law, I kept building and making and trying to resolve the tension between what Aquinas called the active and contemplative lives. As an ethicist working with the theological and philosophical traditions of the West, I think about what it means for humans to build their world and pursue the good life in and through these gardening, woodworking, culinary, and construction projects.

Woman with a pen writing in a notebook

Requirements Fulfilled:
Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture (HALC)

Engaging Diversity: Global

Taught by: Friederike Eigler and Marianna Ryshina-Pankova

Course ID: IDST-1491-18

Course Meeting Times: Th 12:30 pm-3:00 pm

In this seminar, students will be introduced to famous examples of “Life Writing” (e.g., memoirs, letters, and autofiction) from authors of different cultural backgrounds. In addition – and as a point of comparison – we will explore the genre of self portraits in the fine arts by venturing beyond the Georgetown campus to some of Washington’s great museums. The seminar will also include a creative component: By combining verbal and visual means in the digital context, students will learn how to create a “digital story” about an aspect of their own life. 

Marianna Ryshina-Pankova and Friederike Eigler

About Marianna Ryshina-Pankova

I was raised in Moscow, in a family with Yiddish speaking grandparents and a strong tradition of telling stories about the past, both humorous and tragic. From early on I was fascinated by how the language of those stories made the narrated life so enchanting and so real. How is it that language reflects reality or does it reconstruct it anew in text?I now study these questions about the relationship between life and narrative, and context and text as a linguist and a foreign language educator. 

About Friederike Eigler

I grew up in Germany, came to the US as a graduate student on a one-year exchange program, and have now lived here most of my life! Exploring and negotiating multiple languages, homes, and cultural traditions has not only been a big part of my personal life but also of my professional life as a professor of German literature and culture here at Georgetown University. In my research, I look at contemporary literature as a way to explore notions of self, displacement, and trauma.

We have been colleagues at Georgetown for 15 years and look forward to sharing our passion for words, languages, and digital storytelling with students in this Ignatius Seminar.

Requirements Fulfilled:
Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture (HALC)
Engaging Diversity: Domestic
Core course in the Disability Studies minor or one English major or minor elective

Taught by: Libbie Rifkin

Course ID:  IDST-1491-19

Course Meeting Times: TTh 5:00 pm-6:15 pm

One in four Americans lives with some form of disability; people with disabilities are the world’s largest minority. Each of us has been touched, within one generation, by the disability experience. And if we live long enough, we will all, one day, experience some form of disability.

This course will introduce you to Disability Studies, an interdisciplinary field premised on two powerful ideas: that disability is a fundamental aspect of all human experience and that disability has produced a range of identities and communities that merit exploration in themselves and shed light on normative conceptions of body, mind, social relations, and what makes a good life.

About Libbie Rifkin

Professor Libbie Rifkin

I teach in the Department of English and for most of my career worked as a scholar of modern and contemporary poetry. I came to the field of Disability Studies when my son was born with cerebral palsy because I wanted to understand both his experience and the way our family and my own sense of identity changed because of it. Exploring this field in the classroom for the last decade has opened up my sense of our institution and its students. I currently support the University’s efforts to make Georgetown fully inclusive of people with disabilities by serving as the first Special Advisor to the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Disability.