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.

“My Ignatius Seminar challenged me to think more conceptually about the institutions, standards, and relationships that I encounter in my everyday life. The enriching conversations that led our class time did not stop in the classroom but continued outside. I am forever grateful to have made meaningful relationships with my professor and classmates while learning and researching more about the world that we undoubtedly contribute to.” – Rams-Lyne Thomas C’25

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 2022. 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.

  • Cura personalis translates roughly to care for each person’s individuality and integral wholeness. The small course environment and emphasis on mentoring and interchange foregrounds cura personalis in the classroom at the beginning of each student’s College journey. 
  • Freedom. Our faculty are experts in their disciplines, contributing to the future of knowledge in their fields and to the pursuit of truth. Ignatius Seminars offer them an additional invitation, to blend that expertise and rigor with their joys, hobbies, or “extra-curricular” interests. The result for the student is a unique lens into the life of the mind, into the journey of an intellectual.
  • “Depth of thought and imagination.” These fun seminars will also train students in skills and habits that not only ensure success in classes, but happiness, depth, flourishing, and wisdom beyond. Reading, writing, discussion, and argumentation are works in progress for us all; Ignatius Seminars build a safe home for students to experiment, expand, deepen, and enrich these dimensions of their academic lives.

Fall 2022 Ignatius Seminars

Requirements Fulfilled: 
Science For All

Taught by: Jennifer Fox

Course ID: IDST-010-01

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

 “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”
– Theodosius Dobzhansky, geneticist

Beyond biology, many aspects of our daily lives make better sense in the light of evolution. Why do we get fevers when we’re sick? Why do we eat more beef than buffalo? Why are puppies and kittens so cute? Why are so few of us left handed?

We will start by defining what evolution is and learning how it operates. We will read selected chapters from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species along with modern explanations of evolution and natural selection. We will then apply this knowledge to different facets of our lives. How has evolution influenced the symptoms we experience when we have an infection and the traits we emphasized in domesticated plants and animals? When and where did dogs and cats first come into our homes? How do our relationships and our athletic abilities continue to be shaped by natural selection? We will finish the course by discussing how we might apply our understanding of evolutionary processes to address current problems, like emerging diseases or antibiotic resistance, and to prevent future ones.

We will read a variety of authors, from Victorian naturalists to journalists to research scientists. In our discussions we will consider not just what we know, but how we know it and how we write about it. What are the methods used to test evolutionary hypotheses and how do our ideas change as we develop new techniques and get new information? What is gained or lost when a message is adjusted for different audiences?

This course emphasizes active learning, with discussions, lectures, simulations and demonstrations, individual and group projects. We will take advantage of Georgetown’s proximity to museums to discover examples of evolution impacting our daily lives represented in art and artifacts.

Professor Jennifer Fox

About Jennifer Fox

My fascination with evolution grew out of interests in science and history; evolution marries these disciplines. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is deceptively simple yet incredibly powerful – it explains why species are similar and why they are different, it imposes constraints and provides opportunities for organisms interacting with each other and the world around them. 

Studying evolution has sent me on many adventures – I’ve time travelled 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.

— Jennifer Fox

Alzheimer patient medical mental health care concept as a sheet of torn crumpled white paper shaped as a side profile of a human face on an old grungy wood background as a symbol for neurology and dementia issues or memory loss.

Requirements Fulfilled:
General Philosophy

Taught by: Bryce Huebner

Course ID: IDST-010-02

Course Meeting Times: TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm

In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will examine the possibility of using meditation, music, and horror films to manage attention and to regulate distress. For example: we will consider the way that Remi Weekes depicts the trauma of social collapse in the film “His House”; we will investigate Jennifer Kent‘s presentation of grief and loss in “The Babadook”; and we will consider Cattle Decapitation’s “Death Atlas”, and Anohni’s “Hopelessness”, as presentations of the horror of anthropogenic climate change. 

Each class session will begin with a 15-minute group meditation, which will help us to understand how subjective experience changes in social contexts. In one of the meetings each week, we will then discuss a philosophical or scientific perspective on distress, anxiety, or trauma. And in the other meeting, we will examine a horror film, or a pair of recent musical works, which provide an alternative perspective on such experiences, or yield intriguing insights into what it takes to survive and flourish in a complex world. 

I hope to provide an optional time for us to watch each of the films as a group. No one will be required to do this, and you will always be able to watch the films on your own; but it can often be fun to watch horror films together, and this can sometimes make it easier to get immersed in the film. Finally, during the weekend of Halloween (10/29 or 10/30), we will also get together to watch two or three films, with catering (gluten free, with vegetarian and vegan options). 

Over the course of the semester, we will try to figure out what various forms of art can teach us about distressing experiences; and we will ask whether music and horror films can function in a way that parallels the use of meditation for managing distress and uncertainty. Along the way, we will also attempt to build strong social bonds, and we will work to cultivate useful strategies for managing the stress and discomfort that we will all inevitably face.

About Bryce Huebner

Professor Bryce Huebner

I am a philosopher. And I have been collaborating with cognitive scientists in hopes of gaining a better understanding of how humans and other animals navigate the challenges they face. I am also interested in meditation; and I have been exploring the views of a group of Buddhist philosophers, who appealed to meditative insights in developing their account of what experience is like. Last, but certainly not least, I love watching horror films and listening to extreme metal. Across these three aspects of my life, I routinely think about the ways that distress and discomfort shape what we experience. And I have become increasingly convinced that we can use artistic, biological, and philosophical tools to improve our capacity to skillfully navigate individual and social challenges.

— Bryce Huebner

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-010-03

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

When asked for his advice on living a good life, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel responded, “Think higher. Live deeper.” Taking the world’s spiritual, religious, and philosophical traditions as our guide, this seminar will explore what it means to live deeper—to lead lives that are not only satisfying or happy, but genuinely fulfilling. 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.

From the role of friends and family in a good life to virtues like gratitude and generosity, a variety of themes and questions will guide us: Why did ancient Daoist philosophers believe that being in nature contributes to our flourishing? Do each of us have a particular vocation or calling, as some Christian thinkers have argued? Why did Confucian sages insist that humans need rituals and music to lead fulfilling lives? Were Buddhist philosophers correct that desires impede our flourishing? What about Plato’s contention that in order to flourish we must seek not only the truth, but also goodness and beauty?

We will also examine many lived experiences of human flourishing today, from the ascetic lives of Buddhist monks and Jesuit priests to the simplicity embraced by Amish communities. We will explore Ignatius of Loyola’s contention that the spirit, like the body, needs exercise to flourish by looking to a variety of practices, from meditation and prayer to pilgrimage. We will also examine the impact of challenges such as poverty, grief, and disability, and the reasons why almost every major tradition, East and West, warns us that the pursuit of material wealth can profoundly undermine our flourishing.

Our aim will be to think higher with these great traditions, East and West, as they describe for us what it means to live deeper.

About 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.

— Erin Cline

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

Taught by: Corey Fields

Course ID: IDST-010-04

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

In the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans were at the center of one of the most important political struggles in US history. To this day, the commitment to racial equality is especially strong among African Americans. But how engaged are they in other social movements? What role do they play in non-racial social movements? Can we even describe a contemporary social movement as “non-racial”? How have later movements drawn on the strategies and rhetoric of the African American Civil Rights Movement? What effect has the success of later social movements had on African Americans’ political organizing? This seminar is devoted to addressing these and related questions.

In this seminar, you will gain a broad introduction to interdisciplinary perspectives on contemporary social movements. Conversations will draw on history, sociology, queer studies, political science, and philosophy in examining the development of a variety of campaigns for legal rights, government protection, human dignity, and political power. 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. The course will focus on the impact of African American participation (or lack thereof) in the women’s equality movement, LGBTQ rights, the environmental justice movement, and the contemporary political conservative movement. We will also examine how contemporary racial justice movements intersect with social movements across the political spectrum. We will concentrate on linkages and overlap between struggles for racial equality and contemporary political organizing.

Our goal is to think more expansively about the relationship between identity, politics, and social change. The seminar will utilize a variety of active learning strategies, so be prepared for engaged participation in each session.

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, in many ways, 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. I draw on a cultural perspective – across a range of methodological approaches – that emphasizes the role of meaning and recognizes that identities are enacted in specific social contexts. I recently published Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African-American Republicans (2016, University of California Press). I am embarking on a new project that examines the relationship between social identity and professional identity. The project aims to articulate how professional work can inform the formation, expression, and commodification of racial identity.

— Corey Fields

Requirements fulfilled:
Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture (HALC)
Engaging Diversity: Domestic
One Theater and Performance Studies major or minor elective or one Performing Arts minor elective

Taught by: Maya Roth

Course ID: IDST-010-05

Course Meeting Times: TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm

This seminar investigates (great) plays that creatively constellate past and present in order to activate psychic, social, and theatrical stakes. Shaped by diverse cultural perspectives, our primary source materials will include solo performances, ghost plays, musicals, and history plays, with themes ranging from revenge to love, justice to identity. We will consider two classical plays (one by Shakespeare, one an Asian classic) where the past intercedes in the present as examples of this deep dramatic tradition. Then we will flash-forward to an array of major recent plays from Britain, the Americas, Australia and South Africa, including Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Naomi Wallace’s The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, and Natalie Marlena Goodnow’s Mud Offerings, as well as works by Christine Evans, Tarrell McCraney, and Heather Raffo. We will read the plays as texts for performance that ignite theatrical imaginaries as well as distinct cultural and critical perspectives.

About Maya Roth

Professor Maya Roth

I come from a close, extended family of mixed cultures: Indiana, New York City, and San Francisco, multiracial activism and arts, blended families and global diaspora, my father’s experience as a child refugee of the Holocaust, my son’s life as an Asian-American. Extensive travel in the US and abroad has shaped me since I was young. I went to Swarthmore for college, Berkeley for grad school. Theater has always been my home. Since 2003, I have taught at Georgetown, where I launched the Davis Center and our Theater and Performance Studies major, teaching courses often cross-listed with Comparative Literature, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Culture and Politics. I find most joy in teaching, my thirteen year-old son (full of laughter and wit), the ocean, and making theater. As scholar and director, my research centers on cross-cultural adaptations of classics, new play development, and feminist playwrights. I look forward to experiencing magis with you in this Ignatius Seminar.

— Maya Roth

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-010-07

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

This course is designed to help students understand religion in light of the magis, a Jesuit term that means “the greater good.” We begin by questioning assumptions that nature, the earthly environment we inhabit, is reducible to physical realities. From there, we consider the ways in which we know this habitat of ours, that is, our human rationality, which is never limited to analytical logic. This unit will include relevant excursions (the national cemetery and/or arboretum). We then turn to emotionality, especially the so-called pain and pleasure sequences, which, when understood properly, sharpen our desire to be in communion with both fellow creatures and our creator. This unit will include attending a relevant Shakespearean play. We also read the autobiography of Saint Ignatius of Loyola with a focus on his method of discerning spirits in all experience and his awareness of a world (unseen but still present) governed by compassion. We conclude with a foray into the matrix of freedom where life is pursued not by coercion but by conviction, that is, out of devotion to goodness (the stuff of religion). This unit will include a visit to a local religious community. Throughout, we 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, that is, the greater good. The course thus prepares students to see their undergraduate experience as a forum to grow in awareness of the magis in their own lives as well as in society, that is, to view their studies as a means to strengthen their own inner resources and commitments—goodness as operative in their daily experiences—at a time when the metaverse and other forms of surveillance capitalism seek dominion over their decision-making capacities.

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. It was a moment. We no longer had the religious clarity of the Cold War. Everything could be considered afresh. 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, soon, teaching an Ignatius Seminar on the workings of goodness in both soul and society, goodness—not the metaverse—as the really real.

— Paul Heck

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-010-08

Course Meeting Times: TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm

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. Together, we will explore the role that disability plays in our lives and our culture through the particular lens of care. Many questions will structure our discussion: What does cura personalis mean in our everyday experience? How do we care for one another from childhood through aging? How are our relationships of care charged with the power dynamics of race, class, and gender, structuring social and economic institutions from the family to the workforce to national and international policies? Does the work of care conflict with or engender creativity in literature and art? And how might understanding ourselves through our dependency on others reframe such core American values as independence and individualism?

These questions will shape our study of the ways disability gets constructed in discourses ranging from law and policy, to film, plays, novels, memoirs, and poetry. Throughout the course, we will hear from people doing groundbreaking work in disability arts and culture, and we will look creatively at questions of access and inclusion at Georgetown.

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’ve been interested especially in the lifeworlds that make art possible, and I’ve written and edited books about avant-garde poetic careers in the 50s and 60s, masculine poetic ambition, and gender and poetic friendships. 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. Teaching myself this new field, and then having the opportunity to explore it in the classroom for the last decade, has opened up my sense of our institution and its students. In the coming academic year, I will begin working for the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to support the University’s efforts to make Georgetown fully inclusive of people with disabilities.

— Libbie Rifkin

Requirements fulfilled:
General Philosophy

Taught by: John J. DeGioia

Course ID: IDST-010-09

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

Poets, philosophers, artists, academics, and even politicians have all struggled to determine “what it all means” and, often, to justify actions based on their conclusions.  These ideas—and actions – also influence us today, as we will explore in the Ignatius seminar called “Figuring Out What to Believe.”  This course asks us to understand how these assumptions about what is and has been believed affect not only what we do believe and are supposed to believe today, but what “believing” itself implies and how it relates to action.  We will delve into these past assessments, looking at them with fresh eyes.  

The thrust of this exploration explicitly aims at understanding what strengthens (and weakens) public discourse, as well as what strengthens (and weakens) individual flourishing; both (civil) public discourse and individual flourishing are integral to the well-being of the societies we live in. 

In addition to exploring belief-assumptions of the past, we examine the role of numbers, algorithms, experiments, and other phenomena deemed to be scientific, hard, objective—and thus, presumably, both believable and definitive.  But these “data points” are often contentious.  Are we looking at facts? Do facts matter? To whom? Who decides? How?  

The course stresses that figuring out what to believe does not imply a recipe that when followed guarantees a specified end, and we’re finished.  It is a practice.  Further, a practice is not a series of steps that determines a particular output because it follows a preselected process assumed in advance to be effective. Rather, the seminar emphasizes that the practice of figuring out what to believe itself is one that we learn, and learn how to integrate into our lives and then intentionally and regularly attend to.  

As we undertake the work of being introduced to the practice of figuring out what to believe, we will be rigorous in our preparations and discussions.  We will be alert to not conflating the particular and the general; we will not confuse the things we know with what we’re investigating, and we won’t mix up the things that have been at least temporarily deemed “true” with what is being confidently predicted to continue to be “true.”  And, of course, we’ll watch out for errors of correlation versus causation!  

Overall, our intent is to understand, in this intensive endeavor, what practice means in the seminar itself, as we create an epistemic community dedicated to delving into figuring-out conundrums, supported by the course materials and our efforts to work with them.  As part of this intention, we, in our seminar community, will generate a tolerance for ambiguity and differences as well as foster an awareness that ultimately “we” are all figuring out what to believe individually and collectively, in the seminar as well as in the societies we inhabit. 

About President John J. DeGioia

Georgetown University President, John DeGioia. Photo: Phil Humnicky/Georgetown Univ.

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 on addressing the assumptions that sustain inequities.

— John J. DeGioia

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-010-10

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

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.

Fierce debates and battles between socialists and their adversaries did much to shape the history of the past two centuries, including both world wars. Given the vast scope of the subject, a one-semester course can only offer an introduction. We will read about and discuss the key ideas, events, transitions, and personalities in the evolution and devolution of socialism. The focus is mostly on Europe, with some attention given to China and the United States.

About Michael Kazin

Professor Michael Kazin

I have taught history at Georgetown since 1999. I 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. Since the fall of 2020, I have been emeritus co-editor of Dissent (though I still contribute to the magazine and help find donors to keep it afloat).

— Michael Kazin

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-010-12

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

Coming to Georgetown means entering a swirling world of mixed cultures, languages, and ideas. You will have opportunities to learn languages foreign to you but native to millions. Each academic discipline has its own way of speaking about the world, and learning the “jargon” is an important step in mastering any subject. Different social spaces have their own forms of language, and you can reveal yourself as belonging (or not) by using certain terms. We use language differently to communicate with people from different generations, genders, vocations, and locations. Language can signal upward or downward socio-economic mobility. Cultures are understood through language and created through language.

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. In September, we will examine the biography of an African-American woman activist, Anne Moody, to consider how education in the USA has promoted a specific sort of European-based white culture and language. Moody’s book “Coming of Age in Mississippi” (1968) was written at a time when Margaret Mead’s 1928 anthropological study of young women in the South Pacific had become newly popular due to its comparative critique of the cultural stresses of being an American teenager. By examining Georgetown’s Jesuit collection of priceless documents about indigenous languages of North America, we will consider what is lost when a language goes extinct.  In October, we will study the alphabet and language revolution that occurred as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated and the Republic of Turkey was formed, bringing about new forms of education and nationalism.  In November, we will read a family memoir “Deaf Like Me” by the Spradleys, and visit Gallaudet University for a tour conducted in American Sign Language.  Throughout, we will try to uncover cultural assumptions underpinning various institutions of education, from family foodways to the college curriculum.

We will explore shared topics with activities such as field trips, walks, meals, film viewing, and guest speakers. Throughout the semester, by closely studying language, we will attempt to understand a broad range of human cultural conceptions about the self and how we find ways to belong in communities.

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. My dissertation was based on my interdisciplinary study of Folklore, Cultural Anthropology, and Turkish Literature. I was particularly interested in exploring the cultural construction of nationalism, as well as its intersection with personal and community identities. My interests, field work, and scholarship have shaped my approach to teaching. 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. No matter what I am teaching, I encourage students to make connections between local and global 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.

— Sylvia Önder

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-010-13

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

Science and religion have played powerful roles in shaping Western civilization: unparalleled resources – human, financial, and natural – have been invested in each of them, and they can be associated with many of the West’s proudest accomplishments and cruelest wrongdoings.

Taken together, science and religion conventionally conjure up images of conflict. They are envisioned as rival forces, associated with contending institutions and serving opposing interests. 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.

History is littered with vibrant discussions about such problems. Our goal is to get caught up in the vibrancy as we work to understand the concerns, confusions, and curiosities of these historical moments. We will be looking at case studies focusing on particularly “hot” historical debates. After laying groundwork in the debates of Antiquity and the Middle Ages, we will turn to the 16th– and 17th-century controversy over heliocentricism. By studying the actual hearings and trials, we will try to figure out how solid a win these were for scientific truth over religion’s superstitions. Regardless of what they achieved, they hardly ended the debates, and by the end of the semester we will have also considered controversies in our own day over the origins the cosmos and life, and yet newer questions – about the environment, for example – that the religiously and scientifically minded have a lot to say about … sometimes in conversation, sometimes in rivalry. Our task is to make sense of it.

About David Collins, S.J.

Fr. David Collins, S.J.

I am a historian of religion and science. I write a lot about magic too, especially about a medieval “scientist”, Albertus Magnus, who gained a stubborn reputation as sorcerer. My interests developed out of where I grew up, in a religious household with parents who were a physicist and a mathematician, but I really blame the Jesuits for mixing up my mind by sending me into situations around the globe where what “common sense” and “good reason” are isn’t so obvious. Those experiences serve me well as a historian of medieval science, religion, and magic. Making sense of 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.

— Fr. David Collins, S.J.

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

Taught by: Ariel Glucklich

Course ID: IDST-010-14

Course Meeting Times: TR 12:30pm—1:45pm

Georgetown University has a variety of initiatives and programs that are geared towards concerns that must be addressed in making our world a better place.  These include racial justice, medical ethics, disability, conflict resolution, medical humanities, faith and justice, environmental justice and others. This first-year seminar will explore the ways that religion and theology—specifically Jesuit values and modes of inquiry–can deepen and strengthen such programs based on approaches taken from a variety of religious sources.  Furthermore, the course will encourage students to develop an interest in these campus initiatives and devise ways of actively engaging in one or more of them.  The seminar will be divided into these important topics, each covering two weeks. An invited representative from the respective programs will present to our class the work that is taking place in relation to these areas of concern (racial justice, environmental justice, etc.) and explain how students can become actively engaged. The readings for each topic, taken from the encounter between Jesuit and Christian values and world religions, will provide a theoretical and ethical foundation for thinking about social justice, the environment, health, the law, etc. The readings will also provide the moral and spiritual foundation for motivating us to become actively engaged. By the end of the semester we shall see that religion does matter and can help us improve our world.

About Ariel Glucklich

I have taught religious studies at Georgetown since 1997. My specialization is Hinduism but I am attracted to the psychological study of religion.  This means that I am not only interested in what and why people believe, but how religious people act on their beliefs and their religious feelings. I study  rituals, including magical, painful and mystical rituals in a wide variety of countries today. Furthermore, I am also interested in how some religious individuals, like Gandhi, use religious ideas in order to prevent violence and promote the public good.

— Ariel Glucklich

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

Taught by: Michael Kessler

Course ID: IDST-010-15

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

Humans have made and created things for their subsistence, their use, their enjoyment, and their fulfillment for millennia. We build the things we need for life and we also create meaning and express value in and through that making and creating. How we think about our skills and creative capacities, and how we cultivate them and to what ends, are primary ways in which we consider and shape how we ought to live. Human creativity is, fundamentally, a moral activity, involving choice, expression of earthly and divine goods, and pursues what we hold dear as our ultimate concerns. 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.

This seminar will explore human creativity as a moral and political activity through close reading of a number of philosophical and theological thinkers, including Aristotle, Gregory of Nyssa, Aquinas, Locke, Nietzsche, Marx, Arendt, Thoreau, Adorno and Horkheimer, Heidegger, Paul Tillich, Wendell Berry, Matthew Crawford, among others. We will also have a variety of “field” experiences, including the opportunities to meet and discuss these ideas with makers in our community—builders, chefs, architects, among others.

We will consider many questions about creativity, technology, and the meaning of life. What are humans capable of making and creating? What ought we do with our skills, goals, and capacities and what responsibility do we bear for how and what we make? How do capacities to create and make (crafts, tools, technology, things, cultures, homes, art, food, political institutions, ourselves) create meaning and value? What are the demands upon creativity: is there a natural or transcendental goal to our making, or is it pure utility and convention? What are the limits and dangers to our making? What is the temporal meaning of creating artifacts and tools in a fluctuating, dynamic world? What are the theological implications? How is politics itself a type of creation? How are creating and self-reliance a mode of politics? How do economic practices impinge upon this creativity? The course will be conducted mostly through discussion and in-depth analysis of the assigned readings. Students should be prepared to participate actively, based on a thoughtful reading of the texts.

About Michael Kessler

Professor Michael Kessler

I grew up in the cornfields of Indiana, in a small community of craftspersons and tradespeople. I learned how to build, grow, cook, and woodwork alongside church friends who were masters of their respective trades (and mastered all the others). Our self-reliance was driven both by not being wealthy enough to pay for others to do what we could do better for free, but also because it 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 make and create and build their world and pursue the good life in and through doing these gardening, woodworking, culinary, and construction projects.

— Michael Kessler

Requirements Fulfilled:
Engaging Diversity: Domestic
Social Science (one of two in Government)
One elective course in the African American Studies major or minor OR one elective course in the Government major or minor

Taught by: Marcus Board

Course ID: IDST-010-17

Course Meeting Times: TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm

This seminar explores the nature of oppression through a lens of political theory. As the Movement for Black Lives grows and transforms, African American participants continue to wrestle with their diverse and sometimes nonexistent commitments to liberation from oppression. And although struggles for racial justice are ongoing, history has proven that many resistance leaders engage in destructive prejudices and their organizations promote narrow notions of freedom. How do we understand people who claim to support progressive movements while rejecting the people fighting them? Can we separate people passively upholding oppressions when the societies they live in are built on domination? And is it possible to rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have only submitted to marginalization because they can imagine no way around its historical and future existence? This seminar is devoted to addressing these and related questions.

Participants in the seminar will gain a broad introduction to interdisciplinary perspectives on power, social change, and revolutionary praxis. Conversations will draw on science-fiction literature, queer studies, political theory, documentary films, and history – each under the banner of African American Studies towards examining the conceptual foundations of domination, resistance, and justice. Specifically, the course uses the theories and perspectives of various African Americans to provide a more general understanding of the social movements, political ideologies, participatory and civic engagement of today and for the future. The course will focus on the impact of African American political thought in anti-oppressive Black freedom struggles surrounding women’s anti-violence, LGBTQIA+ rights, union and working class struggles, environmental justice, the digital divide, gun violence, prison abolition, disability advocacy and support for sex workers.

Our goal is to build a foundation of knowledge that is intellectually thorough, conceptually precise, and training for theoretical analyses. The seminar utilizes a variety of active learning strategies, so everyone should be prepared for engaged participation in each session.

About Marcus Board

Professor Marcus Board

Having been raised on U.S. military bases and in educational spaces that leaned in to the school-to-prison pipeline, I consider myself fortunate to have developed the following perspective: if people are inherently worthy, then we are responsible for actively reinforcing that value in ourselves and one another. Speaking to these lessons, my work explores oppressive power and the wide-ranging implications for historically marginalized communities. This is particularly evident in my future book manuscript titled Invisible Weapons: Co-Opting Agendas and Infiltrating Resistance in a Neoliberal Era. I also continue to work with the Center for Social Justice through their ABSO board, as a Faculty-in-Residence at Kennedy Hall in the Southwest Quad, and as a faculty member in the Department of African American Studies. In all this work, my hope is to develop engaged communities centered on equity, vulnerability, and restorative justice.

— Marcus Board

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-010-18

Course Meeting Times: TR 3:30pm – 6:00pm

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.

— Alison Games

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.

— Amy Leonard

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: Domestic

Taught by: Maurice Jackson

Course ID: IDST-010-19

Course Meeting Times: TR 2:00pm—3:15pm

In this course we will trace social conflict and social progress through the study of music.  Starting with the Negro Spirituals of the mid and late 19th Century, and the development of Blues music at the beginning of the 20th century, we will explore how through lyrics and music, the African American people have expressed their desires for freedom and equality. From Duke Ellington’s Black Brown and Beige to Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, to Charles Mingus’ Fables of Faubus and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, the sweet syncopations and heartfelt realities of Jazz as a music of freedom will be explored.  

We will use Washington, DC as a model as we discuss opera singer Marian Anderson’s 1939 visit to the city, to the work of DC’s own opera star Todd Duncan, who starred in Porgy and Bess. We will study the origins of rhythm and blues as it began in DC. We will explore the Motown music of Washington, DC-born Marvin Gaye and of Chuck Brown and Gil Scott Heron who made DC their home. 

Finally, we will look at how the music differed in various sites and areas of the country. We will analyze the birth and music called hip hop, rap and  Go Go. We will look at similarities and differences among Black and white musicians. In addition to class readings, we will weekly listen to music, view audio clips of live performances, and hear what the musicians themselves have to say. And, most importantly, we have fun as we learn. We will visit musical sites and have special class guests on various topics.

About Maurice Jackson

Professor Maurice Jackson

I teach in the Departments of History and African American Studies. I’m also affiliated with the Music Department ( Jazz). Before coming to academe I worked as a longshoreman, shipyard rigger, construction worker, and community organizer. I am the author of Let This Voice Be Heard: Anthony Benezet, Father of Atlantic Abolitionism, co-editor with Jackie Bacon of African-Americans and the Haitian Revolution, and with Susan Kozel of Quakers and their Allies in the Abolitionist Cause, 1754-1808 and of DC Jazz: Stories of Jazz Music in Washington. A jazz lover, I wrote the liner notes to the two jazz cds by Charlie Haden and Hank Jones: Steal Away: Spirituals, Folks Songs and Hymnsand Come Sunday. A 2009 inductee into the Washington, DC Hall of Fame, I was appointed by the Mayor and the Council of the District of Columbia as the first chair of the DC Commission on African American Affairs (2013-2016) where I presented a report “An Analysis: African American Employment, Population & Housing Trends in Washington, DC” to the Mayor and elected leaders Washington, DC. I was a member of Georgetown University Slavery Working Group that made recommendations about how Georgetown must atone for its slave past. I am completing Halfway to Freedom: The Struggles and Strivings of African American in Washington, DC. I recently gave talks in France, Qatar, Turkey, Italy, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, India and Russia. I spent the 2019-2020 academic year teaching at the GU campus in Doha, Qatar.

— Maurice Jackson

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

Taught by: Paul Elie

Course ID: IDST-010-21

Course Meeting Times: R 3:30pm – 5:30pm

“The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.” So said Binx Bolling, the energetic, perceptive narrator of Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer—a definitive account of the personal search as a natural and necessary step on the way to adulthood.

The literature of our time is rich in accounts of the personal search—books in which author and reader venture forth together in order to make sense of their lives and the world around them (and also to keep “everydayness” at bay). In this course we’ll follow the possibilities of the search as they’re set out in some particularly artful and affecting nonfiction books. Our aim will be to understand the personal search and the different ways a search can be framed through the art of narrative. I hope to convey my own conviction that the narrative of the search is at once a straightforward approach to self-understanding and a complex, rewarding process that joins us to one another and to traditions of storytelling that go back to human culture’s beginnings.

Meeting weekly, we’ll read six to eight books (drawn from those below) and move through a series of searches together. There’s search for self, as seen in memoirs by Richard Rodriguez, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Barack Obama. There’s the search for roots and a sense of place, as undertaken by Sarah Broom in New Orleans and Bill McKibben in the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks. There’s the search for justice, which prompted Helen Prejean to take up the fight against the death penalty (described in Dead Man Walking) and inspired Samantha Power to become a war reporter and a diplomat (as she recounts in The Education of an Idealist). There’s the search for the truth of what happened—whether in Northern Ireland (as in Say Nothing), in the workplace (as in She Said), or in the laboratory (as in Lab Girl). There’s the search for consolation after loss, such as Edwidge Danticat and Joan Didion sought. And there’s the search for the spirit—for the meaning of it all—in religion and the wisdom traditions.

This is a course suited for aspiring writers, and also for students who’d simply like to keep reading for pleasure amid all the obligations of the first-year experience at Georgetown. We’ll read and discuss pertinent essays and journalism alongside the assigned books; and students, in addition to writing critical essays, will compose and revise brief personal narratives in which they find words for their own search.

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. As an editor, I sought out such books, while writing a first book that braided together the life stories of four extraordinary writers. 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.

— Paul Elie

Requirements Fulfilled:
This course is open to all students. It will fulfill one half of the core history requirement for students with scores of 4 or 5 on the AP exams in World or European History, for students with scores of 6 or 7 on HL IB exams in Europe/Islamic World and Twentieth Century/Regional Topics, or for students who anticipate earning some history credit as a result of their international exams (ex: British A Levels, French baccalaureate, German Abitur).
One history major or minor elective
Engaging Diversity: Domestic

Taught by: Katherine Benton-Cohen

Course ID: IDST-010-22

Course Meeting Times: T 2:00pm – 4:30pm

In 1789, Georgetown University was founded by the Jesuits as a school for young men, but that’s only part of the story. This course will examine the rich and largely hidden history and legacy of women at Georgetown University. Inspired by the 50th Anniversary of women’s admission to Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences in 2019, this course will allow us to study, interpret, archive and amplify women’s stories here. Drawing from the Georgetown Slavery Archive, online editions of The Hoya, visits to the University Archives, oral histories, social media, and more, together we can build a story that includes not just students, but laborers both enslaved and free, nurses, faculty and administrators.

As a first-year experience, this seminar will introduce you to Georgetown’s history and culture, while helping to create a more inclusive version of it. Starting with Sukey, who in 1792 became the first enslaved woman to appear in Georgetown’s ledgers, we will study those both enslaved and free who lived and worked at Georgetown, the women who were nuns and nurses in service here, and other “firsts”—first undergraduates, first graduate students, first faculty and so on. This story is one of both inclusion and exclusion. We will have guest speakers with wide ranges of experiences at Georgetown, from college alumnae, to retired staff and pioneering faculty.

In the first fall of your first year at Georgetown—in remarkable times—you will have the real opportunity to make and document history in a community of scholarship and collegiality. While each of you will pursue independent research projects, we will also engage in a collective effort to make Georgetown’s women’s history public through oral history, podcasts, and an online archive. Along the way, you will learn to write better, think more deeply, and learn how to to analyze historical sources with discernment, integrity, and empathy. We will learn that history is not just one thing after another, but an interpretation that depends on whose voice is heard and collected. You will also learn the nuts and bolts of library and online research, which will help you throughout your career at Georgetown and beyond.

About Katherine Benton-Cohen

I grew up in Tempe, Arizona, and attended public schools far more economically and racially diverse than those of most of my college classmates at Princeton University. In my first semester, I signed up for a women’s history course, and I was transfixed. The next semester I took a first-year seminar on the Civil Rights Movement. Together those two courses made me a history major, and, with the mentorship of my thesis advisor, a historian. He made me realize I could study Arizona, not just the East Coast. At the US Women’s History Program at the University of Wisconsin, my adviser was a pioneer in the field of women’s history, which I now teach. I wrote the dissertation that became my first book, Borderline Americans: Racial Division in the Arizona Borderlands. More recently I wrote a book called Inventing the Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission and its Legacy, which examines the largest study of immigrants in American history. I’m indebted to my many mentors, and it’s that spirit I hope to honor in my Ignatius seminar.

— Katherine Benton-Cohen