Ignatius Seminars


Who may apply?

All first-year students in Georgetown College.

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 experience allowed me to grow close to my classmates and my professor, engage with my peers in a very small setting, and receive quality feedback from every person in class. My professor made sure to meet with us frequently, individually, to discuss our interests, how school was going, and he still invites us to check in with him and with each other.”
— Nick Valin, C’24

Drawing on the educational insights of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Seminars seek to cultivate the Ignatian ideal of cura personalis: care for each person’s individuality and care for his or her integral wholeness. The Ignatius Seminars focus not only on conveying information and intellectual content, but also on building a home for wisdom and enriching all dimensions of our students’ lives.

The small class setting of these seminars enables students to get to know their professors and classmates well. In this atmosphere, the faculty can recognize the strengths and educational needs of each student, creating a teaching and mentoring environment.

The Ignatius Seminars initiate opportunities early in your time at Georgetown to cultivate basic skills that faculty identify as important: reading a text with thought and insight, speaking clearly and persuasively in an academic discussion, and writing a structured and sustained argument. This is a chance to experience Georgetown College and university learning at its best.

Fall 2021 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

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)

Taught by: Sylvie Durmelat

Course ID: IDST-010-07

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

The making of food is one of the defining features, and curses, of our human condition. Cooking is unique to humans. It is a wonderful source of comfort that brings us pleasure, fosters social bonding and builds community. Yet food is transient. Not only is it perishable, but its daily preparation and consumption are respectively undervalued, and ephemeral.

Food and foodwork are daily mementos of our mortality, for we must eat to live. Every bite we take keeps death at bay. Or does it? Thanks in part to the industrialization of food processing and the reassuring cornucopia of supermarkets, we take this necessity of life for granted. Yet the making of food has also become increasingly suspect. Eating meat products can cause cancer, lettuce can contaminate us with E. coli, fast food affects our health and our longevity. Food production accounts for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to global warming. The way we produce and consume food is poisoning not only our bodies but the earth and our fellow creatures. Every bite we take seems to have planetary consequences; so much so that an alternate title for this course could very well be “the unmaking of food.” And indeed, one purpose of this course is to denaturalize food. Rethinking food making implies reexamining who prepares it, where, with what, and for whom. It entails reconsidering our interactions with other species and the land off which we live.

Over the course of the semester, we will look into the history and industrialization of food processing, as well as its social, racial, ethical, and environmental implications, by focusing on specific commodities and their circulation. We will explore the art, labor, and business of cooking, with its gender and ethnic ramifications. Finally, we will investigate the question of interspecies hierarchy and how remaking the ways we make food involves rethinking our place on Earth.

About Sylvie Durmelat

Professor Sylvie Durmelat

This course grows out of my experience as an academic sojourner turned settler migrant and trying to figure out what to cook for dinner far away from the ingredients, brands and tastes I grew up with in Marseille, France. My interest in food is not about the nostalgic recreation of a culinary past that never was. Rather I find that cooking allows for the making and remaking of oneself, through the introduction to a variety of new dishes, and ways of eating. Flavor profiles, taste boundaries and disgusts are very powerful tools to police, socialize and sort subjects. Migration has been emancipatory to a certain extent. It has shown me that tastes are relative and moldable, and that food making deeply shapes how we engage with and make sense of the world.

— Sylvie Durmelat

Requirements Fulfilled:
Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture (HALC)
Engaging Diversity: Domestic.
Core course in the Minor in Disability Studies

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

In this Ignatius Seminar we will examine a range of ideas and the assumptions underpinning them that have become embedded in many of our current institutions, laws, customs, and cultural practices.  In particular, we shall address assumptions leading to structures which have sustained injustices that remain potent today.  

As we shall see as the course unfolds, there are assumptions that, intended or not, have ended up sustaining what we identify as inequities now.  Some of these assumptions were unjust at the outset—and were even recognized as such, but nevertheless they became the foundation of unjust structures that are with us today, in one form or another.  But some assumptions and their consequent structures have, given changing contexts, scientific and technological advances, evolving cultural norms, and other factors that are not always clear, become unacceptable even if they were deemed acceptable—even essential—at the outset.  

And new assumptions continue to arise, becoming established within our societies. Whether these contribute to the lessening of inequities or end up sustaining them is something we must be alert to.  How we become alert and what to become alert to is what our “addressing” work entails.

Along with addressing the assumptions that lie behind large structures (institutions, for example) that either contribute to or actually sustain injustices, we shall meet people who are wrestling with their own responsibilities as they confront assumptions and structures that potentially foster inequities.  As well, we will explore some of the scholarly work that examines how these people can exercise their agency—ethically and effectively.

The seminar’s topic evokes powerful questions.  For instance:

Not all assumptions or ideas become established, i.e., become structural, and not all structures either create or lead to inequities. Why is that? Why do some persist while others do not?  Some ideas create inequity from the outset; others evolve into inequity.  Can we understand why? 

What happened between those once-plausible ideas and their instantiation and how we look at them currently? Consider child labor. Not so long ago, having children work—the fields, the factories, the mines, etc.—was the normal course of events. Only very privileged children escaped toil. But then, towards the end of the 19th century, the practice became unacceptable in many societies. It was challenged by laws, and transgressions were met with heavy punishments. How did what had been the norm now become offensive—physically and morally repugnant? Can we learn from evolutions like this example and apply those insights to some of the seemingly intractable inequities we wrestle with currently?  

The seminar’s extensive readings focus primarily (but not exclusively) on United States and Western Europe and cover a sweep of time; these will be punctuated by films and other activities. Class discussion, and hence, learning, depends on thorough and thoughtful preparation.

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 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). 

Engaging Diversity: Global
One history major or minor elective

Taught by: Tommaso Astarita

Course ID: IDST-010-10

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

Europe in the eighteenth century saw astonishing progress, conflict, and change that shaped our modern world in countless ways. Many Europeans thought of their era as “modern,” and confronted in new ways differences shaped by nation, class, race, religion, and gender: by late in the century, slavery came under attack, calls for women’s equality were heard, religious tolerance spread, and new literary, artistic, and musical forms appealed to a broad middle-class public.

We will explore these changes and challenges and how they affected the lives of Europeans of all classes, as well as Europe’s colonial subjects across the globe. Reason and sentiment were among the guiding principles of the age, and shaped both the Enlightenment as an intellectual movement and the century’s cultural developments. We will consider how political, scientific, economic, social, and religious developments interacted with cultural, intellectual, and artistic movements and expressions. The first best-selling novels appeared in this period, the first public museums and concert halls opened, the first regular periodicals appeared, science made great strides, and by the end of the century people could experience flight.

I also hope to help introduce you to college-level academic reading and writing, analysis and discussion. Class time will consist primarily of our discussion of common readings, and we will work together on a variety of writing assignments. We will read novels (such as Goethe’s Young Werther), plays (such as John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera), essays on many topics, letters, and commentaries on art, music, dance, and theater, plus a few modern scholarly essays. We will also visit George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon together, attend a play or opera, and visit the National Gallery of Art. By working together in a small class I hope that we will get to know each other well, and that I may assist all of you as you begin your Georgetown career.

About Tommaso Astarita

I grew up in Naples, Italy. My mother was a teacher and art historian and my father taught engineering at the Naples University: from them I learned that teaching was both fun and challenging, and to love art and the history of culture. Already in my teens I believed that what I would most like to do was to study and teach history, and although of course back then I did not know what this would really mean, I have been fortunate that my life has in fact allowed me to do just that. I came to the United States for graduate school and then began teaching. I continue to enjoy interacting with smart young people, helping them develop their skills and interests, and learning from them. My own main interest is the culture and history of western Europe between the Renaissance and the eighteenth century.

— Tommaso Astarita

Requirements fulfilled:
Science For All
Engaging Diversity: Global

Taught by: Paul Roepe

Course ID: IDST-010-11

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


This course will explore the chemistry and biochemistry of fundamental biomedical topics (in particular, chromosomal replication, transcription of DNA to RNA, reverse transcription of RNA to DNA, and hormone mediated signal transduction) using an accessible text alongside primary scientific literature (in many cases, papers that report initial discoveries), in order to “demystify” this literature and teach students, regardless their background, how to digest such fundamental biochemistry in order to better understand the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of human disease. This background will prepare the student to more easily navigate social and policy issues related to human disease.  For example, exploring the fundamentals of chromosomal replication illuminates why certain DNA mutations are linked to certain human cancers. 

About Paul Roepe

Professor Paul Roepe

My Chemistry Ph.D. training was in the Dept. of Physics at Boston University in the mid 1980’s. Working with members of the Khorana laboratory at M.I.T., I learned to love combining physics, chemistry, and molecular biology. Accordingly, I did postdoctoral work at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, and the Molecular Biology Institute at U.C.L.A. In 1990 I accepted a joint appointment in Molecular Pharmacology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cornell University Medical College, where I began to study drug resistance. When this research grew to include studies of drug resistant malaria, my laboratory moved to Georgetown. DC is a malaria research epicenter and the Lombardi Cancer Center was willing to help us continue cancer work while we learned about malaria. Today, our laboratory’s work remains highly interdisciplinary.

— Paul Roepe

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. Debates about “political correctness” and “freedom of expression” are rooted in language. International relations and cross-cultural communication require interpretations and translations which are often controversial. 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. Readings will include translations into English from several languages (Turkish, Arabic, Italian, and German). We will look at controversies about diverse forms of American English, starting with the Harlem Renaissance critique of Zora Neale Hurston’s use of Black Vernacular in her fictional and anthropological work, and continuing to contemporary discussions of rap lyrics. By interacting with Gallaudet University, we experience the visual language of American Sign Language (ASL) through poetry, theater, and music. In the global arena, we will examine the politics of language in international power relations, including for people without recognized nation states. In conjunction with the National Museum of the American Indian, we will consider what is lost when a language goes extinct. Crucial human concepts of physical and spiritual health are described through words and metaphors about food, the body, meditation/prayer, nature, and forms of illness and healing. We will explore some topics with activities such as film viewing, guest speakers, and guided meditation. Throughout the semester, we will attempt to understand a broad range of human cultural conceptions by closely studying language.

Exposure to different languages, including varieties of English, is not a requirement for this course, but would enhance a student’s ability to relate to these topics personally.

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 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). 
Engaging Diversity: Global
One history major or minor elective

Taught by: David Collins, S.J.

Course ID: IDST-010-13

Course Meeting Times: TR 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:
General Philosophy

Taught by: Kate Withy

Course ID: IDST-010-14

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

All human beings desire, by nature, to know (Aristotle, Metaphysics). But only some human beings explicitly organize their lives around pursuing knowledge or wisdom. A life seeking wisdom is a philosophical life – or, as we shall put it, a life of learning. What does it take to lead a life of learning? Is that what we are doing here at Georgetown? We will explore these questions by reading classic texts in the history of ideas, as well as contemporary articles and essays about the college experience.

After learning from Aristotle what it is to structure a life around a goal, we will look at the figure most associated with a life pursuing wisdom: Socrates. As presented by Plato, the wisdom that Socrates pursues is indispensable to leading a good life, and the pursuit of it is noble. Yet Aristophanes sees in Socrates a comic figure pursuing useless abstractions and harmful sophistry. We will ask after the truth in each characterization, as well as the ways in which each resonates with contemporary views of higher learning.

In the second part of the course, we will explore a life of learning as a process of becoming educated. For both Plato and Immanuel Kant, this process is one of coming from darkness into light. We will track this transformation by reading Tara Westover’s 2018 memoir, Educated, which raises questions about who should be educated, how, by whom, and for what end. We will discuss different types of wisdom and expertise, conspiracy theories, epistemic bubbles, and epistemic injustice.

Finally, we will explicitly interrogate our own expectations and experiences here at Georgetown. With the guidance of Adrienne Rich, David Foster Wallace, William Deresiewicz, Allan Bloom, and others, we will ask what we are, or should be, doing as we pursue a life of learning in our four years together here. Students can expect to reflect on and share their own experiences in the education system and to come to a deeper understanding of how those experiences have shaped, and continue to shape, them. A final portfolio of work will include reflective, creative, and analytic components, with lots of flexibility for students to design their own educational journeys through the course.

About Kate Withy

Professor Kate Withy

When I was 15, I announced that I was bored with high school and was going to university instead. I never left. The University of Auckland (in Aotearoa New Zealand) is and was very different from Georgetown University – as is and was The University of Chicago, where I did my PhD. But all universities make it possible for people to devote themselves to learning, whether for a few years or for their entire lives. What a marvelous world, that has such things in it! As delighted as I am by universities, however, I have enduring questions about what (if anything) they have to do with the pursuit of wisdom, and so about what (if anything) we think we are, or should be, doing here.

— Kate Withy

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:
Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture (HALC) 
One core requirement for the Studio Art major (equivalent to Drawing I) or one elective for the Studio Art minor

Taught by: John Morrell

Course ID: IDST-010-18

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

What is a line? Do they exist in nature? Line starts with a discussion of the first marks humans made on cave walls to understand and perhaps control the world around them. While studying the evolution of mark-making by artists in multiple cultures, students will learn methods, materials and techniques of drawing. Students will discover the imaginative and expressive potential of line, shape and color and how they play a role in most forms of visual communication, past and present. Students will learn experientially and experimentally.

John Morrell portrait by Edson Martinez C’20

Line, Shape and Color is a studio course in which students will learn to see, evaluate, interpret, and communicate through their drawings. Through their own artistic creations, the study of objects in Washington’s museums, and short written assignments and discussions, students will learn critical visual design concepts and drawing skills that they can apply not only to art making but also to other fields of study. Drawing and studying line, shape and color in this way hones our ability to interpret cultures and shape our world.

The course will meet twice a week for 2 ½-hour sessions. One weekly session will be devoted to drawing, and the other session will be divided among discussion, lecture, student presentation, demonstration, and interactions with Lauinger Library’s Special Collection and Washington-area museums. In addition, students will devote three hours each week to outside-of-class assignments. The overall course grade will be heavily dependent on class participation (50% of the grade). Students will be challenged to explore and take risks during drawing sessions. Serious exploration, with successful and failed outcomes, will strengthen the students’ knowledge and confidence. The remaining course grades will depend on the completion of outside-of-class drawing assignments, class presentations, and participation in class critiques and discussions.

About John Morrell

I have painted and taught in the Washington, DC area for over 40 years. I received a B.S. degree from Georgetown University and a M.F.A. from George Washington University, and subsequently taught in the Art Departments at both universities. Currently, I am a Professor of Painting and Drawing in Georgetown’s Department of Art and Art History, where I have received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Since my first solo exhibition of landscapes in 1979, there have been twenty-five other solo exhibitions, including those at Galerie Lee in Paris, Addison/Ripley Fine Arts in Washington, DC, and New York’s Atlantic and Sherry French Galleries. My work is in many collections, including the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. My recent work focuses on landscape drawings and on paintings depicting nature within the modern urban environment.

— John Morrell

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: Maurice Jackson

Course ID: IDST-010-19

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

This course will review African American history through the lens of the Harlem Renaissance, one of the most creative periods artistically in American—and indeed—world history. In great part initiated by Howard University philosopher Alain Locke “The New Negro Renaissance,” the 1920’s and 1930’s, ushered in a remarkable flowering of literature, art, music—especially jazz—dance, and literature.

Using these expressive manifestations we will explore both the folk traditions and the new creations of Black artists and writers. We will examine how music, literature, poetry, and art reflected reality and was used as a guidepost during the Great Migration, when two million black people migrated from Southern states to escape lynchings and economic deprivation. These African Americans joined their Northern sisters and brothers in the quest for jobs, decent housing and education for themselves and their offspring.

We will trace the yearnings for dignity and equality using the expressive cultures of the African American people. 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 and discuss our ideas and findings

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:
HALC: Humanities: Arts, Literature and Culture

Taught by: Mark Bosco

Course ID: IDST-010-20

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

One of the most popular genres of writing today is memoir. One can distinguish it from the genre of autobiography in a few ways: autobiographies usually cover a person’s entire life; they are written in chronological order; and they place great emphasis on facts and history as a way of justifying the arc of someone’s life. A memoir, on the other hand, usually covers only a part of an author’s life, but it is read more because the subject, theme, or style of the author engages the emotional experience and interiority of the reader. Though there are always exceptions to this rule, autobiographies are often thought of as a form of “history,” whereas memoirs select and shape the facts of a life in order to explore the deeper meaning at work in one’s quest for personal insight or authenticity. This course will look at a variety of celebrated authors who have engaged the art of memoir in Western culture, beginning with St. Augustine’s Confessions (arguably the first ever memoir, written in 400 AD). Our journey into memoir will take us to the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola, the native American spiritual leader, Black Elk, the novelist Ernest Hemingway, the Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, the social justice advocate, Dorothy Day, the cultural critics James Baldwin and Richard Rodriguez, and the recent memoir of the poet and writer Mary Karr.

Fr. Mark Bosco, S.J.

Mark Bosco, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for Mission and Ministry at Georgetown University, and holds an appointment in the Department of English. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Fr. Bosco joined Georgetown after fourteen years at Loyola University Chicago, where he was a tenured faculty member with a joint appointment in the Departments of Theology and English.

As a scholar, Fr. Bosco has focused much of his work on the intersection of theology and art—specifically, the British and American Catholic literary tradition. He has published on a number of authors, including the writers Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor. He is also co-producer and co-director of the film Flannery, which won the 2019 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, and which premiered on PBS American Masters on March 23, 2021.

— Fr. Mark Bosco, S.J.

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 College in 2019, this course will allow us to study, interpret, archive and amplify women’s story 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