(August 26, 2013) – Football isn’t the only exciting new program at Hendrix
students in the class of 2017 are kicking off a new interdisciplinary seminar
course called The Engaged Citizen (TEC).
developed by Hendrix faculty from across disciplines to focus on a topic that
relates in some way to being an engaged citizen.
Some of the TEC
topics offered this year include spirituality and the creative arts; poverty;
the art of subversion; sex and gender; origins and ethics; images of politics,
power and civil society; engagement, happiness, and the good life; and ethics,
story, and social transformation. [See full list below]
students were given brief summaries of the available topics and ranked their
top five choices. All students were matched with one of their top five choices,
according to Hendrix politics professor Dr. Jay Barth ’87, a member of the
faculty committee overseeing the development of the new course. Barth also
serves as director of civic engagement projects.
The new course
will be taught by dyads, or pairs of two professors, to approach their shared
theme from their particular disciplinary perspective. Students are divided
between the two professors, and the classes will rotate so students interact
with both professors.
Journeys, an incoming freshmen course that was taught for a decade.
to consider alternatives to Journeys that allowed professors to teach from
their strengths and honored both student and faculty choice. Because TEC brings
together two faculty members from different disciplinary perspectives, it
promotes a more interdisciplinary experience for incoming freshmen, Barth said.
“It’s rare that
I have the chance to help students think through the ways physics informs the
question of what it means to live life as an engaged citizen,” said Hendrix
physics professor Dr. Todd Tinsley, who is teaching Origins and Ethics with
religious studies professor Dr. Robert Williamson. “Rarer still is the
opportunity to do that with a biblical scholar.”
“That’s a great
lesson in the value of a liberal arts education,” Tinsley added. “Most
questions worth considering in life are informed by multiple perspectives, and
TEC lives that out.”
“I think this course has a lot of very positive
potential,” said biology professor Dr. George Harper, who will teach a TEC
section called The Evolved
Citizen: On the Origin of Human Life,
Mind and Values with philosophy professor Dr. James Dow. “When
I look at the dyad partners (e.g. biologist/philosopher, biblical
scholar/physicist, chemist/historian), I am fascinated by the different
perspectives that will be represented. We picked our own partners, we chose and
developed our own topics, and the students selected the topics that interested
them the most.”
“Our world is filled with complex and
challenging issues like persistent poverty, climate change, and genetic engineering
that require information from multiple disciplines and perspectives in order to
be understood,” Harper said. “This course explicitly acknowledges that, and
allows each of us to bring our particular expertise to the larger conversation
so that we all come away with a fuller understanding and the ability to make
informed decisions on such issues.”
Hendrix chemistry professor Dr. Chris Marvin and
history professor Dr. Sasha Pfau have paired up to teach Enhanced Humans and Magic Pills this
provides us with an opportunity to look at some complex topics that are really
conducive to an interdisciplinary approach, where our understanding benefits
from two distinct perspectives,” explained Marvin. “We are looking at questions
involving pharmaceutical use and bioethics from a perspective that is equally
grounded in history and science.”
exciting questions for me as a scientist,” he added. “And this is a unique
opportunity for first year students to tackle these questions in a seminar
In addition to
promoting an interdisciplinary approach, TEC introduces new students to the
College’s engaged learning ethos at the beginning of the undergraduate
engaged learning program Your Hendrix
Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning. Odyssey requires every Hendrix
student to complete at least three engaged or hands-on learning activities from
internships and international study to research and service.
“It gives the
premium we place on civic engagement a prominent place in the curriculum, and
it gets students involved in an Odyssey-like experience from their first
semester,” said Hendrix Provost Dr. Robert L. Entzminger.
course will provide incoming students an introduction to engaged learning tied
to course content, something that students will continue to flesh out on their
own through their Odyssey experiences. It will also provide students an
explicitly interdisciplinary analysis of a topic in the first semester,” he
says. “Both engaged learning and interdisciplinarity are hallmarks of the
liberal arts experience at Hendrix and students will be introduced to them from
Every TEC dyad
shares four components, which professors are free to interpret as they choose:
least one formal writing assignment for each professor
engaged learning activity
upon the engaged learning activity
summative experience during finals week (e.g. an exam, presentations, group
ability to comprehend and appreciate a set of complex issues relevant to being
ability to make connections between the evidence and methods from two distinct
disciplines in order to formulate arguments about engaged citizenship.
ability to express those arguments clearly in writing and discussion.
ability to engage in and reflect on experiential learning that connects
directly to the classroom experience, preparing the students for vibrant
Odyssey experiences later in their Hendrix careers.
reinforcing the value of interdisciplinary and engaged learning, TEC reinforces
the campus’s commitment to civic engagement, Barth said.
The National Task
Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement 2011 report A Crucible
Moment that was deeply critical of higher education for not doing
enough to enhance a vibrant democracy in the U.S. Read the full report here.
The new TEC
course will complement several new and existing initiatives at Hendrix that
promote civic engagement, said Barth. For example, Hendrix is an active member
in three national civic engagement initiatives, including Project Pericles,
Imagining America, and the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty.
"I think that
this course really answers the call of A Crucible Moment encouraging
all of higher education to think about its role in encouraging critical
thinking about engagement in a democratic society,” Barth said. “As the variety
of courses included in TEC show, there are innumerable ways for young people to
engage critically with the complicated issues of our day. I'm glad that Hendrix
is taking a step into a leadership role on this issue nationally."
Citizen will include the following 14 dyads for fall 2013:
Religion, History, and Identity in Asia
Spirituality and the Creative Arts
Poverty: Why Our Communities Need the Engaged Citizen
The Art of Subversion
The Evolved Citizen: On the Origin of
Human Life, Mind and Values
Sex and Gender
Origins and Ethics
Writing Changing Places
The Great Depression: Economics, History
Images of Politics, Power and Civil Society
Slaves, Revolutionaries and Citizens: The Haitian Revolution in History and
Engagement, Happiness, and the Good Life
Enhanced Humans and Magic Pills
Ethics, Story, and Social Transformation
description of each TEC dyad, visit http://www.hendrix.edu/TheEngagedCitizen/.
1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences
education. For the fifth consecutive year, Hendrix was named one of the
country’s “Up and Coming” liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report. Hendrix is featured in the 2012 edition
of the Princeton Review as one of the country’s best 377 colleges, the latest
edition of Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change
the Way You Think about Colleges, Forbes
magazine's annual list of America's Top 650 Colleges, and the 2013 edition of the Fiske Guide
to Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since
1884. For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu.