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​Dr. Vance G. Morgan, DWC director

​Professors Brainstorm Ideas for New Development of Western Civilization Courses

What if you were a professor of accountancy, but wanted to teach a course about how the financial crisis of 2008 related to other crises throughout history?

Suppose your academic specialty was history, but you wanted to join with a sociology professor to discuss what happens to people living on the margins of society?

A program hosted by the Center for Teaching Excellence offered Providence College faculty an answer: the opportunity to propose a colloquium in the Development of Western Civilization (DWC) Program, and to discover a colleague with whom to teach it.

After 40 years as the cornerstone of the College’s Core Curriculum, DWC is in the midst of a makeover.

DWC is a two-year program for all freshmen and sophomores. Changes took effect with current freshmen in the Class of 2016. For three semesters, they will study DWC in seminar-style classes intensely focused on discussion and writing. Then, in the fourth semester, as second-semester sophomores in spring 2014, they will take an interdisciplinary colloquium that applies Western tradition to a contemporary issue.

For example, as one of three pilot offerings last spring, a philosophy professor and a health policy and management professor co-taught In Sickness: The Experience of Illness. They used texts from anthropology, history, literary theory, philosophy, and literature to look at the history and significance of illness in shaping society.

Dr. Sandra T. Keating, associate professor of theology and DWC associate director, said the goal is to have students take the skills they acquire through reading primary texts, writing, and discussion in seminars, and apply them to a contemporary topic that interests them.

Traditionally, DWC has been taught by faculty from four departments — English, history, philosophy, and theology. But the field now is wide open, with faculty from all disciplines encouraged to make proposals for colloquia, said ​Dr. Vance G. Morgan, professor of philosophy and DWC director.

School of Business responds

Among those embracing the opportunity to teach a colloquium are faculty from the School of Business, led by the new dean, Dr. Sylvia Maxfield.

Maxfield mentioned several topics she would like to teach, including the social structure of accounting frameworks through history, how business has been viewed by major religions, and the links between “slow food and slow money — patient capital and patient food.”

After hearing Maxfield’s ideas, Rev. R. Gabriel Pivarnik, O.P., assistant professor of theology and director of the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies, said “I want to teach everything that you mentioned.”

Three business professors — Dr. Deirdre Bird, assistant professor of marketing; Dr. Christine Earley, professor of accountancy and interim associate dean for faculty and curriculum; and Dr. Patrick T. Kelly, associate professor of accountancy and interim director of the MBA Program — joined Maxfield at the session.

Also attending were professors who teach art and art history, chemistry, English, history, philosophy, and theology.

Proposals for the Spring 2014 semester will be accepted through October 15. Morgan said 60 professors are needed to teach 30 colloquia. 

Morgan noted that the importance of DWC to the College is evident in the construction of the Ruane Center for the Humanities, scheduled to open in fall 2013. The center is being built as a home for the DWC Program, with seminar classrooms designed to facilitate the student discussions.

 

— Vicki-Ann Downing
 
 
 
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