We have had an active couple of months in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at LVC. The semester kicked off with our first BRAINSTORMS meeting (see photos here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.647908175233064.1073741834.471241416233075&type=3) in which we celebrated the publication of the book of essays from our undergraduates on the work of Catherine Malabou (check it out at http://www.blurb.com/b/4537234-brainstorms). The essays were the product of last year’s team-taught undergraduate research symposium. The symposium course and the book publication were such a success that we have plans to make them both annual events. In other words, we want LVC to be the destination for high achieving students who want to take on the challenge of conducting undergraduate research and whose quality of work will be ready for the scrutiny of public presentations and publication.
It is with that in mind that we have commenced our second annual team-taught undergraduate research symposium course. The topic for this year is “Race and Religion.” Students will be working in a collaborative learning environment with three LVC professors from the department as well as with Professor J. Kameron Carter from Duke Theological School, who is serving as the symposium course’s external scholar. Students are enrolled in the class by the permission of an instructor and commit to an entire year of study and conversation. During the spring semester, students will present their research in two public forums. The first will be at the North American Undergraduate Conference on Religion and Philosophy in which LVC students will be competing with students from across the country for awards in outstanding scholarship and presentation. The second will be at the public symposium where Professor Carter will be serving as the official respondent, providing commentary and critique on each student’s work. Based on the feedback the students will be receiving from these various events, as well as the writing conferences held with individual professors over the course of the spring semester, students will revise and finalize their papers to be ready for publication in a collected book of essays in summer 2014.
In addition to this intensive learning experience, we also have four students completing the senior seminar course this semester. This course as designed as the capstone course for the Religion and Philosophy major. It requires students (1) to compile a portfolio of their best representative work over their time as an undergraduate, (2) to write an intellectual autobiography, and (3) to complete a senior research thesis on a topic of each student’s own choosing. This is the class where students synthesize and bring coherence to their various courses and demonstrate their capacities at critical thinking and in oral and written communication. It provides interested students with a writing sample that can be included as a part of their graduate school applications. And it is a means by which students can convey to potential employers their capacities for completing tasks independently, problem solving, intellectual discernment, effective communication, and self-confidence. The course is required of all majors. It gives students the opportunity to work one-on-one with an individual faculty member. And it is yet something else that helps to distinguish our department’s philosophy of teaching and learning in a liberal arts environment from many of the other good programs in Religion and Philosophy from our region.
Finally, we are pleased to report on the outstanding work done by one of our graduating seniors. Ashley Ferrari is not only a student leader on campus who is involved in many different extracurricular activities, but she is also a successful triple major in Philosophy, International Studies, and Spanish. She has studied abroad in Spain, and has engaged in a collaborative research project with an LVC faculty member in Mexico. She has just recently completed her application for the Fulbright Scholar Program. As stated on the CIES website, “The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to ‘increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.’” Students are chosen for the Fulbright based on their academic merit and leadership potential. If chosen, the Fulbright Scholar is given a full year’s of funding for the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research on a shared international concern. Ashley’s proposed research project builds on her work from last year’s undergraduate research symposium on Catherine Malabou. She was assisted in preparing the application by faculty in the Religion and Philosophy department and her advisor in International Studies. She is proposing to spend a year at the University of Barcelona under the direction of the philosopher Santiago Zabala. We are extremely hopeful for Ashley’s prospects and proud of the seriousness of purpose she has already shown in readying her application materials.