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​​​Offered during winter and spring quarters, each Focal Point Seminar employs a multi-disciplinary approach to investigate a significant person, place, event, text, or idea. As with the Chicago Quarter, students may choose from an array of more than 100 course offerings taught by faculty from throughout the university.

A guiding principle is that understanding is deepened when the perspectives of various disciplines and methodologies are brought to bear upon the same issue. The faculty member who leads each seminar draws on his or her different experiences and intellectual perspectives, with the result that students learn how scholars strive to understand a singular topic in increasingly focused ways.

The second guiding principle is that students benefit from an early introduction to the seminar approach utilized frequently in higher education. Focal Point courses stress seminar behavior: active learning through critical questioning, speaking, listening and discussion driven by ideas gleaned from readings that include original works, primary sources and secondary literature. Writing and revision further sharpen the academic skills needed to succeed in and get the most out of college. To foster seminar behavior and encourage a mentoring relationship between faculty and students, enrollment in each class is limited to 20 students.

The Focal Point Seminar requirement in the Liberal Studies Program comprises many topics in the following course:

​Learning Outcomes

​Students will be able to:

  • Discuss and analyze work from at least three different fields in their written work for the course.
  • Participate actively in advancing the collective intellectual understanding of the course topic through class discussions.
  • Distinguish between primary and secondary sources, and assess varying degrees of mediation and interpretation in specific source materials.
  • Construct arguments based on evidence and the work and interpretations of other sources.
  • Revise papers in response to the instructor’s comments.
  • Produce a project with a central argument, in which all parts of the project support the central argument.