Program Design and Learning Goals

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Our academic program is designed to help engineering students get the most out of their limited opportunity for courses in the humanities and social sciences. Through seminars averaging only 12 students and an interdisciplinary curriculum based on literature, philosophy, and the arts, The Herbst Program of Humanities encourages a flexibility of mind which engineers, like other skilled professionals, require in a rapidly changing technological and social environment.

The Herbst Program offers courses at all levels of undergraduate study, and one may take a single course or all of the courses we offer. In each case, readings and assignments are selected with the goal of helping students learn to examine their own convictions, to consider seriously the views of others, and to engage in a conversation which leads away from the expression of rigid “points of view” and toward a responsible consideration of ideas. To paraphrase Socrates, students should know themselves better.

It is no surprise that students also learn to express their ideas though clear oral expression and lucid writing. Moreover, the small group setting creates a community of learning, and faculty and students enjoy and profit from getting to know one another on a first name basis. We encourage students to consider Herbst as a way of fulfilling all or part of their H&SS requirements.

By the end of a Herbst seminar, students should be able to:

  • wrestle confidently with questions that have no absolute and unequivocal answers, and appreciate that the process of asking and answering such questions can and should be rigorous.
  • read sustained, intellectually challenging texts rhetorically, to assess how writers make and support claims, sustain arguments and analyses, position themselves in relation to audiences, and write their way into complex issues.
  • weigh alternate evidence and points of view and come to a satisfactory determination of the validity of an argument.
  • express their own most deeply-held values and explain the origins and importance of these values; question these values in comparison to the values embodied in the texts we examine.
  • present a point of view convincingly, with carefully-chosen supporting evidence, in the process of interacting live with peers.
  • engage productively and diplomatically in the positive give-and-take of academic debate.
  • demonstrate clarity of argument and expression in a written essay and a position paper.
  • demonstrate confidence and facility with the processes of revision of written work.
  • interrogate their world consciously and intentionally.

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