As a first-year McAnulty College of Liberal Arts student, you will be a part of a Residential Learning Community. Learning communities foster an environment where new students can successfully transition to college life, both academically and socially. Students benefit from learning and living alongside peers who share their interests and working closely with faculty in small-group settings.

Each Learning Community cohort takes two thematically-related courses together in the fall semester. On campus students also live together on Learning Community-designated residence hall floors. Explore each of our learning communities to determine which is the best fit for you.

Learning Community Goals

  • Help students learn to make connections between fields of study
  • Promote the development of skills and habits that will prepare students for their academic career
  • Encourage collaboration among students and between students and instructors
  • Help first-year students in the College find friends and study companions
  • Create a sense of identity and unity among students in the College of Liberal Arts

With a focus on small groups of students, communities quickly form their own identity. Each community has a Latin name that captures its emphasis and focus. Every community class satisfies either a McAnulty College of Liberal Arts or Bridges Common Learning Experience (CLE) requirement.

Learning Communities


Unique People - Diverse Places - Enhanced Opportunities

The Africa learning community incorporates classes that emphasize discovering and better understanding the vast continent of Africa. Special attention will be focused on dispelling common misconceptions and assumptions about Africa, African Philosophy, how Africa relates to the rest of the world, and literary constructions of Africa.

The Africa learning community is comprised of two courses: AFST 150C Introduction to African Studies and THEO 281C African Religions. As a member of this community, you will explore the people, places and ideas of the continent as well as their philosophies to gain a wider worldview.


Creativity, passion, and beauty.

This Artes learning community class explores the new generation of graphic novelists who push the boundaries of visual storytelling in the areas of narrative content, representation, and aesthetic convention. Shying away from the more familiar superhero comic book, figures like Chris Ware, Allie Brosh, Seth, Nick Drnaso, Derf, Gene Luen Yang and Aaron McGruder have all taken the conventions of the comic book and expanded the scope of possibilities for visual narrative. By drawing on pop culture conventions, as well as centuries old techniques for conveying meaning, the artists who create the 21st Century Graphic Novel remake the comic for our contemporary hyper-visual meme-based culture, creating a new kind of visual literacy. The class covering this is ENGL 228C Graphic Novels in the 21st Century.

Artes students will also also receive a chronologically-oriented, detailed presentation of the history of Western art through ARHY 112C Art History: Renaissance to Modern World. Surveys Renaissance, Baroque and Modern art in Western Europe. 
Connecting faith, reason and imagination to the whole of life

Catholica learning community offers two courses grounded in the rich history and traditions of Catholicism: CATH 283C A Steeple Chase and THEO 240C Word of God in Human Words. As a part of this learning community, you'll explore faith both through scripture and through "pilgrimage" by attending classes on-site in spaces throughout the Pittsburgh faith community, such as St. Paul Cathedral and the National Institute for Newman Studies. Though Catholica focuses primarily on the Catholic faith, this learning community is designed for students of all backgrounds and religious traditions.

Preparing student-citizens to understand, appreciate, and engage with diverse global communities and their unique challenges.

The Civitas learning community provides students with a foundation built on global thought and engaging conversations. Through POSC 105C American National Government, you will learn to understand and assess American political processes, institutions and public policies. Through COMM 102C Public Speaking, you will develop the communicative skills necessary to analyze verbal discourse and perform effectively in public speaking situations that confront the educated person. Through this learning community, you will learn the importance of standpoint and worldview in understanding, developing, and articulating positions.

Challenge and strengthen your most important beliefs.

The Fides learning community introduces you to the intersection between knowledge based on faith and knowledge based on reason. Faith addresses the areas in life in which we cannot have full comprehension of reality. We need such faith in many areas of our lives, such as in our human relationships, experiences of love and emotions, and even our daily habitual assurances. Reason, rather, addresses our commitments to what we know scientifically or historically. Many philosophical and theological traditions speak of the vital importance of understanding the need for a balance between these two sources of knowledge both in the humanities and in the sciences. 

Through PHIL 160C Reality and Illusion, you will engage in conversation around competing notions of reality, illusion, truth, evidence, opinion, fact, and fiction. It is aimed to question what is "real" and whether reason or divine revelation determine what is real. COMM 103C Exploring Interpersonal Communication prepares you to ponder how our individualized beliefs shape our interactions in different relationships and guide our understanding of interpersonal justice.
The crossroads of identity and social justice.

The Intersectio learning community offers courses that focus on gender and its intersections with other identities through a lens of social justice. The courses overall will discuss misconceptions about gender, race, sexuality, class, ability, and citizenship status and the way they inform current social, political, institutional, academic, and economic structures.

Search for truth and justice through evidence in the public sphere.

Through EQ 118C Whose Humanity Matters? and SOCI 103C Introduction to Criminal Justice, you will be immersed in study of human rights and obligations through debates around the socially significant questions of sentencing reform; the complexity of truth and justice in an age of diversity; how to substantiate a claim of public evidence, focusing on truth and justice; the role of citizen in the quest for truth and justice; and the question of reconciliation and restorative justice. These engaging classes will take you off-campus for community engagement initiatives that relate to the theme of the community.


Exploring Theories and Meditative Practices from Psychology & Spirituality

The Meditatio learning community explores psychological and theological perspectives on spiritual experience, with a special focus on meditative, contemplative, and mystical versions of spirituality. Through PSYC 260C Psychology, Religion & Spirituality and THEO 210C Buddhist-Christian Dialogue, a number of worldviews and traditions will be emphasized through readings, lectures, discussions and experiential inquiry.


Engaging the world through stories.

Through the Narratio learning community, you will learn to  interpret, analyze, and respond to narratives in many forms, including literature, film, and other media. ENGL 113C Literature & Diversity prompts you to survey modes of storytelling as expressed in a variety of media and across multiple cultural traditions, and examines how authors and filmmakers use employ narrative as a form of cultural and artistic expression. Through MDIA 140C Media Literacy, you will explore the grammars and methods that underpin media messages, the motives for those who create media messages, and how media frames decision-making.

Study other lands, cultures, and states. 

The Orbis learning community draws on fictional, dramatic, and poetic works of the late 19th and 20th centuries, as well as some film, and on authors from various countries in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Africa, and highlights the issues of Human Rights, pluralism, and diversity, and the cultural shift from high modernism to the postmodern. As formerly marginalized writers move in toward the center, it emphasizes the expressions of new voices, the raising of new questions and the affirming of new representations and visions of "reality." 

As a student in the Orbis learning community, you are provided with a foundation for improved intercultural communication. By exploring intercultural communication studies, you are the influence of cultural diversity on interpersonal (one on one) interactions, but resists the temptation to trivialize intercultural communication by reducing it to a set of "do's and don'ts" of another culture. Instead, this course fosters understanding and respect for disparate worldviews. Second, the course transcends a limited "skills" approach and looks instead toward theory that grounds understanding of differences in belief, cultural practices, values, and ethics and their influence on intercultural engagement in interpersonal settings. As a part of this learning community, you will take WDLI 103C New Voices, Questions, and Realities and COMM 114C Exploring Intercultural Communication.

Ask better questions; work toward more satisfying answers.

The RATIO learning community works to help you better understand the needs and concerns of those who carry out the indispensable task of serving and protecting the masses through coursework, presentations, projects, and guest-speakers. Furthermore, students in the RATIO learning community will work together with the Office for Military and Veteran Students to help raise awareness for Veterans' issues while using their reasoning and critical thinking skills to tackle some of the problems facing our Veterans.

Explore the idea of performance both on stage and in our daily life.

Students in Spectaculum study the idea of performance by studying, writing about, and participating in performance-oriented projects. The vital skills of collaboration, time-management, critical analysis, interpretation, and problem-solving provide a basic groundwork for a successful college career and beyond, no matter your major. You will learn advanced critical thinking and problem solving skills by taking a script and translating it into a finished production -- a colossal exercise in critical thinking. You learn how to stay calm in a crisis, understand deadlines and respect them, improve self-confidence, and become very resourceful. This learning community is perfect for students who enjoyed participating in the performing arts in high school or for complete novices who are interested in acquiring new skills that will help them to be successful in their future endeavors. The courses that are a part of this learning community are ENGL 203C Special Topics: Introduction to Drama and THEA 151C Introduction to Theater.


Because our learning communities are so unique, we receive many questions from students and parents about how they work. Here are some of our most frequently asked questions:

As a member of a learning community you have the opportunity to study, room, and take part in activities with students who have similar interests. All students in learning communities are Liberal Arts students like yourself. Professors have spent hours planning so that students will be able to make connections between the different courses.
The Latin names recall the classical education out of which the liberal arts were born. They stand as a reminder that many questions we ask today follow from long-standing traditions of thoughtful inquiry. The learning communities continue these traditions through engaged, collaborative learning.
Your role is to contribute actively to the understanding, friendship, and involvement that will make your learning community succeed and to help others in your community succeed with you. Another role is to find connections among the different fields, courses, and activities that are part of your learning community to enhance your learning and that of others.
You will have the same courses as all other members of the learning community. In addition, as a member of the community you will have access to the living-learning center where members of your community live on campus, to participate in discussions and activities that take place there.
Yes, as long as space is available. Because no learning community can be larger than 22, if your first choice of a learning community is full you can make another choice.
In April of each year, we will begin sending registration information to those students who have made their enrollment deposit. You will let your academic advisor know your preferences for courses for the fall as well rank your interest in each of the learning communities.
No. All learning communities are designed to appeal to and support students in any major in the College. Check out the courses and activities in each community, and choose the one that looks like it will interest you the most.
You really can't choose the wrong learning community because all the learning communities include courses that will give you a good grounding in the liberal arts and help you earn a degree from the College, no matter what major you choose. As long as you are a student in the College of Liberal Arts, all the learning communities are equally instructive.
If you choose to come to the McAnulty College of Liberal Arts at Duquesne University, you are choosing to be a member of a first-year learning community. Our experience dating back to 2000 shows that being a member of a learning community will help you succeed. The learning communities will give you a tremendous advantage as you begin your college studies.
Essentially, the Honors College is a residential learning community of its own, with its own Living Learning Center, Assumption Hall. It offers many of the same advantages of the College's learning communities.
No problem. The College and Residence Life will work with you on special rooming requests. If your friend is a first-year student in another school at Duquesne, your friend may still room with you on the learning community floor and take part with you in the community's co-curricular activities.
No. The residential learning communities are a unique opportunity for Liberal Arts students. Only Liberal Arts students have the opportunity to study together, live together on the same floor, and participate in common activities that the learning communities afford.