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 will incorporate 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. The learning community will focus on exploring and understanding the people, places and ideas of the continent to understand the vast diversity of the people on the continent and their philosophies.

Creativity, passion, and beauty.

This Artes Learning Community Class will explore 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.

Artes students will also also receive a chronologically-oriented, detailed presentation of the history of Western art. Surveys Renaissance, Baroque and Modern art in Western Europe. Can be elected to fulfill the history/literature requirements.
The Catholica Learning Community is organized by the Department of Catholic Studies. We offer two courses grounded in the rich history and traditions of Catholicism. We also generally organize a few special events for our students. In the Fall 2021, this took the form of an outdoor lunch in September, followed by a Saturday trip to Oakland, where we toured the St. Paul Cathedral and visited the special library at the National Institute for Newman Studies. At the end of the semester, our students were invited to the department's Advent party, in anticipation of the Christmas season. Catholica welcomes students of all backgrounds and religious traditions.
Preparing student-citizens to understand, appreciate, and engage with diverse global communities and their unique challenges.

The two courses taken in the Civitas learning community are aimed to provide students with a foundation for understanding and assessing American political processes, institutions and public policies. 

They will also develop communicative skills necessary to analyze verbal discourse and to perform effectively in public speaking situations that confront the educated person. Through this learning community, they are taught the importance of standpoint and worldview in understanding, developing, and articulating positions.

Challenge and strengthen your most important beliefs.

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.
Exploring Theories and Meditative Practices from Psychology & Spirituality

The MEDITATIO learning community will explore psychological and theological perspectives on spiritual experience, with a special focus on meditative, contemplative, and mystical versions of spirituality. The Christian and Buddhist traditions will be emphasized, although not exclusively. Theoretical inquiry based upon readings, lecture, and discussion will be complemented by experiential inquiry.
Engaging the world through stories.

Through the Narratio learning community, students will learn to  interpret, analyze, and respond to narratives in many forms, including literature, film, and other media. Learn how narrative techniques are used in multiple disciplines. Develop writing, research, presentation, and critical thinking skills to foster effective communication in a variety of academic and professional fields.

Mass extinction of species, climate disruption, water shortages, poisoned air and water: these devastating phenomena are evident in our hometowns and around the world. Also evident is detrimental impact on our physical health. Less evident, but equally perilous, is the psycho-spiritual trauma of losing our conscious relational contact with Earth's beings and presences. Clearly, our ecological crisis is not only a biological crisis, but more deeply a crisis of consciousness, culture, spirituality, and relationship - all key area of expertise for psychology and theology. Thus, the relatively new fields of ecopsychology and ecospirituality are contributing to an interdisciplinary "psycho-cultural therapy" devoted to well-being and justice for humans and the rest of nature together. This is "the great work" of our era (as Thomas Berry says). This profound ethical calling is the context for the present learning community, which seeks to foster compassion, respect, and care for diverse local and global civic issues, thereby supporting the University's Spiritan commitment to social and ecological justice.

By the end of the semester, students in the NATURA learning community should be able to:

  • Describe how human flourishing and the flourishing of nature are interdependent. And so too our lack of flourishing. Note: Flourishing, for the purposes of these courses, involves physical, psychological, socio-cultural, ecological, and spiritual dimensions.
  • Describe key characteristics of humankind's conflicted relationship with the rest of nature.
  • Describe how one's sense of self and mode of consciousness can foster either estrangement from or responsible intimacy with the natural world, and how the health of humankind and the natural world are influenced accordingly.
  • Describe how conventional dualistic separations generate ecopsychological and spiritual maladies (e.g., mind/body, self/world, humankind/nature, masculine/feminine, matter/spirit); and go on to articulate ways of overcoming these common forms of dissociation.
  • Describe the interrelationship between personal and collective/cultural values and practices, specifically as these relate to the ecological flourishing and justice.
  • Articulate the value of consistent, intentional, and conscious contact with the rest of nature.
  • Describe various contemplative and spiritual practices designed to sponsor the mutual flourishing of humankind and the rest of nature.
  • Make this course personally relevant in their daily life and relationships, their participation with their community and the larger natural world, and their preparation for future professional work and/or graduate school.
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."

Students will also learn be taught a foundation for improved intercultural communication. Exploring Intercultural Communication studies 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.

Ask better questions; work toward more satisfying answers.

The RATIO Learning Community will work to 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.
Exploring past, present, and future extinctions through the lens of sustainability.

All three classes in the TERRA Learning Community will integrate readings on extinction/apocalypse, demonstrating to students how one topic can be explored through literary, sociological, and rhetorical lenses.


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.