Our Essential Questions Seminar is a signature feature of the Bridges Common Learning Experience (CLE). These smaller
scale seminars are organized around animating questions that are essential because
- Articulate enduring human concerns;
- Raise timely issues of great importance; or
- Tap into your passions or excite your interest.
Essential Questions seminars awaken intellectual curiosity while acclimating you to
habits of mind (i.e., persistence, metacognition, flexibility, openness) that are
crucial to your success in college and your career readiness.
Current EQ Courses Offered
Talk with your advisor/student success coordinator about registering for one of the
EQ courses below.
Are Dogs Our Best Friends?
We will explore the latest science on dog evolution, dog psychology, and the story
of us — the unique relationship between dogs and humans, to any level of dog enthusiast.
We will learn about how and why humans bring wild animals into domestication, evolutionary
theory, cognition and the theory of mind, and animal communication with a focus on
faces. When you finish this course, you should think about dogs and humans in new
ways and be able to apply your knowledge to higher level courses on biology, psychology
Are Robots People?
This course explores what makes a person a person and whether robots can be considered
people too. We begin by considering whether sentience is merely some sort of intelligence
or whether it must involve a living, breathing body with biologically-generated emotions
and self-awareness. We then consider how sentience might apply to different types
of robots, in the real world and in fiction/film.
What is Yoga?
There's more to yoga than stretching! We'll explore the way of life practiced by the
ancient yogis, which teaches us how to reduce suffering and cultivate health in our
thoughts and actions. Along the way we'll see what contemporary exercise science can
add to the ancient yoga texts. And we'll do some simple stretching exercises.
What is Money?
You know you want it, but do you really know what it is? Money is actually a mysterious
thing, at once material, mathematical, social, and symbolic, and it has intrigued
thinkers, activists, and artists since the dawn of civilization. This course will
introduce you to those traditions, including the work of philosophers, coin makers,
economists, artists and novelists who have grappled with the mystery of money. Through
discussions, individual research, and other projects you will explore, not how to
get money, but what it means to have it.
Must Art Be Beautiful?
What is "beauty?" What makes something inherently "beautiful" and other things less
so? What makes us delight in the appearance of a freshly bloomed rose, and quickly
turn away at the sight of a garden grub? The slippery nature of beauty fascinated
Classical philosophers, and has continued to stir debate for centuries: is beauty
a subjective thing (that beauty is in "the eye of the beholder") or objective (that
beauty is an essential "truth" inherent and innate within a thing)?
Do law and morality go together like vinegar and ice cream? Both important, but best
consumed apart? Or are they like milk and cookies? Both delightful on their own, but
even better when consumed together? Scratch a contemporary legal or political dispute
and you will find this question just under the surface. In this class we will explore
the various conceptions of the relationship between of law and morality and think
about how these conceptions inform (or misinform!) contemporary political and legal
What is Truth?
After a brief career working in Silicon Valley and helping to engineer what we now
consume in social media, Tristan Harris of the Center for Human Technology, recently
shared his grave concerns about what social media usage is doing to our perceptions
of truth and our ability to maintain civil society. He says, our emotions are Paleolithic,
our institutions are medieval, but our technology is accelerating at a godlike pace.
We cannot change any of these quickly enough to stop the alienation, fake news, violence,
and distorted "truths" that we consume daily on social media. But we able to work
to change our culture by raising awareness of social media manipulation and reclaiming
our own rationality. This course is a deep dive into philosophical questions surrounding
Truth, faith commitments that uphold truth, the technologies that put truth at risk,
and our ability to protect ourselves and others in the "Information Age."
What is Gender?
What's your gender? The answer seems to be obvious, simple even. But there are many
layers to the question of gender — what it is, what it's supposed to be, and
how it connects with our experiences, societies, histories, sciences, religions, and
of course, interpersonal relationships. How we identify our gender also intersects
with our race, culture, class, sexual orientation, and many other factors. This EQ
will engage a variety of perspectives that both illuminate and complicate these many
aspects of the question of gender. The course will be discussion based, challenging
students both to bring their own experiences to the theory and to de-centralize their
own positions on this topic in the face of diverse insights. Students will work together
in discussion as well as through the textual readings to understand the intersection
of gender with other identities.
Is God Good?
Why do human beings suffer? How do we make sense out of violence, trauma, and devastation
of the natural world? What are human beings supposed to be doing with our lives and
where can we find hope? Every major religion has addressed these questions. In this
class, we are going to explore different ways in which Christianity has interpreted
suffering and evil with an eye toward hope. The course will engage a number of contemporary
issues including: sexual violence and racism.
Can We Talk?
One of the most rewarding and challenging parts of human life is communicating across
differences, including gender, race, nationality, religion and politics, and power
inequities. Such conversations require a desire to learn from difference in both face-to-face
and social media settings. Additionally, professional settings, such as asking for
a raise and offering constructive feedback to a team member, all require thoughtful
communication skills. This course investigates dialogue, discussion, and disagreement
in contested communicative contexts.
How Can We Advocate for Health and Wellbeing?
We all want to live a long and healthy life. Communication and wellness are interwoven
with health care. Human communication is central in advocating for health, whether
for oneself or others in an examination room or hospital room, as one is employed
in a healthcare organization, or in working to support the health of people in our
communities. Healthcare policies and the relationships that health care providers
have with diverse community members affects how health is understood and how care
is provided in face-to-face interactions and through digital platforms.
What is Love?
Love is a phenomenon that shapes human experience from birth to death, in the most
profound and mysterious ways. The experience of "love" is at turns comforting, scary,
dangerous, courageous, uplifting, damaging, or soul-making. What do we know of this
mysterious force? Can "love" be accounted for merely by biology? Or is there more
— is it genetic, spiritual, primal? All of the above? Most importantly, is love
primarily self-serving or can it truly seek the good? This course surveys texts from
an array of disciplines and explores these topics through class discussion, short
exploratory essays, and digital humanities projects.
Can We Snap Back After Setbacks?
How do we maintain a sense of balance, and well-being, in the midst of challenging
circumstances including times of crisis? Contemplative practices that facilitate pausing,
quieting the mind, centering, and receiving what is present, such as mindfulness meditation,
deep listening, gentle movement, journaling, interpersonal mindfulness and dialogue,
help us step back and create a space for being that is not dominated by fear, anxiety,
and stress. We will explore cultivating wellness, resilience and even joy in challenging
times through practicing various kinds of contemplative practices.
Light or Shadow? Media in American History
This course will cover the development, role and ramifications of the American Media
from its Enlightenment roots until roughly the 1970's. The course focuses on a wide
variety of mediums, the technologies that made them possible, the social forces that
made them popular, the key figures who drove them and the historical context in which
Whose Humanity Matters?
Whose Humanity Matters? There is perhaps no question that appears to have a more obvious:
Everyone's humanity matters! But do we actually behave toward others in ways that
affirm that truth? This course will explore this question through the lens of incarceration
practices, historically and in our own times. Through examinations of anti-Semitism
and the Holocaust, and racist theologies that have been used to justify the incarceration
and lynching of African-Americans in this country, we will consider ways in which
Christianity has been distorted to justification dehumanizing, imprisoning, and killing
people who have been pushed to the margins of society. A re-examination of the Christian
scriptures will identify why a true understanding of the Christian faith affirms the
human dignity of every person.
Does God Exist?
This course examines the claims atheists make against faith and the responses believers
make to these claims. Those who take this course may expect to gain a solid understanding
of the most prominent traditional arguments in favor of God's existence, along with
the counterarguments against them. The course emphasizes a balanced approach between
the two, inviting students to think critically about the material and to formulate
their own conclusions.
Why Am I Imagining Things?
We are all imaginative beings. The capacity to imagine and create enriches our humanity,
fostering connections with others and our environments. This course grows out of questions
such as: Why do we need imagination as humans? What does it mean to be creative, to
be a creative being? How does imagination exist in our everyday lives? How can or
do we bring imagination into our lives? How are creativity and imaginative activity
linked? What prompts imaginative creativity, and how can we be creative? How is creativity
linked to self-expression and self-understanding? How is imaginative creativity both
playful and purposeful? We will explore ideas about imagination and creativity, ranging
from the (literary, visual, musical, and performance) arts to science to popular culture.
Thinking critically and creatively, we will draw upon our own imaginative capacity
in writing and talking, as well as engaging with creative processes. Everyone will
design and develop some kind of creative project over the course of the semester,
generated by individual interests.
Who Needs Healing?
How are our views of health and disability socially and culturally conditioned? This
course provides students an opportunity to reflect on their own experiences of health,
the role that health plays within their understanding of their own wellbeing, and
their personal, professional, and civic responsibilities toward persons who are disabled.
Students will explore a number of intellectual arguments about how health is constituted
and what counts as a disability, and participate in assignments that consider how
academic discussions of disability intersect with current events and public policy
measures and with art and literature. We focus in particular on how health and disability
are understood in the Christian theological tradition, both in historical Christian
thought and in contemporary theologies of disability, and on the ways that Christianity
has both influenced and been shaped by broader cultural attitudes toward disability.
Are We Immortal?
There are many philosophical arguments about what happens after we die. Some argue
that our immortal souls survive the death of our bodies and that we are either rewarded
or punished in the afterlife. Some argue that we're rewarded or punished by being
reborn in a new kind of body. And some argue that nothing happens at all. But our
different beliefs about the afterlife (or lack thereof!) affect how we live our lives
while we're still living them. In this course, we will read and discuss philosophical
literature from a diverse set of intellectual contexts to explore the existential
consequences of different beliefs about the afterlife. We will ask how the values
we hold, the choices we make, and the lives we hope to live might change if we changed
our minds about whether or not we are mortal beings.
Do You Know the Real Africa?
How to understand Africa? It is the second largest continent in terms of size and
population and is considered the richest in natural resources. Yet it is the poorest
continent, plagued by conflict, the effects of colonization, burdening debt and political
instability. In the midst of all these things there continue to be vibrant cultures,
religions, music, food, and people with an enduring spirit to survive and live well.
We will engage in collaborative research, discussion, and presentations to call attention
to the varying ways in which we re/invent our understandings of the continent.
Am I An Algorithm?
We live in an age defined by our technologies, from computers, smartphones, the internet,
social media, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence. Starting with the question,
"how does technology influence who we are," this course guides students in a series
of questions concerning the relationship between technology and both individual human
beings and society as a whole. The course will take a realistic view toward technology
that avoids the pitfalls of overly optimistic and pessimistic orientations.
Is Care For the Planet My Responsibility?
With the stakes of climate change already high and ever rising, this essential-question
course considers various levels of responsibility-personal, societal, global-for the
ecological crisis facing humanity. The consideration of one's own responsibility will
be facilitated by an engagement with myriad resources both within and outside of Catholic
Christianity treating issues of ecology, care for the planet and a renewed understanding
of creation and faith informed by dialogue with the natural sciences.
Why Should Anyone Become a Scientist?
Who are scientists? Are they nerds? Geniuses? Weird? Ordinary? In it for money and
power? In this course we will read articles, listen to podcasts, and watch videos
about what scientists do and why. We will discuss the unusual, innovative, and relevant
topics scientists devote their lives to understanding. We will also explore how scientists
do science, communicate their results, handle controversy, and more. We will discuss
the role of science and science writing in society. We will apply the methods scientists
use to contemporary issues such as climate change and COVID vaccination.
Are We Our Planet's Keeper?
Are we our planet's keeper? Consumption of energy and materials has grown exponentially
for over half a century, greatly improving the material standards of living across
much of the globe. At the same time, this development has triggered global warming,
acutely stressing the planet's major ecosystems and the condition of the entire biosphere
itself while leaving a great segment of humanity at levels of poverty and destitution.
How can climate change and resource limitation be addressed while improving economic
and social impacts? What is possible, with current technology, for building a sustainable
What is Colonialism?
The word "colonialism" often conjures up highly romanticized images from movies, Netflix
series, and high school textbooks. In reality it was an oppressive political system
that resulted in incalculable human suffering. How did colonial regimes develop over
the past five hundred years? What ideas did these powers use to justify their empires?
And how did colonial subjects fight back against the tyranny of imperial rule? This
class examines the ideologies of empire from roughly 1500 to the present, exploring
how the legacy of colonialism and imperialism shaped our modern world.
Does Protest Matter?
This course asks whether protest makes a difference in affecting significant social
change? This question is important in today's world in which protests over a range
of issues happens on a daily basis. Protest occurs almost all the time just about
everywhere; the BLM protests during the summer of 2020, the January 6 insurrection,
the current protests against "Critical Race Theory," the movements for LGBTQ rights
and for gay marriage, among many others. What makes one set of protests effective
but not others? Does protest make a difference only under certain conditions such
as support among elites or powerful allies? Is there a difference between protests
on the right or left of the political spectrum in terms of their ability to effect
change? What about the role of violence (on the part of authorities or protesters)
and disruption? We'll discuss these questions with the help of short readings in the
sociology of social movements as well as narratives and documents from social movement
What Does it Mean to Be Human?
What are the past, present, and future of our humanity? This course blends forms of
inquiry drawn from philosophy, literature, anthropology, biology, and psychology to
ask what our humanity has looked like, what it might mean to us now, and what it might
become. Is humanity a biological fact, a socially and historically determined experience,
a technological platform, a form of behavior, a reflective self-definition, a political
claim, some combination of these, or none of them? Reflectively engaging primary source
material in the form of theoretical texts, films, scifi novels, etc., this course
aims not to define our shared humanity but to turn it into a question for us.
What is African Thought? (Honors College EQ)
How does African thought contribute to the way we see ourselves, others, and the world?
Philosophy began in Africa, with ancient Egyptian concepts of justice and soul, and
relations between humans and gods. More recently, colonial and post-colonial African
philosophers deal with reason and culture, time and destiny, witchcraft and aesthetics,
religion and modernism, ethics and community, politics and the philosophy of history,
independence and freedom. This seminar will engage both the history of African thought,
its postcolonial present, and its influence on schools of contemporary African-American
thought, including aesthetic, political, literary, and philosophical schools such