Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives


New Paideia Clusters Announced

  • News Image
    Faculty members gathered in August 2013 to brainstorm ideas for new Paideia clusters. Among the ideas that came out of that meeting was a cluster on “Situating Place” that was organized by Bob Bednar, associate professor of communication studies.
  • News Image
    Patrick Hajovsky (left) helped organize a new cluster on “Americas: North by South."

Students entering Southwestern in fall 2014 will select three courses from a Paideia cluster to help meet their core requirements

What constitutes identity? Are places physical or abstract? What impact are we as humans having on our environment?

These are just some of the topics that will be the focus of new Paideia clusters that will be available to students at Southwestern beginning in fall 2014.

All students entering Southwestern in fall 2014 will select three courses from a Paideia cluster to help meet their core requirements. Paideia clusters are groups of courses from different disciplines that share a common theme. In addition to taking three courses from a Paideia cluster, students will take a Paideia seminar their junior or senior year that will be team-taught by two faculty members who teach courses in their cluster.

The six Paideia clusters that students will have to choose from in fall 2014 are “Americas: North by South,” “The Anthropocene: Questions for the ‘Age of Humans’,” “Global Health,” “Investigating Identity,” “Representing Gender” and “Situating Place.”

The clusters on Global Health and Representing Gender were introduced in fall 2013 on a trial basis. About 150 first-year students and sophomores are participating in them on a voluntary basis.

The new cluster on “Americas: North by South” was organized by Patrick Hajovsky, assistant professor of art history, and Omar Rivera, assistant professor of philosophy. It will focus on differences and inequalities, as well as harmonies and syntheses, between peoples and nations that constitute the Americas, and encourage critical examination of power relations that divide North and South.

The new cluster on “The Anthropocene” was organized by Emily Northrop, associate professor of economics. It will focus on how human activities are changing the Earth and its ecosystems, and in turn, how those changes are affecting human cultures, livelihoods and well-being.

The new cluster on “Investigating Identity” was organized by Kerry Bechtel, associate professor of theatre, and Valerie Renegar, associate professor of communication studies. It will focus onhow individual and group identities of various types inform who we are or who we believe ourselves to be and how we succeed or fail as a result of these identities.

The new cluster on “Situating Place” was organized by Bob Bednar, associate professor of communication studies. Bednar said the impetus for the cluster comes from a recognition of the persistent importance of place in an increasingly globalized, virtualized world.  

“While we are all interconnected in many ways, everything still happens in place or between places, so to understand where we are as well as where we came from, place seems to be a critical concept to engage,” Bednar said.  “We are also drawn to the paradox that places are always physical and abstract at the same time − existing somewhere between physical geographies and our ideas and emotions about them.”  

Provost Jim Hunt said the new Paideia clusters and seminars will broaden the educational experience students have at Southwestern.

“Students in college expect to have a major, perhaps a minor, and general education courses as the key elements of their education,” Hunt said “It is a rare opportunity for students to engage with their education in a way that transcends disciplinary boundaries and that fully engages them as active participants in the process.” 

New students will be introduced to the Paideia clusters they can choose from after they have completed their First-Year Seminars.