The Paideia® Experience Before Paideia®
While Southwestern launched its Paideia® Program only three years ago, the educational components defined as the essential strands of the programrigorous academics, intercultural experiences, leadership, service-learning, and collaborative/guided research and creative workshave long been part of the Southwestern experience. When constructing the Paideia® Program, University officials incorporated those transformational educational experiences that generations of Southwestern University alumni credited with accelerating their personal and professional development.
Read what some alumni say about the Paideia®-like experiences that complemented the rigorous academics of the Southwestern classroom and shaped who they are today.
During my sophomore year at Southwestern, I had the opportunity to participate in a week-long academic trip to the United Nations as a part of my political science studies. It was actually a 13-day trip and was marvelous. I remember quite well our visits to the Soviet, Japanese and Indonesian Missions to the United Nations, discussions with the Secretary of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN Secretariat, and private dinners in the homes of UN administrators discussing pressing global and bureaucratic issues facing that world body. I also remember walking out of the front of the Soviet Mission only to spot cameras in the window of the apartment building directly across from the entranceobviously part of the FBIs continual monitoring of visitors in and out of that center of Soviet espionage in New York. I also remember brisk, nighttime walking tours of Greenwich Village and Chinatown with our host, a professor from an eastern college. Upon my return to SU, working from extensive personal notes, I produced a lengthy paper highlighting three areas where the UN had been successful and three areas where it had been an abysmal failure. Those SU experiences, and my observation of the UN in the years since, continue to inform my view of this organizations critical role and potential for success in the decades to come.
Collaborative Research and Creative Works
Jay Richards thought that his political science and religion degrees would prepare him well for graduate school. I was interested in ideas that have public consequences and found an interest in the power of ideas I did a collaborative project with friend and fellow political science major Phil Christian 89.
In our senior capstone course, taught by a great professor,
Tim ONeill, we led a seminar on Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War. Phil and I poured ourselves into the subject and even wore togas for the presentation. I remember the excitement I experienced in reading primary sources rather than textbooks, and have retained that enthusiasm into the present. Later in life, Richards, a vice president for research and senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, a public policy think-tank, rediscovered the power of collaborative research through a number of published works, including his latest book, The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery, with astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez. Their book is the basis for the documentary The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe, currently showing on many PBS affiliate stations. Richards work on this project examined the concept of intelligent design, a theory holding that nature bears evidence best explained by an intelligent cause. His research at the Discovery Institute has enabled Richards to utilize the broad-based education he gained from Southwestern. My Southwestern education prepared me for the generalist approach of philosophy that I enjoy so much. I did what I intended to do. I really wanted to apply my studies of political science and religion to wider issues. Here I am, doing just that.
Jan. 20, 1961, I was walking across campus at Southwestern University, about to begin my last semester of undergraduate work. It was late morning. I went into the student union building to see what might be going on, and I saw a bunch of folks waiting to watch the presidential inauguration. Having nothing better to do, I decided to stay and watch. Then, John F. Kennedy began to speak. His intelligent speechnot just his elegant words and his inspired grasp of events, but also the compelling cadence and Irish tenor of his voiceseemed to somehow zap right into my emotional wiring and speak to parts of me I didnt even know existed. A transcendental charmer he was, asking us to ask not, calling us beyond ourselves, challenging us to relate to the work in ways that made life sound well worth living. Kennedy did not mention Peace Corps in his inaugural address, but it soon entered my expanded consciousness. Over spring break, the National Student Association held a workshop on Peace Corps in D.C., so I wrangled an authorization from the SU Student Council to go as a delegate. Along with three other interested classmates, I spent three to four days at American University, sorting through, evaluating and fleshing out different proposals with respect to Peace Corps. At the end of the conference, I picked up an application, sent it in and, in early June, I received a telegram from Sargent Shriver to report to Rutgers University for Peace Corps training for Columbia. I looked up Columbia on the map, responded in the affirmative, and that made all the difference in the world.
The variety of learning opportunities available to me during my four years at Southwestern has had a lasting impact on me not only personally, but professionally as well. As a sociology major, my classroom experiences consistently presented me with a framework for understanding issues related to poverty, discrimination and other forms of social inequality. My honors thesis, in which I focused on feminist social work practice, further enhanced my perspective on what role I can have within the nonprofit sector to bring about social justice and change for families and individuals in need. Throughout the process of developing my thesis, I had the wonderful privilege of talking with many professional social workers in the area. Many of those interactions are what eventually sold me on the idea of earning my masters degree in social work. I also became directly involved with several local nonprofit agencies through my participation in the Southwestern chapter of the service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. It was great to have the support of other students with similar interests in serving the larger community. Though indirectly, the semester I studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain, also affected the career path I have chosen. I continue to seek out avenues for utilizing the language I acquired in Spain, and I have enjoyed being able to work more closely with Spanish-speaking clients and community members as a result.