Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives



"Interdisciplinary, Integrative, Intentional"

“The cohort experience is about building relationships.”

Hear More from Erin Bradley '14 »

Paideia helps you to connect different classes and departments in ways you never knew possible. You’ll collaborate with other students, faculty and staff on projects centered on a particular theme. And you’ll have the opportunity to participate in civic engagement and intercultural learning experiences that allow you to apply your new found knowledge beyond the classroom.

Three interconnected courses (a “cluster”) followed by a team-taught interdisciplinary Paideia Seminar, will further help to connect the dots. The seminars provide the opportunity for you and your “cohort” to reflect on your clustered courses and explore how your interdisciplinary experiences relate to your major.

What am I going to do?

How am I going to do this?

What it does to your brain:

The Paideia experience introduces students to connections. Through collaboration, participation in civic engagement activities, intercultural experiences and undergraduate research, students "rearrange the blocks" to form new solutions.

Throughout their Paideia experience, students will integrate their knowledge, employ high-level problem solving skills and engage in deep learning as they apply their liberal arts education to essential questions of the world around them.

“I’m seeing these real connections, and solving real problems.”

De Andre’ Woods-Walker ’15

What it does to your schedule:

Students will be introduced to Paideia themes during their first semester and could start taking related courses their first year. Once three related courses are completed (usually around Spring of your Junior year), students are eligible to enroll in the team-taught Paideia Seminar that wraps up (or unwraps) the whole package.

develop, enrich, experiment,


Big Questions

What is a cluster? What about "interdisciplinary?" These are all ways of saying that Paideia is a group project with multiple parts. You and students like you will be civically engaged, experience different cultures and thoroughly explore new ideas.

Sample Themes:

  • Americas: North by South

    1. What does it mean to conceptualize and think about “Americas,” and why is it important to do so?
    2. How do we think of unequal structures of power and possible challenges to those structures on the basis of the history of the Americas?
    3. How can diverse ways of knowing and being lead to possible futures?



  • Global Health

    1. How is health defined?
    2. What factors (such as culture, age and sex) influence our notions of health?
    3. What are major factors that lead to health and healthcare disparities within and across nations?
    4. What policies and practices at different levels (governmental, institutional, communal and individual) shape our current healthcare outcomes? What can we do to improve these outcomes?
  • Investigating Identity

    1. What is identity?
    2. Where does identity come from?/How is identity created?/What are the sources of identity?/How do we recognize identity?
    3. How do multiple identities intersect and coexist?
    4. How is identity performed?



  • Mediterranean Mingling

    1. What do we mean by the Mediterranean?  What cultures and traditions comprise the MW?  And how have these cultures and traditions interacted in the past and today?
    2. How do ideas and practices change both within as they move across supposed boundaries? How do the geology and ecology of the MW shape culture?
    3. How do migration and exchange create confluence and conflict in the MW?  How do you distinguish among confluence, exchange, and conflict?  How does the history of cultural exchange inform what’s happening today?
  • Representing Gender

    1. How do sex and gender vary across space, place, and time?
    2. Why is the world sexed and gendered?
    3. What are the consequences of living in a sexed and gendered world?  
  • Situating Place

    1. How do humans construct, transform and contest borders, community, identity and mobility within and between places?
    2. How do claims regarding place reinforce and contest power, ownership, access and privilege?
    3. How and why do artifacts and representations shape individual and collective perceptions and experiences of place?
  • The Anthropocene - Questions for the “Age of Humans”

    1. How do scholars, policy-makers and activists define the Anthropocene?
    2. How and why are humans changing the Earth’s systems?
    3. How are changes in the Earth’s systems affecting humans and other living beings?
    4. How are humans responding to these changes?
    5. How does thinking about the Anthropocene call into question what it means to be human?

Paideia Connections

Engaging Scholarly Conversations

The Paideia Connections lecture series at Southwestern University features short talks by two faculty members from diverse fields about their recent scholarly work. Following their talks, members of the campus community and the general public are encouraged to engage in thought-provoking discussions and invited to share connections they make between the presentations. "Paideia Connections" takes its name from Southwestern's Paideia curriculum, which encourages students and faculty members to make connections between various disciplines and disparate ideas. In collaboration with Southwestern's Brown Chairholders and University Scholars, President Edward Burger initiated the series in spring 2014, and serves as the event moderator.

A recent Paideia Connections featured Professor of Religion Elaine Craddock and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Emily D. Niemeyer. Here are details and a video preview.

Elaine Craddock

Professor of Religion

Blessed by the Goddess, Cursed by Men: The Ritual and Social Lives of Transgender Indians

Elaine Craddock: Profile

Emily D. Niemeyer

Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry,
Holder of the Herbert and Kate Dishman Chair in Science

Fertile Ground for Analysis: Factors Affecting the Production of Antioxidants in Plants

Emily D. Niemeyer: Profile


Watch a preview of the Paideia Connections conversation with Elaine Craddock and Emily D. Niemeyer.

Want to know more?

Visit the Paideia site for current scholars

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