Colloquia Program Covers Wide Range of Topics, Issues

Students listen during the "Reflecting on Sandy Hook: Trauma & Mental Health" colloquium on February 20.

News Story: May 1, 2013

Whether it’s hearing from a favorite author, discussing current events or getting the facts about the issues that most concern young adults, Sacred Heart University’s colloquia program has something for everyone. A colloquium is a scholarly exchange of ideas on topics and issues. An effective colloquium should be thought-provoking and invite a wide range of perspectives in an engaging and thoughtful conversation.

In 2007, Michelle Loris, professor and associate dean of SHU’s College of Arts and Sciences, instituted The Human Journey Core and its complement—The Human Journey Colloquia Series – to engage students in learning beyond the classroom. “Our intention is to engage students in discussions of significant contemporary topics, themes and issues that respond to one of the core questions. We want to ensure that learning extends beyond the classroom and is ongoing. We want students to think about ideas, issues and topics from many different perspectives. We want them thinking, asking questions and engaged in intellectual conversation, and we want them immersed in a vibrant, intellectual environment,” Loris said.

An example of recent colloquia is the “Reflecting on Sandy Hook” series, which covered such topics as trauma and mental health, media response to tragic events and even the whereabouts of God when evil and suffering occurs. The program gave students and other members of the Sacred Heart and local communities an opportunity to reflect upon and share the emotions brought forth by the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on December 14, 2012.  The series will conclude in September with a discussion on the second amendment.

“I liked all the ideas discussed in the Sandy Hook series. Contributing to the discussion was so important. This topic hit close to home,” said Elizabeth Bennett ’14 who hails from Fairbanks, Alaska.

“The Colloquia Series is unique because it is so closely tied to The Human Journey Common Core which has gained national recognition,” Loris noted. A variety of colloquia are offered throughout the year, including dramatic readings, film discussions, outside speakers and multi-disciplinary, faculty- driven presentations. Some of the subjects covered this year have included human rights violations, suicide prevention and date violence. The colloquia often have intriguing titles to go along with the fascinating topics. Consider “Zombies, Souls and Fear of the Flesh,” “Plastic Planet” or “Meet Your Meat.”

Recently, student-driven colloquia have become very popular. “For the past three years, every semester I will have one or two students come up to me and ask if they can present a colloquium,” Loris commented. Topics the students have presented include discrimination and prejudice and returning to the classroom with PTSD. The environmental club, Green SHUs, put together a series on the environment that included presentations on plastic and water usage.
Students in the core are required to attend two colloquia each semester, but many students attend more because of the variety of interesting topics. The presentations are also open to University faculty and staff and guests from neighboring communities. “The topics are always so interesting and engaging. I am a junior out of my core, and I still find myself attending. I am still getting valuable and relevant information from them,” said Jeff Daley ’14 of Albany, N.Y.
Sacred Heart’s mission is to educate students who are knowledgeable and able to take their place in the world. The colloquia are consistent with the mission. The aim of the colloquia is to engage students who want to learn and to get them thinking about important and relevant world issues. “A college should be a place that is constantly doing things to inspire and awaken its students to learning, to thinking, to new knowledge. That’s what a university should do outside as well as inside the classroom. And the colloquia is just one component that gets us to that goal,” Loris concluded.