"What makes for a Signature Program? The Business Imperative to Have Collegiate Seminar as the Cornerstone of a Saint Mary's Liberal Arts Education"

A ‘signature’ program, in business parlance, sets you apart from the rest of the field. Collegiate Seminar – now in its 75th offering – has helped differentiate a Saint Mary’s Liberal Arts degree in the higher education marketplace.

Collegiate Seminar 75th anniversaryYet, how does a signature program that is based on the Great Books maintain its relevance, in an abridged world of words that has transmuted to tweets, texts, and snapchats? For one, Collegiate Seminar (CS) breaks down silos and immerses students into the critical thinking process across disciplines, which makes it a good basis for success in business. As the nature of employment changes, students are looking for ways to make themselves more marketable by focusing narrowly on specific task or functional-level competencies. Seminar provides our students with a broader education beyond task-based training. Students learn to project their own ‘voice’ and to navigate difficult conversations with others, which are important skills to have beyond those needed to gain an entry-level position.

One of the main pillars of Seminar is shared inquiry, which requires students to build on each other’s points to generate higher-level themes. This helps develop another skill set that leaders need, which is that of being inclusive and respectful of opinions that may be different from their own. Critical thinking and communication – the other two pillars of Seminar - are highly sought after skills by recruiters. Through the analyses of multiple texts from different eras, authors, world-views, and disciplines, students are able to hone their critical thinking. The ability to present a cogent, well-articulated argument or essay is also a powerful tool developed in Seminar. In this way, Seminar prepares students to understand how to craft their arguments through analysis, discussion, and reflection. It also prepares students to be more reflective, articulate, and thoughtful leaders. 

As an ideal, Seminar stands for something that is larger than gaining insights from a great list of readings. Predominantly, it underscores the importance of Collegiate Seminar to a community of educators and students across all disciplines, as a way to embody our tripartite mission. In business speak, one could refer to it as that intangible quality called  “organizational culture.” At Saint Mary’s, Collegiate Seminar is our way of being, and what makes us special.