University adds third honors program

Board of trustees approves unique Philosophy, Politics and Public program, classes begin in the fall | February 21, 2003

The University is enhancing its 55-year tradition of honors offerings—and raising its academic profile—with the addition of a new honors program called Philosophy, Politics and the Public. The program was approved on Friday, Feb. 21, by the University’s board of trustees. It is the University’s third honors program—joining the Honors Bachelor of Arts program and University Scholars program—and the first new honors program the University’s initiated in 30 years. It is expected to add to the University’s academic reputation by offering a course of study unavailable at any institution worldwide. "It’s the only one in the world," says E. Paul Colella, professor of philosophy and director of the new program. "Programs in public policy abound. But what makes this new program so unique and so intriguing is the third element. The public. It’s the arena in which human individuals can stretch themselves to become something more." It’s also unique because it incorporates the traditional Jesuit teachings—theology, philosophy and ethics—required of all Xavier students. Inspired by similar programs at Oxford, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, the Philosophy, Politics and the Public program will enroll its first students beginning with the fall semester. While similar honors programs at other institutions concentrate on politics and economics, the University’s new program weaves the study of the public into all required courses. The curriculum is a rigorous, interdisciplinary, global study of the theoretical foundations and historical conditions that define public. Students study community and public responsibility from a variety of disciplines including philosophy, history, political science, sociology, theology, poetry and economics. "Philosophy, Politics and the Public has come about because of the dialogue we’ve had over the years concerning Xavier’s strategic role in community building and the way that role intersects with Xavier’s tradition for academic strength and rigor," says University President Michael J. Graham, S.J. "This dialogue is crystallized in the University’s academic vision statement," says Roger Fortin, vice president for academic affairs. "This is an opportunity for Xavier to build an academic infrastructure to accommodate a focus on the public and be a mirror of what Xavier is becoming as an institution." Students must complete the University Scholars core curriculum, plus take 18 hours of Philosophy, Politics and the Public electives that center on a concentration such as history or Third World issues. Students must also participate in smaller seminars and tutorials that allow for intense and lively small group discussion. In addition, students in the program minor in a foreign language, receive a $3,500 grant toward a summer studies program abroad, and prepare and defend a senior research thesis. One of the required courses in the new honors program is a two-semester course, "Constructing the Public," that is being team-taught this year by history professor John Fairfield and political science instructor Gene Beaupré. The course explores the many meanings of public in the context of America’s civic culture. All three honors programs offer a unique fraternity of highly motivated students and top-notch professors. Honors students also enjoy use of the Honors House, a 1920s-era Spanish-style villa on campus where honors students gather for group discussion, educational programs and socializing. The house includes a working kitchen and recreation room with a pool table and other games. Admission to all honors programs is competitive. For more information about honors programs, contact Colella at 513 745-3629.