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Willamette University

900 State Street
Salem, Oregon 97301

503-370-6300 voice

Interdisciplinary First-Year Program

The World Views Seminar required of all entering first-year students explores the constitution of a world view. The seminar provides a common experience for all first-year students and serves as an introduction to the liberal arts tradition. By examining issues of universal concern or other times and cultures, we gain insight into our own world view. The seminar theme changes every four years.

The World Views Seminar has a time-honored 16-year tradition at Willamette. Beginning in 1987, the first World Views Seminar examined  Victorian England in an effort to discover antecedents of contemporary thought. The second seminar (1991-1994) looked at modern Latin America to explore alternate visions of the New Work experience. The Third seminar (1995-1998) studied the origins of the world views of the contemporary Middle East, with particular attention to the influence and development of Islam and Judaism. The fourth incarnation of World Views (1999-2002) examined the world view of Athenian Greeks in the 5th century BCE, whose early achievements in democracy, literature, philosophy, and science form the very fabric of Western culture.

The fifth cycle, War and Its Alternatives, beginning in academic year 2003-2004, engages students with classical and contemporary texts about human warfare. This theme explores the origins and causes of wars and their ethical and social consequences. Students and faculty will examine and discuss provocative questions about how and why we decide to engage in warfare, the weapons we use, the effect war has on individuals and nations, the justness of war and our conduct during and after the conflict, and what alternatives to war exist. 

Taught in seminar form by faculty from diverse backgrounds including humanities, literature, fine arts, natural science, and social science, this course emphasizes critical reading, thinking, discussion and writing.