Common Ground coursework—focused on the arts of language, the academic study of religion, and the pursuit of human health and well being—serves as a foundation for the curriculum as a whole.
(Note that courses taken to fulfill Common Ground requirements may not be used to fulfill requirements for Inquiry across the Liberal Arts.)
Paideia 111/112: A two-semester common course for all first-year students that addresses questions central to the human condition. It develops students' ability to read, write, analyze, discuss, and research by engaging with works from across the disciplines, drawn from different time periods and parts of the globe. As a signature course and a foundation for liberal learning, "Enduring Questions" is taught by faculty from all divisions of the college.
Religion: Two courses, one of which must be in biblical studies.
- Biblical Studies: A course that introduces students to the academic study of the Bible, to the methods of interpreting it, and to extra-biblical sources that contribute to understanding its contexts and significance. This course serves the purpose of introducing students to the methodological study of religion.
- Second religion course: Religion courses examine, through critical inquiry, human attempts to understand and express varied experiences of the sacred or divine. The study of religion reflects the centrality of religious faith to the mission of the College and its ongoing commitment to fostering a mature dialogue on the relationship between faith and learning. In addition, the study of religion prepares students to understand and engage the crucial role of religious experience in contemporary life.
Language: Foreign language study provides an entrance into another culture and its way of thinking, as well as illuminating one's own native language. As global trade, cultural interchange, and international conflict shape our lives, language remains no less vital than it was at Luther's founding. Like Paideia 111/112, language study deepens reading, writing, and speaking skills.
This requirement must be satisfied in one of the following ways:
- Students wishing to continue in the study of a language in which they have received previous instruction must successfully complete a course at or above the level of third-semester language instruction. Such students will satisfy the requirement with one, two, or three courses, depending on their language proficiency at entrance. A placement examination is available to help students determine the level of proficiency.
- Students who have studied one language for at least one year in high school (9-12) may satisfy the requirement by successfully completing the first two courses of another modern or classical language. The Registrar's Office will review each student's high school transcript for languages studied and those successfully completed. If a determination cannot be made by a review of the high school record, students selecting this option must provide additional proof to the Registrar's Office that they have not previously received formal instruction in their chosen language of study.
- Students with no previous formal language instruction must successfully complete the first two courses of a modern or classical language. The Registrar's Office will review each student's high school transcript for languages studied. If a determination cannot be made by a review of the high school record, students selecting this option must provide additional proof to the Registrar's Office that they have not previously received formal language instruction.
- Students with very advanced foreign language proficiency may be exempted from this requirement through an examination approved by the classical languages department or the modern languages department. Luther College does not administer proficiency examinations in languages not offered at the college. Luther will recognize the results of proficiency examinations in languages administered by other colleges or by ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). Students whose primary language is not English are exempted from the foreign language requirement; they may not earn academic credit by completing language courses in their primary language.
Wellness: Two one-credit courses, the first devoted to health and wellness, and the second to developing a physical/athletic skill. NOTE: Only four (combined) HES 100/HES 110 credits will be applied toward the 128 hours required for the BA degree.
- Lifetime Health and Wellness course (HES 100): A one-credit course focused on the knowledge and skills needed for developing healthy life habits in college and after. This course must be taken during the fall or spring of a student's first year at Luther.
- Physical Skills (HES 110): A one-credit course, taken at any point, designed to introduce the student to a physical activity that may be integrated into a lifelong fitness plan. The physical skills requirement will be waived for students who have participated in varsity intercollegiate athletics at Luther for at least two traditional seasons in the same sport.
Fields of Inquiry: Human Knowledge and Its Methods
Fields of Inquiry includes both the concentration of a major and the general exploration of the subjects of the liberal arts: the natural world, human behavior, and the philosophical and artistic expression of human nature and experience.
Inquiry in Depth: Students must either study one discipline in depth through a traditional major or complete an in-depth interdisciplinary study through an individually designed major. Such work includes
- Study of key concepts, methodologies, and applications
- Writing instruction and practice in the discipline or interdisciplinary program
- Speaking instruction and practice in the discipline or interdisciplinary program
- Research in the discipline or interdisciplinary program
- Ethical reflection on the work of the major program and its implications for the larger good
A major will ordinarily require eight to 10 courses, though some programs may be larger. The college requires that students take at least 20 course equivalents outside their major discipline.
Inquiry across the Liberal Arts: Students must complete a course of study that deepens their understanding of the natural world, of human behavior, and of the reflective and creative forms of human expression.
Students will often satisfy two of these six courses within their major. Note that courses taken to fulfill Common Ground requirements may not be used to fulfill requirements for Inquiry across the Liberal Arts.
The Natural World: Interpretations and Interventions
Two courses, at least one of which must be laboratory based. Courses that satisfy this requirement investigate the operations, structures, or patterns within the natural world; the history and development of human interpretations of nature; or the effects of science and technology on the natural world.
Human Behavior: Individual and Communal
Two courses, at least one of which must use social science methods of systematic observation, comparison, modeling, or hypothesis testing. Courses that satisfy this requirement investigate individual human behavior, or human interactions within political, economic, or cultural institutions, including their change over time.
Human Expression: Reflection and Creativity
Two courses, at least one of which must involve substantive study of primary texts, written, oral, or visual. Courses that satisfy this requirement investigate human being, knowing, and moral reasoning; the literary arts; or the visual and performing arts. One of the two courses may be satisfied experientially through music lessons, music ensembles, or theatre/dance participation as defined by the faculty:
- Music Ensemble/Lessons: Four semesters of music lessons and/or certified participation in approved music ensembles. Such participation does not carry academic credit; however, the course does appear on the student's transcript. (Approved organizations: Aurora, Norskkor, Cathedral Choir, Collegiate Chorale, Nordic Choir, Concert Band, Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Band, Philharmonia, Symphonic Band)
Integrative Understanding: Interdisciplinary and Individual Synthesis
Integrative Understanding calls students to wholeness: to draw together their learning in the major in a senior project, and, in Paideia 450, to draw together insight across disciplinary lines in order to address the ethical dilemmas that students will face as learners, citizens, and professionals. The alternate ways of satisfying Paideia 450 offer the chance for more faculty to contribute to it more often, which can enrich interdisciplinary reflection among students and their teachers.
Paideia 450: A team-taught course for juniors and seniors devoted to interdisciplinary study of an ethical issue that confronts us in our lives as learners and citizens. Paideia 450 courses pay special attention to the nature of moral decision making and to the continued development of students' writing skills. Students may satisfy Paideia 450 in one of four ways:
- By enrolling in a single Paideia 450 course team-taught by faculty from two or more disciplines
- By co-enrolling in an interdisciplinary cluster of two paired courses specially designed by participating faculty
- By enrolling in a specially designed sequence of two courses taught by two different faculty members in the same academic year
- Through the completion of an interdisciplinary minor with a designed Paideia 450 component
Paired or sequenced courses that satisfy Paideia 450 may, as appropriate, satisfy other requirements in the curriculum in major, minor, or Inquiry across the Liberal Arts.
Senior Project: A scholarly study or an artistic work/performance that draws upon a discipline's methodology and provides a culminating, independent experience of the major. Many senior projects will require formal writing; all senior projects must involve some kind of formal presentation: a poster, formal talk, question and answer session, artistic performance, or other appropriate mode. The senior project may be taken for 1, 2, or 4 credits, depending on the requirements within the chosen program. A student must complete only one senior project to satisfy all-college requirements, but individual programs may require a senior project as part of their major requirements.
Perspectives and Skills
Perspectives: Perspectives are ways of looking at subjects—angles from which we can better understand what we are studying. Intercultural, Historical, and Quantitative perspective requirements may be fulfilled in any designated course and may be satisfied within or beyond a student's major. The Ethical perspective requirement is fulfilled in Paideia 450 and as part of each major.
- Intercultural: Focused on the interactions and differences among cultures and peoples within the United States and beyond. This requirement recognizes the economic, political, religious, and cultural reality of globalization, and it affirms that our experience of diversity is always relational. Courses fulfilling this requirement will often include a historical dimension; all give attention to contemporary experience.
- Historical: Focused on human experience over time. A course fulfilling the historical perspectives component will introduce students to the characteristics, structures, and development of human society over time. This will include an examination of the ideas, events, people, and social configuration of past societies, with attention to source analysis and evolution of historical interpretation of the past. Students will find courses across the curriculum that will challenge them to see their life as part of a continuum in which they are both inheritors of tradition and active makers in the present.
- Quantitative: Focused on the purpose and applications of quantitative study. Quantitative reasoning is central to citizenship in modern technological society. The ability to think quantitatively enhances one's general reasoning powers and problem-solving skills. Courses that will fulfill this requirement include the construction and analysis of mathematical or statistical models, significant formal logic components, or problem solving using algorithmic methods.
- Ethical: Focused on the study of ethical challenges within and beyond the academy and on the nature of moral decision making. An ethical focus is required as part of each major and is central to the interdisciplinary study of Paideia 450.
Skills: Good writing, speaking, and research are the currency of academic life. Skills requirements will be satisfied in these ways:
- Writing: Instruction and practice through Paideia 111/112, Paideia 450, and a designated writing course within the major (W). All writing courses will seek to accomplish these goals:
- students will learn to craft a piece of writing for an anticipated audience with the appropriate organization, tone, style, and vocabulary;
- students will develop skills in asking questions, finding and evaluating sources, constructing an argument, using evidence, and documenting sources;
- students will develop a self-critical approach to writing and an understanding of revision as a means of questioning and of more adequately developing and effectively presenting initial ideas;
- students will incorporate faculty feedback into at least one piece of writing either through revision or through application to a new assignment;
- students will develop skills in the mechanics of writing, editing, and proof-reading.
- Speaking: Instruction and practice through the first-year J-term seminar, the major, and the senior project
- Research: Instruction, practice, and application through Paideia 111/112, the major, and the senior project