It’s that time of year again, time for a new batch of bright young scholars to join the ranks of Southwestern’s unique and prestigious Paideia Program.
The Paideia Program is headed up by Dr. David Gaines, associate professor of English here at Southwestern. It is a chance for students to come together with a small group of their peers and a faculty member to form relationships that might not be possible in the classroom setting alone.
In the Paideia program, students are in groups of 10 and are led and mentored by a faculty member. The cohorts stay together for six semesters in order to grow and foster special relationships, and discuss in that time a wide variety of topics.
But the seminar portion is only one component of the program, which ultimately hopes to extend student learning beyond the classroom and into the real world.
The program has three main components that help with this goal. The first is a study abroad requirement that is an effort to expand students’ cultural horizons with a large scale intercultural experience.
Second is a creative works project that gives students a chance to explore a topic that interests them in a way that is different and more abstract than a class research paper would be. Third is the civic engagement component which allows students to reach out and learn how to be involved in the community.
Right now, there are three sets of Paideia cohorts, corresponding to each grade level above first-year. Recruitment for the next Paideia group begins Thursday, Feb. 18, with an informational session in McCombs Campus Center at 6:30 p.m.
Dr. Gaines will be there to talk about the program and answer questions. In the following weeks, Dr. Gaines will make special trips to the first-year dorms to answer any other questions that come up, and then applications and letters of recommendation are due March 12 before the students leave for Spring Break. Applicants will then be informed about their status in the program in late March.
Central to the formation of the program are the themes that each cohort is based around. These themes generally change from year to year according to the faculty member who will be heading them up.
Themes for this year’s groups are: Arts in Action, Autonomy and Belonging, Digital Technology and the Liberal Arts Education, Food and Cultures, Great Topics of the World Media Activism, One People, Many Worlds, and Three-Inch, Old Books.
The benefits of the program are many, including a $1000 stipend to be used toward study abroad.
Paideia students also graduate with distinction and receive six hours of upper-level elective credit.
Aside from these, students also gain a chance to make a deep connection with nine students from other majors and with a faculty member, much like they would with faculty in their major program.
In addition, the study abroad and civic engagement components give students a level of learning beyond what results from their degree plan.
This going above and beyond “has not only enriched individual students’ time at Southwestern but also impressed employers and graduate schools”, said Dr. Gaines.
As for the view from prospective new members of Paideia, first-year Riley Webb is definitely excited.
“I’m interested in partaking in the Paideia program because I think it offers a unique educational opportunity that it would be a shame not to take advantage of experiencing.”
“I think it not only would help me to grow as a student, but also as a person. I also believe that it would introduce me to some folks that I would probably have never met otherwise, and any opportunity to make new friends is definitely one I don’t want to pass up,” said Webb.
Other first-years agree with Webb. Shannon Bernbaum said she is interested in Paideia because “I’m considering study abroad, and it looks really good on my application to med school. Also, I’m interested in a lot of the Paideia topics, and I just think overall that it would be a good experience and opportunity.”
The first-years are excited, the faculty members are excited, and Dr. Gaines is definitely excited. The next group of Paideia cohorts are sure to be a success.