Wheaton magazine

Volume 21 // Issue 2
Wheaton magazine // Spring 2018
illustration by stuart holmes

First Year Seminar: What does the Lord Require of Me?

The First Year Seminar, a student and faculty favorite of the College’s new Christ at the Core curriculum, helps familiarize students with the Christian liberal arts experience by providing the theological grounding needed to effectively engage some of life’s most enduring questions.

Organized around the foundational question “What is the good life?”—or, in other words, “What kind of life should God’s people aspire to?”—each seminar tackles a unique enduring question as articulated by the professor teaching it.

Students are aided in their exploration by reading texts of each instructor’s choosing as well as these four common texts:

  • Shusaku Endo's Silence
  • St. Augustine's Confessions
  • The Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action
  • N.T. Wright's Simply Christian

A Teacher’s Dream Come True

Professor of Psychology Cynthia Neal Kimball

Enduring question: “How are acts of justice, compassion, and humility an essential part of a Christian’s faith journey?”

After nearly three decades of teaching upperclassmen, Dr. Cynthia Kimball found the First Year Seminar’s curriculum so compelling that she happily volunteered to teach it to freshmen.

Photo by Josh Adams

Early into their reading of Silence—a book about unspeakable, unresolvable suffering—one student casually commented, “I’m sure this all turns out fine.”

To the contrary, says Kimball, the protagonist moves from one agonizing scene to the next until his internal, triumphal representation of Jesus is slowly and excruciatingly replaced by the broken, crucified Christ.

Along the way, he wrestles with the ambiguities and complexities of calling, suffering, and failure, ultimately finding his way to transformative love. His trajectory is not unlike the one Kimball envisions for her students.

Over the course of the semester, Kimball helps her students to embrace a more complex understanding of suffering and to recognize that failure can present opportunities to learn.

She teaches them to measure the value of their work by their faithfulness to God’s call—not by the standard of efficiency or the effectiveness of the outcome.

Finally, Kimball helps students see that Christian discipleship is synonymous with advocacy for the oppressed, a choice that often brands one as a troublemaker.

“The curriculum is masterful,” says Kimball. “It’s incredibly exciting to impact 18-year-olds in such a pivotal way at the very beginning of their college careers. It’s a teacher’s dream come true.”

“And Behold, It Was Very Good”

Professor of geology Jeffrey Greenberg

Enduring question: “What is our real place in, and relationship to, God’s creation?”

Now in his last year before retirement, Dr. Jeffrey Greenberg is teaching his fourth First Year Seminar, which is more than most other faculty have taught so far. His verdict?

Photo by Josh Adams

“Praise God, Christ at the Core is really quite remarkable,” he says.

Given the small class size, instructors are able to interact with students more intimately and act as “counselors, advisors, and prayer partners”—roles far less feasible within a traditional lecture environment.

Similarly, the dialogical seminar format facilitates peer engagement, empowering students to explore the imprint of their familial and religious backgrounds and examine deeply held beliefs.

Greenberg challenges his students to consider what it means to be stewards of a created natural environment.
“God has called us to maintain what he called ‘very good’ at the beginning,” says Greenberg. “Unfortunately, living in a culture of affluence, novelty, entertainment, and consumerism, we have forgotten our role as agents of reconciliation.”

For Greenberg, the synergy of the class and the power of the curriculum are energizing. “I am enthralled by how well the material allows me to reach into the hearts and minds of students in fresh and wonderful ways,” he says. 



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