Capstone Syllabus

GST 450: Capstone Course: Living Wisdom: Contemporary Challenges

Dr. Daniel Cowdin

Spring 2006

Background and Overall Goals of the Course:

The senior Salve student faces numerous questions:

  • In terms of the past, and specifically academics, "How might the coursework undertaken in the Core, as well as in my Major and Minor areas of study, fit together, and how has it shaped me thus far?" These may be called summative questions.
  • In terms of the future, the student faces questions pertaining to self and society. "Who am I, where am I going, and how do I understand the world and my relation to it? What is my personal-- including spiritual--trajectory, and how do I perceive the local, national, and even global communities with which I will interact?" These may be called worldview questions.
  • The basic goal of the course is to give the student an opportunity 1) to achieve some integration of his or her educational experiences in the Core, in conversation with his or her Major and Minor areas of study, and 2) to think toward the future, both in terms of the type of person s/he will be and the potential interaction s/he will have with various dimensions of the world after graduation. The Capstone course, then, will serve as both an end and a beginning.

    Specific Course Objectives:

    a) To enable the student to reflect, philosophically and spiritually, on questions of personal development in light of his or her Salve experience.

    b) To enable the student to reflect, philosophically and spiritually, on questions of worldview.

    c) To increase the student's understanding of a number of contemporary challenges facing the nation and the world at large.

    d) To implement and further refine the liberal arts skills the student has acquired during his or her education at Salve.

    Identification of the Relevant Core Goals and Objectives Being Met:

    Goal 1: An Education with a Catholic Identity: Catholic identity, whether in spiritual development, moral decision making, or social concern, is marked by several key traits: the importance of free will and personal commitment in spiritual development (as the Catechism notes, "God does not save us without us"); the importance of each individual's spiritual journey, guided by conscience, but in profound conversation with wider sources of meaning; a sense of sacramentality-- God comes to us in mediated form, not only in and through the sacraments of the church but also in and through nature, culture, and other people; an affirmation that we are social beings by nature, intrinsically connected to wider communities of nurture, be they family, neighborhood, church, or state, and hence both in debt to and actively responsible for the future shape of community life at all levels. The Capstone course challenges students to consider their own spiritual journey in relation to various sources of wisdom, and their future relationships to various levels of community life, including the natural world.

    Specific Objectives:

    1.3 Cultivate attitudes and practices that reflect an abiding respect for the dignity of all persons and a commitment of social justice.

    (Themes: Human Needs and Human Development, Dynamism of the Spirit,

    Achieving Community)

    Related Texts: The Art of Happiness, Nickel and Dimed, Life Abundant, UN Human Development Report

    1.4 Understand the enduring influence of the Bible and Jewish, Christian, and specifically Catholic, symbols, stories, ideas, values and practices.

    (Theme: Dynamism of the Spirit)

    Related Texts: Habits of the Heart, The Sabbath, Life Abundant, Deus Caritas Est

    1.6 Evaluate their learning and actions from the perspective of Christian ethics.

    (Theme: Environmental/ Technology Wisdom)

    Related Texts: Habits of the Heart, Life Abundant, Deus Caritas Est

    Goal 2: Liberal Education: The Capstone course will primarily employ liberal arts skills in its pedagogical method. That is to say, critical reading, writing, analysis, and discussion of texts will play a major role in the course. It is thus a continuation of the skills developed initially in the GST 150 and ENG 150 courses, as well as other courses throughout the Core and in the university more widely.

    Specific Objectives:

    2.3 Engage in critical self-inquiry that promotes self-knowledge in order to develop (1) the ability to evaluate different opinions and beliefs, (2) a willingness to test one's point of view against others, (3) a willingness to recognize faulty thinking and seek other rational alternatives, and (4) a sense of collaboration by learning in community.

    (Theme: Achieving Community)

    Related Texts: Applies to reading and critical discussion of all texts; infused throughout the course through teaching pedagogy and seminar style class

    2.4 Apply their studies in the Liberal Arts and Sciences to contemporary issues and situations.

    (Theme: Environmental/ Technology Wisdom)

    Related Texts: Nickel and Dimed, Life Abundant, UN Human Development Report

    Goal 3: Developing Responsible Citizens of the World: This goal is potentially addressed in each theme. Under "Human Needs and Human Development" and "Achieving Community," global awareness can be fostered either through the sources used, which may come from various cultures, or through the particular issues chosen. Under "The Dynamism of the Spirit," a sense of general human responsibility can be fostered through an exploration of themes related to Christian service, which transcends national boundaries, or through an exploration of spiritual dynamics growing out of non-Christian traditions. Finally, "Ethics, Technology, and Environmental Wisdom" will explore issues that obviously cut across national boundaries.

    Specific Objectives:

    3.1 Develop an understanding of their own culture, since this culture will be the base for cross-cultural reference.

    (Themes: Human Needs and Human Development, Achieving Community)

    Texts: Habits of the Heart, The Art of Happiness, Life Abundant

    3.5 Transcend the inclination to define themselves primarily in terms of group loyalties and identities.

    (Themes: Human Needs and Human Development, Achieving Community)

    Texts: The Art of Happiness, Life Abundant, UN Human Development Report

    Goal 4: Developing Lifelong Learners: The Capstone course, by its very nature, indicates to students that the coursework as well as extracurricular activities they have undertaken at Salve are not simply finished products, now existing as past achievements; rather, they form part of an on-going, living process that is just beginning.

    Specific Objectives:

    4.7 Apply skills related to critical reading, critical thinking, and problem solving.

    4.8 Integrate and synthesize information and ideas.

    4.9 Develop the creative, critical and imaginative skills needed to recognize the beauty, the goodness and the breadth of human experiences.

    (Themes: Human Needs and Human Development, Dynamism of the Spirit, Achieving Community)

    Texts: Applies to reading and critical discussion of all texts; infused throughout the course through teaching pedagogy and seminar style class

    Teaching Method:

    The Capstone is a liberal arts style seminar course. We will be reading together. A significant portion of the course will be devoted to critical discussion and analysis of the texts, as well as writing in reaction to the texts.


    Bellah, Robert, et al Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life.

    The Dalai Lama The Art of Happiness

    Ehrenreich, Barbara Nickel and Dimed

    Heschel, Abraham The Sabbath

    McFague, Sallie Life Abundant: Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril

    Online Documents and Links:

    Pope Benedict XVI Deus Caritas Est

    United Nations Human Development Report 2005 (Available on SRU Library's

    electronic reserve)

    Variety of International News Services


    The Constant Gardener

    Required Work and Calculation of Grade:

    Students are required to do the reading for each class session in advance, and bring with them comments, questions, and insights for the discussion. If there is evidence that the reading has not been done, the student will be dismissed for the day.

    Students will be required to write six short papers of roughly 3-5 pages each. Papers will generally be due the Friday after the completion of each major text. Paper topics must engage either summative or worldview questions, and the professor will provide more detail on this later. However, the specific topics for each paper are determined by the student him/herself.

    The final exam will be oral. Its value is equal to two of the short papers. Thus, the six short papers will be worth 75of the final grade (12.5each), and the final exam will be worth 25of the final grade.

    Themes of the Course:

    The course is organized around four themes. These themes are rooted in but also expand the original six themes of the GST 150 portal course. These themes also connect to other Common Core and Core Complement courses in Religion, Philosophy, English, Politics, History, the social sciences, and others.

    GST 150: Seeking Wisdom GST 450: Living Wisdom

    ~ Imagining: ~Contemporary Challenges:

    The Human, Suffering Human Needs and Human Development

    God Dynamism of the Spirit

    Nature Ethics, Technology, and Environmental Wisdom

    Citizenship, Heroism Achieving Community


    Jan. 18th: Introduction

    I. Human Needs and Human Development

    Jan. 23/25: Dalai Lama, Parts I and II

    Jan. 30/Feb. 1: Dalai Lama, Parts III and IV

    Paper #1 due Feb. 3

    Feb. 6/8: Ehrenreich, intro, Parts one and two

    Feb. 13/15: Ehrenreich, Part three to the end

    Paper #2 due Feb. 17

    II. Dynamism of the Spirit

    F 20 (off)/F22: Dalai Lama, chapter 15

    F 27/March 1: Dalai Lama, chapter 15

    Paper #3 due March 3

    March 6/8: off

    III. Ethics, Technology, and Environmental Wisdom

    March 13/15: Heschel, Prologue and Parts one and two

    March 20/22: Heschel, Part three and epilogue

    Paper #4 due March 24

    March 27/29:McFague

    Aldo Leopold, "The Land Ethic," handout

    IV. Achieving Community

    April 3/5: McFague

    Paper #5 due April 7

    April 10/12: Bellah, chapters 1-4

    April 17 (off)/19: Bellah, chapters 5-6

    April 24/26: Bellah, chapters7-8

    May 1/3: Bellah, chapters 9-11

    Paper #6 due May 5

    Disability Accommodations:

    Students with disabilities should submit a Notification of Disability Form to the professor within the first two weeks of class. This form is available through the Office of Disability Services in the Academic Development Center in McKillop Library. Students are advised to speak directly with the professor concerning specific requests for reasonable accommodations.