The Conversations

Conversation programs at St. Olaf are designed to spark interdisciplinary exploration. Drawing faculty from multiple departments, these programs follow ideas, eras, areas of the world or emerging issues across traditional academic boundaries. Each program attracts students and faculty who share a passion for the subject and the commitment to exploring it with rigor. Students selected to participate in these programs join small learning communities characterized by active inquiry, informed deliberation, and insatiable curiosity.

The Great Conversation — the first of the Conversations programs — is an integrated sequence of five courses that begins at the start of the first year. Students sharpen their own process of critical thinking by delving into the great books and works of art of some of the world’s most influential thinkers and artists such as Plato, Dante, Darwin, Virginia Woolf, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Picasso.

American Conversations takes students on an interdisciplinary exploration of America, addressing such questions as what, exactly, are American values? How do we define freedom and justice for all? What is the American dream? And ultimately: What makes America America?

Asian Conversations invites sophomore students to journey through Asia via discussion, reading, writing, and a four-week January Interim course in Beijing and Tokyo. Students take part in discussions ranging from the cultural contributions and history of Asia to contemporary politics and economics of the region.

The Science Conversation welcomes students of all majors and academic interests to an exciting exploration of scientific inquiry. By examining science in its historical, theological, social, and philosophical contexts, students discover how science shapes both society and their individual lives.