Students in the program take one Enduring Questions course and three other courses during each semester of the first two years of college. These four courses comprise a normal course load. First-year students also take an Enduring Questions course (QUEST 115) in Interim of the first year.

By successfully completing all five courses of Enduring Questions, each student fulfills the following Ole Core requirements:

  • First-Year Seminar
  • Writing and Rhetoric
  • Religion, Faith, and Values
  • Global History
  • Writing Across the Curriculum
  • Creativity
  • Ethical Reasoning in Context

NOTE: For more information on the General Education Requirements for Graduation at St. Olaf, please see the “Graduation Requirements” section of the St. Olaf Catalog.

First year move-in 891

QUEST 113Heroes, Gods, and Monsters (Ole Core: First-Year Seminar)
First Year, Fall Semester

Students explore the philosophy, arts, and religion of the Ancient Mediterranean through works of the Babylonians, Israelites, and Greeks, usually including the Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Sappho, Sophocles, and the Hebrew Bible, with modern criticism providing context. This course requires close reading of texts, critical analysis, engaged discussion, and learning in community. Students complete an intensive research project and reflect on the liberal arts and their positions as modern students of ancient texts.


QUEST 115: Emperors, Orators, Disciples (Ole Core: Religion, Faith, and Values)
First Year, Interim

The Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity posed questions about the soul, civic and religious virtue, building and resisting empire, and the use of history for political ends. Students address how Christianity was shaped by Roman culture and shaped it in turn. Works include epic, history, philosophy, oratory, canonical and non-canonical gospels, epistles, and apocalyptic works. Students practice oral presentations and debates and complete a project linking visual arts to Roman culture and religion.


QUEST 116: Warriors, Mystics, Reformers (Ole Core: Writing and Rhetoric)
First Year, Spring Semester

Christian and Muslim empires rose and fell in the Medieval and Renaissance Mediterranean world. The end of feudalism and changing social structures offered platforms to marginalized speakers. This course usually includes the Qur’an, Christian and Muslim theology, mysticism, and authors like Augustine, Hildegard von Bingen, Dante, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo. Course themes include journeys, gender, sexuality, faith, and reason. Students reflect on the relevance of premodern Europe to today’s world and their learning process thus far.


QUEST 217: Explorers, Rationalists, Revolutionaries (Ole Core: Global History; Writing Across the Curriculum)
Second Year, Fall Semester

From 1600-1900, classical and Biblical texts spread globally through exploration and colonization. This course addresses how Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian thought informed not only the Enlightenment, science, and Romanticism, but also justifications of colonization and slavery. Typical authors include Shakespeare, Descartes, Milton, Sor Juana, Kant, Equiano, Wollstonecraft, Hegel, and Marx, addressing freedom, the moral life, just war, certainty, empiricism, and evil. Students discuss how history is constructed from evidence and how its interpretation impacts the present.


QUEST 218: Critics, Dreamers, Radicals (Ole Core: Creativity; Ethical Reasoning in Context)
Second Year, Spring Semester

In this course, students consider the modern age in light of their Great Conversation experience. Topics include artists and authors from the twentieth century to the present, such as Freud, Picasso, Woolf, Arendt, and Borges, addressing topics such as the rise of nationalism, rejections of colonialism, globalization, migration, and race and racism. Students identify and evaluate their own ethical views in relation to ethical theories, like consequentialism and virtue ethics, encountered throughout the Great Conversation.

Greek Temple in Paestum Italy

QUEST 280:  “The Grand Tour” in England, France, and Italy (abroad)
Interim, next planned for January 2023

From about 1600 to 1830, the Grand Tour to the natural and cultural wonders of continental Europe was widely considered to constitute the culmination of the best education. In this course, students will visit major archaeological sites and museums  and study the actual works of art and architecture that were included as units of study in Enduring Questions. The idea of the Grand Tour will be employed to frame discussion, study and reflection on the roles of Enduring Questions and travel in a St. Olaf education. Prerequisite: completion of Enduring Questions 217 or permission of the instructors.