What are the Conversations and Learning Communities?
Conversation is at the heart of a St. Olaf education. We want students to develop the ability to listen carefully, argue forcefully, and be the kind of engaged thinker who makes a conversation more interesting. St. Olaf’s signature Conversation programs are interdisciplinary, team-taught explorations that take students on distinct intellectual journeys through influential texts and ideas that have shaped our past and will guide our future.
Which programs can I take during my first year?
The Conversations and Learning Communities currently available for first-year students are Enduring Questions, Asian Conversations, Environmental Conversations, Public Affairs Conversation and Race Matters. Environmental Conversations and Race Matters take place during the first year only. Enduring Questions is the only two-year program and also the only program with a residential component.
Asian Conversations requires students to take Chinese or Japanese during their first year at St. Olaf as there is an optional study abroad component over the January Interim of their sophomore year. Public Affairs Conversation has the option of a funded internship for students after completion of their first year.
What OLE Core General Education credits are fulfilled by these programs?
Asian Conversationsconsists of up to 5 courses taken during the first year and sophomore year. The program fulfills 5 OLE Core Requirements: in the first year, First Year Seminar and Writing and Rhetoric; in the second year, a student can opt to enroll in the interim to China and Japan for OLE Experience in Practice; and also opt to take ASCON220 for Writing Across the Curriculum. Additionally, because taking Chinese or Japanese is required in order to participate in the interim abroad, students fulfill the World Languages and Cultures requirement.
Enduring Questionsconsists of 5 courses that span the course of the first and sophomore years. The program fulfills 7 OLE Core Requirements: in the first year, First-Year Seminar; Writing and Rhetoric; as well as Religion, Faith, and Values; and during sophomore year: Global History and Societies; Writing Across the Curriculum; Creativity; Ethical Reasoning in Context. It has a required first-year interim course.
Environmental Conversationsconsists of 3 courses taken throughout the first year. The program fulfills the first year OLE Core Requirements of the First Year Seminar and Writing and Rhetoric. It has a required first-year interim course.
Public Affairs Conversation is a first-year program that fulfills 3 OLE Core Requirements: First Year Seminar; Writing and Rhetoric; and Ethical Reasoning in Context. It has an optional funded internship opportunity, available to students in the summer and year following completion of the first-year program.
Race Matters is a first-year program that fulfills 4 OLE Core GE Requirements: First Year Seminar; Writing and Rhetoric; Power and Race; Social Science. It has a required first-year interim course.
How do I sign up for one of these programs?
As soon as you confirm your place in the class with your enrollment deposit, you’ll be able to sign up for the program that seems to be the best fit for you. No application is needed!
Are these programs considered “honors” programs?
While there is a considerable amount of reading and preparation for each class (Enduring Questions, especially, requires intensive reading and writing); no, St. Olaf doesn’t have any honors program. As a selective, academically rigorous college, every course sequence provides the rigor and opportunities you’d find at a typical “honors” level program.
What if I don’t do a Conversation program?
All in all, about 30% or so of Oles are involved with a Conversation program when all is said and done. While they are awesome for the students who are involved, they are not the only way you’ll get a rigorous, interesting, compelling education at St. Olaf. Evaluate if it fits what you want and how you learn best; if it doesn’t, you won’t be looked down upon or judged for not being a Conner.