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Program Goals and Structure

The Critical Thought Symposium is a unique transformative educational experience which engages students in a year-long process that refines their decision making and critical thinking skills and, in the process, creates a deeper self-awareness-all essential to the growth of leadership in their personal and professional lives.

The course aims to bring together outstanding traditional undergraduate junior and senior students to strengthen their abilities to think critically, creatively, constructively and ethically under the pressure of making a very difficult decision. Admission is competitive. Students experience and learn much about group dynamics, about communicating in the heat of the moment and about leadership.

The class offers 4 credit-hours and meets on a weekday evening once a month throughout the fall and spring semesters (four meetings each semester). In each class meeting, the students play the role they have been assigned a month earlier and which they have researched thoroughly. Some simulations are based on historical events, while others are hypothetical situations that illuminate real-life issues. Students bring to each class a portfolio in which they have documented their research on their role, the situation, and the likely positions of the other student roles. After the simulation, the professor for that simulation and the lead professor engage students in a reflection on their decision and crucial points in the discussion. From time to time, outside experts may discuss the simulation topic with the students.

Faculty for each session are selected based on their experience and expertise in the field of study. Topics and professors of sessions in 2014-15 included:

  • Leadership Styles, Dr. Will Sparks, Organizational Behavior
  • Child Migration from Central America, Dr. Maggie Commins, Political Science
  • An End of Life Decision, Dr. Zachary White, Communication
  • Cherokee Indian Removal, Dr. Suzanne Cooper-Guasco, History
  • The Changing Face of the Middle East, Dr. Mohammed el-Nawawy, Communication
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis, Dr. Barry Robinson, History
  • Ecuador and Biodiversity, Dr. Jeff Thomas, Biology
  • Bioterrorism, Dr. Alexa Royden, Political Science
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