Since its inception more than 20 years ago, Loyola’s Humanities Center has been sponsoring an annual Humanities Symposium, which is a week-long series of events related to a particular text for students, faculty, friends of the University, and the Baltimore community. Our main goal has been to get a large portion of the Loyola community to read the same work at roughly the same time and to be engaged in a common inquiry. The text is chosen on the basis of a vote by representatives of the humanities faculty on the Humanities Steering Committee. We try to choose a book which is both accessible to, but a challenge for, professors in the humanities and social sciences. In the past, many faculty members in various disciplines have adopted the text for use in a variety of courses. The result has been that a vast proportion of our students has had the book specifically assigned to them during a particular semester. In previous years this has been quite successful in promoting a community conversation on a very high level.
The symposium is typically held in February or March of each year and is the capstone of the semester’s intellectual exchange. The week is packed with special events related to our text. Scholarly papers, art exhibits, musical performances, films, and other events which help contextualize our text, are scheduled around a keynote speaker.
Two days during the official symposium week are set aside for Loyola student/faculty colloquia. During each scheduled class period, faculty bring their classes to McManus Theatre. These colloquia have traditionally been led by panels composed of three or four faculty members from different disciplines. Each panelist provides a brief precis of his or her ideas about the text, and poses some questions for discussion. The format is fairly informal, meant to stimulate the participation of students, and aims to engage the text across narrow disciplinary boundaries.
In addition, humanities departments, as well as any other interested department or program, sponsor their own special events related to the symposium text or theme. These are usually scattered throughout the spring semester, and are advertised in conjunction with the main program. The vitality of Loyola’s intellectual life is dramatically enhanced by widespread participation in the symposium.