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Great Books at Harold Washington College: A Case Study
Great Books at Harold Washington College:
A Case Study
Prof. John Hader and Prof. Larry Su

Early History

Though the faculty at Harold Washington Community College have been teaching Great Books for years, there was no formal liaison or committee in charge of such activities. In 2004 Professor John Hader was contacted by Professor Bruce Gans, director of the National Great Books Curriculum, to officially start the Great Books program at Harold Washington College. Thus John started to take the lead. He spread the word about the program and began to contact the faculty who would like to teach courses using Great Books. A first formal meeting was also held in 2004 with Bruce present. Eleven faculty participated in the first semester, teaching nineteen sections in English composition, humanities, and literature.

Year 2005

Thanks to Johnís efforts, the program got more and more publicity, and more and more faculty were involved in teaching Great Books in their courses, upping the number of faculty involved to twelve and the sections to twenty-one, including English composition, the humanities, and literature. In spring 2005, under instructions from Bruce, John notified six faculty members in the English Department to design course modules, which would be posted on the National Great Books Curriculum web site as models for other faculty and institutions to use as resources for teaching. English faculty members Larry Su, Matt Usner, John Metoyer, Judy Rivera-van Schagen, Sarah Liston, and Molly Turner responded to Johnís call with great enthusiasm, and they designed various course modules that focus on different themes. Please check the specific National Great Books Curriculum web site for detailed information. John Metoyer also designed a web site for the Great Books program at Harold Washington College (http://faculty.ccc.edu/colleges/hwashington/greatbooks/index.html). This web site provides rich resources for faculty and students. It includes contact information, a core authors list, course schedules, faculty teaching the courses, national media recognition, free Great Books online, web sites for research, sample student papers, monthly stories for discussion, multiple links to other sources on authors and works, and many more.

The design of the course modules and setting up of the web site led to further enthusiasm and support from faculty for the Great Books. In August Larry was appointed as a co-liaison, working with John for the Great Books program in Harold Washington College. On December 8, 2005, we held our second general meeting. Over sixteen faculty attended the meeting, a great increase from the three faculty at the first meeting. These faculty came from many disciplines such as English, theatre, social sciences, music, psychology, child education, and architecture. John Hader did a news briefing about the Great Books at Harold Washington College and a PowerPoint presentation of our web site. Then Larry Su, Matt Usner, John Metoyer, Judy Rivera-van Schagen, Sarah Liston, and Molly Turner introduced their course modules. There was a question-and-answer session following it.

In the spring semester of 2005, twenty-four courses with a focus on Great Books were offered, involving thirteen faculty members from multiple disciplines. Great Books expanded from English to music, social sciences, humanities, psychology, physical sciences, and architecture. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and works by Freud and Jung were all taught in various Great Books courses.

Year 2006

Over twenty-three sections of classes focusing on Great Books were offered in the spring term covering multiple disciplines such as English, theatre, humanities, and social sciences, and roughly 600 students took such courses. Twenty-five sections of Great Books will be offered in the fall.

In spring 2006 John and Larry wrote a grant proposal to the college Strategic Planning Committee, proposing to set up the Great Books Resource Center. We got over $2,000 for the center and have bought about 100 videos adapted from Great Books and books on tapes. We also purchased a camera and video camera.

An intercollegiate conference focusing on studentsí reading and interpretations of Jane Austenís Pride and Prejudice was held on March 27 at Harold Washington College. The college was pleased to hold such a conference. The participating institutions included Wilbur Wright College, Oakton Community College, and Harold Washington College. Each college selected its own student presenters. At Harold Washington, four students from Professor Margaret Johnsonís social science and Professor Rosie Banksís womenís studies classes participated in this conference. The conference took the form of a formal academic conference where students presented their prepared papers and answered questions from the audience.

On April 10, 2006, Johnís and Dr. van Schagenís students put up a presentation focusing on Gabriel Garcia Marquezís One Hundred Years of Solitude. The presenters shared their views on this book from feminist, historical, and postcolonial perspectives.

From March 30 to April 1, John and Larry attended the National Great Books Conference held at Wright College. The conference was convened by six participating colleges throughout the country: Santa Barbara City College, Arapahoe Community College, Henry Ford Community College, Wright College, Oakton Community College, and Harold Washington College. In the conference, John and Larry briefed the colleagues on the Great Books program at Harold Washington College.

Administrative Support

The college administration and various departments are supportive of the Great Books program at Harold Washington College. They provide space and money for conferences. The administration promises to fund us in the fall with an amount of $10,000. It also intends to set up Great Books as a regular curriculum in the non-credit adult education program.

Future Goals

The Great Books program will continue to expand at Harold Washington College. We will maintain the current momentum by inviting more faculty and departments to become involved in our program. We are planning to offer more sections of courses that have components of or focus on Great Books.

Starting from fall 2006, the Great Books faculty will hold regular meetings, inviting the involved faculty to share their experiences in teaching Great Books in their courses. The topics will cover successful teaching pedagogies, syllabus design, incorporation of Great Books in their courses, selection of texts, assessment, and lessons learned.

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