Highlights 2010-11

Villanova's Learning Communities Highlights of 2010-2011

April

During a weekend in April, several learning community classes enjoy a trip to Gettysburg.

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Students on a ridge overlooking Gettsburg
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December

The Nature and the World Learning Community will attend an off-campus theater production of Shakespeare's "Tempest" in early December.

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Having persevered through Purgatory-literarily, of course-with their reading of Dante's Purgatorio (the second in his three-part Comedy), Leadership Learning Community students gathered to celebrate the master of late medieval Italian poetry about all things between Heaven and Hell.  Arriving at the first annual "Dante Dinner," and dressed in either white or black (to signal their allegiance to either the Holy Roman Empire or to the Pope), students descended upon the Villanova Room of the Connelly Center to find it transformed into 13th century Florence.  Complete with a live blues band singing odes to some of the seven deadly sins, original rapping of Dante's praises, student skits of the poet's famous love triangle, freshly carved sides of ham and beef that recalled a medieval banquet, and-of course-sinful desserts, students enjoyed a night with friends and faculty recalling the high points of the semester.  Best of all was the surprise visit by Pope Boniface!  It was just the celebration to put our learning into action-and perspective-before hunkering down for finals.

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November

The Nature and the World Learning Community will gather for a film and pizza event.

On November 3, four years of the Global Learning Community gathered for a reunion in the East Lounge of Dougherty Hall.  Some eighty students came for food (22 pizzas) and fellowship with old classmates and new members of the community.  Students reminisced about common experiences, traded stories with students from other years, and promised to come to the spring reunion as well.

In November, after hearing references to the 1999 film "The Matrix" in not one but two Leadership Learning Community lectures (cited by Dr. Immerwahr as an cinematic illustration of Plato's famous "cave" allegory and by Dr. Yates as a modern-day example of the dualistic universe in which St. Augustine believed in his youthful days), students gathered in yet another professor's home for home-baked pizza, dessert, and a viewing of this classic movie "theater-style" in a comfy and cozy book-filled living room.  Other sections were able to enjoy the same hospitality as they prepared the final touches on their 4th hour group interviews with slected campus leaders, such as, basketball coach, Jay Wright, and Dean of the Business School, James Danko.

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October

Katharine Learning Community students attended a lecture by Iftekhar Hussain, Pennsylvania chairperson of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, on "Islam and the Qur'an on Creation and Care of the World."  The wide-ranging question-answer session was particularly lively.

The night after it opened, several Leadership and Virtue Learning Community sections accompanied their professor to the opening of the movie, The Social Network.  The students saw this movie not a megaplex theatre, but in a local, restored art deco movie theater, which is in walking distance (yes, it is a "good walk," but many students did it!) of campus.  As soon as the movie ended, a lively discussion of the movie broke out and continued for hours back in their residence hall.

As their second residence hall lecture, Leadership students thoughtfully listened to Dr. Jonathan Yates speak on Augustine and Evil.  Dr. Yates demonstrated how Augustine's thinking was central to the way he saw his world then, and to the way many see our world today.  Good discussion followed this lecture too on the electronic discussion board set up for their residence hall.

Dr. John Immerwahr's Leadership sections had a movie night and watched Invictus (great leadership movie), and on October 29 will have another movie night: Hitchcock's Vertigo, which is both a great pre-Halloween movie (it is a ghost story) but also a great Augustinian experience about misdirected love.  All of these events are totally optional for the students.

Fr. Richard Cannuli, O.S.A., invited the Arts & Culture Learning Community sections to visit him in his art studio to watch him make an icon of St. Michael.  Fr. Richard mixed paints by hand and demonstrated the techniques and steps involved in this traditional art form, explaining the spiritual significance of each step in addition to its practical application.

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Past Highlights

"These first-year students in this photo below with the One Book Villanova author Craig Mullaney in the center are all from the various Leaning Communities.  As members of the Learning Communities these students were selected to meet the author, have dinner with him, and afterwards they formed the panel who asked Craig questions based on this book, An Unforgiving Minute before a standing room only crowd of about 500 students and faculty."

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Nearly thirty Global Community students accompanied professors to three "Sharing Ramadan" events sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  The students attended the prayer service at the foundation for Islamic Education on Montgomery Avenue in Villanova.  Afterwards, they joined the community for dinner and fellowship in the Foundation's gymnasium.

The last three years of the Learning Communities Abroad program gathered for a reunion on the occasion of the opening of the art exhibition "The Quiet Men," in the second floor galleries of the Connelly Center.  London-born Irish painter Brian Whelan, whose work is included in the exhibition, gave a reflection on its theme: the experience of Irish immigrants, in particular Irish men, in London during the first half or so of the twentieth century.  (The LCA program sends students to London and Madrid.)

Dr. John Immerwahr's Leadership sections went out for an Indian Buffet lunch at EKTA (yummy new Indian restaurant) on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.

The Art and Culture sections were invited to view the final dress rehearsal of "Three Days of Rain," a graduate theatre production on campus.  Students were able to see what a technical run looks like and to help the actors learn their timing with a real audience.  Later, the director visited with both groups back in their residence halls to discuss the preparation of the play and the choices he made, as well as to listen to their opinions of the performance.

The Art and Culture sections attended an art exhibit called "The Quiet Men," which displayed a collection of works by various Irish immigrants who made their home in London.  Displayed in the campus art gallery, the works reflected the difficulties of a life working abroad and the struggle to maintain and celebrate one's cultural identity.  Students listened to a talk by one of the artists and enjoyed a friendly reception in Connelly Center afterward.

Nature and the World learning community visited Skunk Hollow Farm, a new organic community farm near campus.  Farmer Sean Roulan gave the students and faculty a tour of the farm, explaining the methods and values he brings to farming, as well as the dilemmas he encounters.  Everyone had opportunities to do some weeding, observe caterpillars that will become pollinator insects, and taste tomatoes, an heirloom variety of string bean, ground cherries, and other produce.  Our conversations made connections between our classroom discussions of farming and public knowledge about where food comes from, the actual realities of raising, harvesting, and eating locally-grown vegetables.  The learning community is looking forward to helping Farmer Sean with some late-winter seed starting.

 

Many students in the Nature and the World learning community attended an Environmental Justice Forum at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ.  Hearing of the acute environmental problems and health impacts in Camden heightened our awareness of the human problems that result from environmental pollution and the ways in which poverty and racial inequality make some populations more vulnerable to environmental degradation.

Nature and the World learning community enjoyed a dinner of organic and local foods in the company of sophomores, juniors, and seniors who were students in the Environmental learning community in past years.  The evening focused on making mentoring connections and giving students the opportunity to express their hopes for the future of the learning community and environmental efforts on the Villanova campus.

Several sections of the Leadership learning community went to the Phillies game where they enthusiastically cheered on the Phillies to their 7th win in a row, which then gave the team solo first place in the NL East for the first time since the beginning of the summer.  The students actually were able to get themselves on the Citizens Park's jumbo screen "Fanavision," so the entire ball park knew Villanova was there.

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The day several Leadership sections submitted their first college paper, their professor invited the students to enjoy a home-cooked meal at her nearby home.  After a month of being away from home, as much as the food, the students relished eating in a "real" dining room in a house, not a university cafeteria.

The Leadership learning community attended its first of several lectures specifically given for St. Monica's, the residence hall in which they live.  Dr. John Immerwahr gave the lecture on Plato's famous story of the cave and engaged his audience by demonstrating how it applied to leaders, both in Ancient Greece and today.  Afterwards, over cookies back in the residence hall, students shared their comments on the lecture as they blogged on their class web sites.

Two more Leadership and Virtue sections went to a professor's house for a hamburger cookout on two separate evenings.  One just wanted an evening off campus together so that they could get to know each other better but the other wanted to watch the movieThe Matrix together since their class reading and discussion had raised the point that its creators had drawn heavily from Plato's "Cave Analogy."  Everyone had a great time and were as appreciative of the time together as they were of the time spent in a totally different setting.