Study primary text sources in the liberal studies discipline in the Shimer Great Books School. Study primary text sources in the liberal studies discipline in the Shimer Great Books School. Study primary text sources in the liberal studies discipline in the Shimer Great Books School. Study primary text sources in the liberal studies discipline in the Shimer Great Books School. Study primary text sources in the liberal studies discipline in the Shimer Great Books School.

Shimer Great Books School

Shimer Great Books School, Liberal Studies

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Liberal Studies combines the examination of the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences, and prepares us to live a fully examined life.

Through the bachelor of arts in liberal studies, you will gain an understanding of the connections between ideas that form the core of the Shimer Great Books School’s unique curriculum. Examine primary sources written by groundbreaking, original thinkers and use the wisdom of these vastly different minds to refine your own pursuit of understanding.

About Shimer Great Books School

The Shimer Great Books School provides and preserves education centered on discussion of enduring questions and issues. Here, you will immerse yourself in reading, writing and discussion alongside other voracious readers who use what they read to engage with the world and understand their roles in it.

Learning is a constant dialogue where every opinion and every position is questioned and analyzed. You’ll discuss your ideas in a class with people who will push you to think more deeply about fundamental questions than you ever have before. Simply put, the Shimer Great Books School challenges you to delve deeply into the diverse and endlessly fascinating areas of thought and creativity in the company of similarly inclined students and teachers.

Quote:

“It’s the knowledge you get from the classes—the knowledge of how to ask questions and come to an understanding of people who are very different from you in so many ways."

- Jack, Shimer student

Learn more on the Shimer Great Books School blog

Liberal Studies, B.A.

The Shimer School Liberal Studies Major comprises the entirety of the School's core curriculum. Liberal Studies majors take the full complement of courses in all three major areas of the curriculum: humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Studying the breadth of human knowledge and creation, largely (but not entirely) in traditions from Europe and North America, allows Liberal Studies majors to integrate knowledge and methods from disparate fields and develop insights that transcend any given discipline of study. Like all Shimer School majors, those in Liberal Studies develop their insights through a combination of individual reflection; small-class discussions; intensive writing, peer-editing and revision of essays; and the variety of practical exercises that reflect our readings in each area sequence of courses.

Breadth and depth of knowledge and skills characterize graduates of the Shimer School. Through the core curriculum of the Shimer School they immerse themselves in major classic and contemporary works of human expression, social thought and scientific knowledge and practice. Their broad familiarity with fundamental ideas and methods across the Liberal Arts provides the foundation on which they build increasingly refined understanding and skills in more specialized courses in chosen disciplines taught across North Central College. Shimer School graduates thus find meaningful employment in an unusually broad array of fields, including teaching, social work, law, small business and entrepreneurial enterprise and non-profit administration among the most common.

For additional programs and courses in this school, see Shimer Great Books School.

Major Requirements

Shimer School Liberal Studies Core Courses

  • SGBH 101 - Art and Fiction

    SGBH 101 - Art and Fiction

    4.00 credit hours

    This "gateway" to the Humanities occupies the territory shared by visual art and storytelling. Students cross cultural and historical boundaries to look at the basic human impulses toward representation and self-expression in two distinct artistic modes. Students exercise both modes in critical reflections as well as expressive work designed to highlight the functions of figurative language and imagistic language, as well as what Leon Battista Alberti calls istoria in painting.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Arts, Global Understanding.
    iCon(s)
    Innovating the World.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBH 102 - Music and Verse

    SGBH 102 - Music and Verse

    4.00 credit hours

    This "gateway" to the Humanities embraces two closely related arts: music and verse. Both reorganize our experience of time through heightened attention to a variety of formal parameters such as meter, rhythm, duration, silence and tone. In addition to critical examination of monuments in both arts from a wide range of historical and cultural contexts, students practice making verse and music in exercises designed to call attention to the interplay of formal constraint and freedom.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Arts, Ethical Dimensions, Global Understanding.
    iCon(s)
    Innovating the World, Thinking Globally.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBH 201 - Philosophy and the Nature of Thought

    SGBH 201 - Philosophy and the Nature of Thought

    4.00 credit hours

    What is the nature of thought? Is it different in the guise of philosophical rigor as opposed to its character in everyday life? Reading classic and contemporary works from a variety of historical places and times, students grapple with one of the most fundamental questions confronting humanity.

    Prerequisite(s)

    SGBH 101 and SGBH 102.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Humanities, Writing Intensive.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBH 202 - Theology: Structures of Meaning

    SGBH 202 - Theology: Structures of Meaning

    4.00 credit hours

    This culminating course in the Humanities sequence features works of structural complexity and a variety of kinds, including literature, music and architecture. But its overarching questions are ultimately theological, as students interrogate the role of ideas of the absolute and question in general how we generate meaning, whether in language, images or other forms.

    Prerequisite(s)

    SGBH 101 and SGBH 102.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Humanities.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBN 101 - The Shape of the World

    SGBN 101 - The Shape of the World

    4.00 credit hours

    How do we understand how people in the past came to their beliefs about the natural world and pursue questions about it? This gateway to the Natural Sciences surveys general forms of ancient knowledge about nature. What questions were important? How did the answers form a system? Through texts, experiments and observations from the Presocratics to the late Medieval Cosmos, including contributions of Islam and other cultures, students study the early formation of holistic conceptions of nature and our relation to it.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Science, Global Understanding.
    iCon(s)
    Experiencing Place, Thinking Globally.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBN 102 - What is Matter?

    SGBN 102 - What is Matter?

    4.00 credit hours

    Western ideas of matter proceed from the Presocratics through Aristotle, medieval scholastic-Aristotelianism and alchemy before being reshaped by the views enunciated by Bacon, which herald new practices and ideas (mathematization, experimentation and mechanism). Through texts, experiments and observations developed from ancient to modern times, students see a shift in fundamental questions, particularly regarding the nature of matter. Through historical accounts of the transition, students come to distinguish between the ancient project to understand the world and the modern project to predict and control it.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Science.
    iCon(s)
    Innovating Our World.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBN 201 - What is Motion?

    SGBN 201 - What is Motion?

    4.00 credit hours

    The history of the modern study of motion (or mechanics) begins with Galileo, followed by Descartes and, above all, Newton. Generations later, Faraday offers experimental work to unify the idea of "force," which leads to attempts to unify physical theories of matter, electricity, light and energy in the work of Einstein and quantum mechanics. Through primary texts and reflections on the social and cultural contexts in which the science of mechanics developed, students carry on epistemological inquiries begun in prior courses. They also undertake a semester-long experimental investigation into the nature of light.

    Prerequisite(s)

    SGBN 101 and SGBN 102.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Science, Writing Intensive.
    iCon(s)
    Innovating Our World.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBN 202 - What is Life?

    SGBN 202 - What is Life?

    4.00 credit hours

    Concentrating on the modern development of biology, this course begins with answers to the question of the course title in the 17th century and proceed thence to the recent neo-Darwinian synthesis. Through readings and laboratory exercises in evolutionary and genetic theory, students study their origins and the social and cultural milieux in which they developed. Epistemological questions raised earlier in the Natural Sciences sequence continue to guide inquiry, along with new ethical and even political considerations involving the question of the course title.

    Prerequisite(s)

    SGBN 101 and SGBN 102.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Science, Writing Intensive.
    iCon(s)
    Being Human.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBS 101 - Models of Social Thought

    SGBS 101 - Models of Social Thought

    4.00 credit hours

    The disciplines of sociology, anthropology, and economics gave shape to many of the most fundamental concepts of social thought. The texts in this "gateway" to the Social Sciences focus on specifically social phenomena and the theories, normative and descriptive, that arise from the study of structural realities such as the state, the economy, race, gender and class. This course concludes by considering economics as a "model" social science, testing its methods and how its theoretical commitments purport either to describe or guide social action.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Social Science, Ethical Dimensions, U.S. Power Structures.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBS 102 - The Western Political Tradition

    SGBS 102 - The Western Political Tradition

    4.00 credit hours

    The development of the Western political thought and of the US in particular can be traced from ancient through contemporary texts. This course addresses questions about the nature of laws and the authority of the state across this long tradition. Students study key terms in political thought, including freedom, liberty, equality, power and responsibility. The course concludes by looking deeply into challenges posed to the American political order over time by the movements for abolition, women's suffrage and civil rights.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Social Science, Ethical Dimensions, U.S. Power Structures.
    iCon(s)
    Engaging Civic Life.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBS 201 - Critical Theories of Society & Politics

    SGBS 201 - Critical Theories of Society & Politics

    4.00 credit hours

    Western political history and its theoretical background have undergone serious critique over time, particularly regarding forms of domination and alienation that are not addressed by classical liberal political theory. Beginning with Hegel's philosophical defense of the modern state, students engage with Marxist, anarchist, feminist and post-colonial critiques of the dominant Western power structures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    Prerequisite(s)

    SGBS 101 and SGBS 102.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Social Science, Ethical Dimensions, U.S. Power Structures.
    iCon(s)
    Challenging Inequity.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBS 202 - Social Formation and Social Transformation

    SGBS 202 - Social Formation and Social Transformation

    4.00 credit hours

    Societies form individuals. In texts illustrating a wide range of social scientific methods, this course examines how the process of individuation might be interrupted or diverted. Beginning with a study of various accounts of the social and moral formation of children, the course moves to a study of broader theories of the social construction of reality within a range of social contexts. The course concludes with a consideration of the possibility for transforming society itself through the emergence of new social structures and norms. Students complete a major research paper.

    Prerequisite(s)

    SGBS 101 and SGBS 102.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    U.S. Power Structures, Community Engaged Learning, Writing Intensive.
    iCon(s)
    Challenging Inequity.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBI 101 - The Classical Foundations: Logic and Math

    SGBI 101 - The Classical Foundations: Logic and Math

    4.00 credit hours

    Axiomatic systems are the foundation of mathematics and logic. Accordingly, we investigate the nature of proof using reasoning based on formal statements following the geometry of Euclid and the logical writings of Aristotle. Descartes' unification of algebra and plane geometry relying on his new approach to truth and analytic reasoning concludes the course.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Quantitative Analysis.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBI 102 - The Modern Foundations of Logic and Math

    SGBI 102 - The Modern Foundations of Logic and Math

    4.00 credit hours

    The study of modern mathematics and logic begins with probability and the beginnings of the mathematical formalization of statistics based on the writings of Pascal and Hume. Students then investigate how the "Imaginary Geometry" of Lobachevsky examines the assumptions of Euclidean space, how Einstein's relativity theory corrects and expands the Newtonian world system and Godel's proof demonstrates the inherent limits of axiomatic reasoning.

    Prerequisite(s)

    SGBI 101.

    Cardinal Directions Designation(s)
    Quantitative Analysis.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBI 451 - Integrative Studies: Ancient Early Modern World

    SGBI 451 - Integrative Studies: Ancient Early Modern World

    4.00 credit hours

    The Shimer Great Books School's senior capstone sequence explores the complex relationship between text and context. The course is organized around a series of interdisciplinary units that explore a particular historical and geographic setting through the lenses of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. During this first semester, the course focuses on the premodern world (i.e. before the end of the 15th century).

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBI 452 - Integrative Studies: The Modern World

    SGBI 452 - Integrative Studies: The Modern World

    4.00 credit hours

    During this second semester of the Shimer School's senior capstone sequence, students focus on the modern world from the 15th century to our contemporary moment. Again, students examine a series of interdisciplinary units that explore a particular historical and geographic setting through the lenses of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

    Schedule Of Classes

  • SGBI 496 - Thesis

    SGBI 496 - Thesis

    4.00 credit hours

    Students plan, research and carry out a senior thesis project centered on an important work, figure, movement or concept, which must be grounded in their major area but may span multiple disciplines. Students in each of the Shimer School majors (Humanities, Liberal Studies, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences) meet as a cohort to discuss writing strategies, report on their progress and present their work. Students in the Humanities and Liberal Studies majors have the option of completing a creative work, whether written or in some other medium as their thesis project.

    Prerequisite(s)

    Senior standing.

    Schedule Of Classes

Electives

  • Four credits from SGBH, SGBN or SGBS at the 300-level or above

Comprehensive Examinations

  • Pass the Shimer Great Books Basic Studies Comprehensive Exam (following successful completion of at least six of the required courses at the 100-level).
  • Pass one Area Studies Comprehensive Exam (SGBH, SGBS or SGBN) after completion of the corresponding required courses at the 200-level.

Additional Requirements for the B.A. Degree

Students must demonstrate elementary competence in a foreign language. For more information, see the B.A. Degree Requirements within the Academic Regulations section of this catalog.

Daniela Barberis

Visiting Assistant Professor in the Shimer Great Books School
Shimer Great Books
+1 630 637 5485
Ann Dolinko
Ann Dolinko

Visiting Professor in the Shimer Great Books School
Shimer Great Books
+1 630 637 5483
James Donovan, PhD

Visiting Professor in the Shimer Great Books School
Shimer Great Books
Aron Dunlap

Visiting Assistant Professor in the Shimer Great Books School
Shimer Great Books
Adam Kotsko

Visiting Assistant Professor in the Shimer School
Shimer Great Books
+1 630 637 5486
Stuart Patterson

Visiting Associate Professor in the Shimer Great Books School; Chairperson, Shimer Great Books School
Shimer Great Books
+1 630 637 5487
Harold Stone
Harold Stone

Visiting Professor in the Shimer Great Books School
Shimer Great Books

The Shimer Great Books School at North Central College provides the tools, contexts, and habits of mind that make lifelong learning possible.  At the same time you will have immediate avenues to complement your studies with experiences that will prepare you for a host of professional opportunities designed to match your long-term interests, among them undergraduate research, co-curricular initiatives and internships.

Internships

North Central’s internship program helps you apply what you’ve learned in the classroom in a workplace setting. Our location provides you with access to both a world-class city and a booming local high-tech corridor. From Fortune 500 companies to dynamic start-ups on the cutting edge, there’s bound to be a workplace well suited to your graduate school interests and career goals.

Careers
A Shimer School of Great Books education teaches students the critical thinking necessary to handle extraordinary intellectual challenges. Shimer graduates have had successful careers in a wide range of professions, including:

  • Educators
  • Attorneys
  • Physicians
  • Wall Street analysts
  • Financial advisors
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Designers
  • Engineers
  • Artists
  • Writers
  • Marketers
  • And more.

Post-graduate
Shimer also ranks among the top colleges and universities in the percentage of graduates who earn PhDs.

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