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Sur­rounded by books, the seminar stu­dents wrestled with Cicero’s ideas of wisdom, virtue, and elo­quence, while the senior assistant and pro­fessor lis­tened, rean­i­mating the occa­sional lulls.
In restruc­turing the 5-year-old honors freshman seminar this semester, Col­le­giate Scholars Program Director Richard Gamble included three senior assis­tants, who bring an expe­ri­enced per­spective and a sense of respon­si­bility to hand down the tra­dition of col­le­giality they expe­ri­enced in the Hillsdale College Honors Program.
The sem­inars were open to all of campus, not only freshmen inter­ested in Col­le­giate Scholars, which replaced the Honors Program.
“I get to watch the con­ver­sation start that these people will be having for the next four years with each other and other class­mates about why they’re here, what they’re doing, why they’re learning what they’re learning,” senior assistant Audrey Southgate said.
According to Gamble, he included the seniors in order to help keep the stu­dents on track while dis­cussing key ideas. While he said his stu­dents this semester remain focused and intel­lec­tually engaged with the texts, he still appre­ciates Southgate’s unique per­spective.
“She’s bringing the per­spective of a senior; she’s bringing a dif­ferent level of expe­rience to the course,” Gamble said.
Before each session, Southgate pre­pares ques­tions to rein­vig­orate the dis­cussion, but for the most part, she said she tries to stay on the side­lines. To promote social inter­action and further the con­ver­sation, she invited the stu­dents to her dorm, Waterman Res­i­dence, for tea.
Freshman Ross Hatley said he orig­i­nally felt super­vised by the assistant, like she was a second teacher in the room. But as the seminar pro­gressed, he said he trusts the seniors the pro­fessors put into the class­rooms to guide the con­ver­sation as mentors.
“For Audrey, per­sonally, she adds quite a bit,” Hatley said. “She’s dis­ci­plined; she doesn’t jump in until there’s a pause in the con­ver­sation.”
The seminar has four sec­tions with 55 stu­dents enrolled, and the faculty teaching the sem­inars rep­resent the dis­ci­plines of physics, German, and history. Gamble said his goal for the seminar is that it be inter­dis­ci­plinary in order to avoid spe­cialists engaging in a narrow dis­cussion.
“This tra­dition belongs to everyone on campus,” Gamble said. “These readings are not the private property of any one department, but they belong to all of us. They’re open to all of us to have a con­ver­sation about.”
For Southgate, the great tra­dition that Hillsdale studies on how to be edu­cated is not only able to bring people together, but it is worth con­tinual con­sid­er­ation.
“I took this in the beginning, and now I’m taking it at the end and looking back, which is so fun and really con­structive,” Southgate said. “It’s worth thinking about again, and it’s making me grateful for my time at Hillsdale.”
Gamble said Southgate’s oppor­tunity intrigues him because she will be able to encounter her younger self, perhaps even through old margin notes.
“I think that’s an incredibly value expe­rience for any student,” Gamble said. “It’s an effective way for stu­dents to say, ‘Wow, I really have learned a lot.’”
Southgate said she is thankful that she gets to take part in a con­ver­sation that includes stu­dents of all grades and faculty of various dis­ci­plines and can bring people together.
“Nor­mally you have to fail a class to take it again,” Southgate said. “This is the class — if I could take one again — I would want to take this one the most.”

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Jo Kroeker
Jo Kroeker is a junior from Fresno, California (no, it’s not Cali). She is the Opinions Editor of the Collegian, studies French and journalism, and writes for Hillsdale College’s marketing department. Her trademarks include oversized sweaters, experimental banana bread, and yoga. jkroeker@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @jobethkroeker