Penn Global is providing the opportunity to live as a monk next semester.
Penn Global recently announced the launch of the Global Seminars Program, in which students study a subject in a seminar and then travel abroad. The aim of this initiative is to further the understanding of concepts taught in the classroom through direct experience.
This coming fall, two seminars will be offered — one on evolutionary biology and the other on monastic living.
Philosophy professor Michael Weisberg will lead a course on the history and significance of evolution in the Galapagos. Students can expect to learn about the history of evolutionary theory, starting from Aristotle, going through Darwin and up to the present. A primary focus of the course will be how the conceptual challenges and theoretical debates within evolutionary biology relate to the Galapagos.
Over winter break, students will spend a week with Weisberg on a boat surveying the Galapagos, making observations on the wildlife and contextualizing the ideas learned in class.
“From sunrise to sunset, we are going to be hiking on the water looking at things... with two naturalists guiding and teaching us the whole time,” Weisberg said. “In class if we study adaptation then eight or nine times during the trip we will see and talk about it. It is basically going to be 24 hours of class for a week.”
The other seminar, led by Religious Studies professor Justin McDaniel, will have students take part in an ascetic lifestyle. Each participant will have to commit fully to monastic rules, including restrictions on dress, technology, food and verbal communication. As the course progresses, these restrictions will increase, ranging from writing in a journal every half hour to a month of silence, McDaniel said. The idea is that students will experience the same struggles as nuns, monks and other monastic figures in order to increase self-awareness about the monastic life, McDaniel added.
“One of the things this experience helps with is increasing attention to how much time you spend in idle communication or self-serving conversation,” McDaniel said. “For instance, students often say that they learn from others, but most of the time they speak for others.”
At the end of the course, students will travel with the professor to Thailand to meet with renowned monastics and experience monastic life first-hand.
For Wharton junior Pierson Devers, the seminar provides an invaluable opportunity to experiment with new lifestyle choices.
“There won’t be many chances to try completely disassociating from technology and talking,” Devers said. “To be able to have an excuse to do that would be life changing.”
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