2015-16 catalog

The Academic Program


The Emily Balch Seminars

Director: Gail Hemmeter, Department of English

The Emily Balch Seminars introduce all first-year students at Bryn Mawr to a critical, probing, thoughtful approach to the world and our roles in it. The seminars are named for Emily Balch, Bryn Mawr Class of 1889. She was a gifted scholar with a uniquely global perspective who advanced women’s rights on an international level and who, in 1946, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

These challenging seminars are taught by scholar/teachers of distinction within their fields and across academic disciplines. They facilitate the seminars as active discussions among students, not lectures. Through intensive reading and writing, the thought-provoking Balch Seminars challenge students to think about complex, wide-ranging issues from a variety of perspectives.

While books and essays are core texts in the Balch Seminars, all source materials that invite critical interpretation and promote discussion and reflection may be included—films, performances, material objects, research surveys and experiments, or studies of social practices and behavior.

The seminars are organized around fundamental questions in contemporary or classical thought that students will inevitably address in their lives, regardless of the majors they elect at Bryn Mawr or the profession or career they pursue after graduating. Seminar topics vary from year to year.

An important goal of the seminars is to give students instruction and practice in writing as a flexible tool of inquiry and interpretation. Students can expect to write formal and informal assignments weekly during the semester. Students also meet one-on-one with their teachers every other week outside of class to discuss their written work and their progress in becoming a critical thinker.

In the Balch Seminars, students form a tightly knit, collaborative learning community that will serve as a model for much of their intellectual life at Bryn Mawr, both in and out of the classroom. As a result, students will enrich their educational experience in whatever fields of knowledge they pursue at Bryn Mawr, and be better prepared for a more reflective and critical life in a complex and changing world beyond college.

For more information and a list of current courses, visit www.brynmawr.edu/balch/.