Q: Why does CSS have a first-year program?
A: In the largest sense, Dignitas is an introduction to The College of St. Scholastica: who we are, what we stand for, and how to find your place in this particular learning community. Commonly, people talk about students as consumers; Dignitas reminds us that students are also, at graduation, our products—people we are proud to send out into the world. Because The College of St. Scholastica stands for certain values—most particularly community, reflection, intellectual challenge, and social justice—incorporating these values into a first-year program helps us live up to our promise of graduating students who take responsibility for their learning and for their actions. A combination of intellectually challenging course material, co-curricular activities, and common experiences lays the groundwork—sets the context—for four years of successful learning at the College and lifelong learning beyond.
Q: Where does the name come from?
A: In the process of developing the Dignitas Program, we reflected on the College crest. The Latin on the crest, Omnes Semitae Eius Pacificae, translates into “All Her Paths Are Peace.” As we pondered this, ideas about dignity evolved: human dignity, the dignity of creation, the dignity of things. All of these are at the heart of the college mission of providing “intellectual and moral preparation for responsible living and meaningful work,” as well as central to the Benedictine values of community, hospitality, respect, stewardship and life-long learning. In keeping with the Latin on the crest, we chose the Latin word Dignitas as the title of our first year program.
Q: Is it common for colleges and universities to have first-year programs?
A: Yes. From the Ivy League to the local community college, institutions of higher learning across the country already have or are developing first-year programs.
Q: How does Dignitas compare to other first-year programs?
A: Based on feedback from national conferences, we are justly proud of our program; in fact, other institutions are looking to us as a model. Why? Rather than a one-size fits all curriculum, in which every class reads the same books and writes the same papers, Dignitas students have the opportunity to choose a subject of interest to them taught by a faculty member who is excited by the subject. Classes are taught by regular faculty, not TAs. Each class has a peer mentor to work with students in and out of the classroom. Class size is small to facilitate discussion and community-building. Unlike many programs, Dignitas is not remedial: we believe we attract strong students, ready to tackle the challenge of college-level work.
Q: I am transferring in a lot of college credits. Do I still need to take Dignitas?
A: Yes. All new first-year students need to take Dignitas, regardless of whether or not they have transfer credits.
Q: Why do I need to take Dignitas when I’ve already done college-level work?
A: Because Dignitas is not a generic “introduction to college” but an introduction to the college you chose: The College of St. Scholastica. In fact, Dignitas is particularly important for students in this position because you have probably already filled many of your general education Pathways, or distribution requirements. We at the College want to guarantee that all of our graduates become integrated into this particular learning community through common exposure to the values that are central to our Benedictine heritage: community, reflection, intellectual challenge, and social justice.
Q: Won’t I get this exposure in my other classes? Why do I need Dignitas?
A: Yes, Benedictine values should be woven through your entire education, but Dignitas offers a chance to focus on these values in depth and in an integrated way, thus creating a framework for your college career.
Q: Is Dignitas a General Education requirement?
A: Yes. Like English 1110 and CTA 1102 (neither of which fulfill an additional general education category), successful completion of Dignitas is itself a graduation requirement.
Q: Why can’t I take a course in my major instead?
A: The College of St. Scholastica is committed to the idea of the liberally educated person. This is the rationale for all of the general education requirements: broad exposure to great ideas from the past and the present in a wide range of subjects. In the 21st Century, it is not enough (if it ever was) to know only one field of study. Boundaries between subjects are continually being blurred as knowledge becomes increasingly interdisciplinary.
Q: How will Dignitas help me with my career path?
A: In every field, employers are looking for workers who can analyze information critically, think clearly about issues from multiple perspectives, question received wisdom, integrate information, and communicate clearly and effectively in writing and speech. Dignitas plants the seed for developing this skill set. The remaining general education requirements nurture this seed and help it grow.