As part of its Core Curriculum, Notre Dame requires every student to learn philosophy. In Fall 2015, working with a team of pedagogy-minded PhD students, the College of Arts and Letters, and our Office of Digital Learning, we designed and launched a completely revamped intro curriculum — God and the Good Life (GGL). The course immerses students in the great debates about the nature of belief and doubt, what kind of life is worth living, and what exactly morality requires of us. Serving about 150 students per section, we pair large “forum-style” current event debates with a unique and intensive peer-lead dialogue group experience. Between 30-40 students return each semester to serve as undergraduate GGL Fellows, taking more advanced courses on philosophical methods and leading GGL discussion sections. The course also has a significant digital component: interactive texts, interviews, and short films — all resources which our students help us to create and which make sophisticated ideas approachable.
The GGL Program has gotten some press: Chronicle of Higher Ed; Vulture; New York Times; America Magazine; Inside Higher Ed; Arts and Letters Online; and Notre Dame Magazine. Since 2016 over 1800 students have taken the course, and we grow each year (e.g. we are offering over 700 seats in AY 19-20). And since 2015, majors and minors in Philosophy at Notre Dame have grown by 65% — spurred both by GGL and other departmental efforts to design high-impact undergraduate courses. Our Fellows program consistently attracts high numbers of women and minority students. From 2016-2019, I served as Director of the University Philosophy Requirement, working closely with Director of Undergraduate Studies (Alex Jech) to develop new initiatives for our undergraduate curriculum.
GGL continues to be a team sport. Justin Christy serves as our program director and fearless Fellow wrangler. Paul Blaschko is our lead for digital curriculum projects. Justin, Paul Blaschko, Brian Cutter, Laura Callahan and I all regularly offer sections of the course and form the core GGL teaching team. And each semester we work with an excellent group of PhD students, postdocs, and undergraduate leaders to find even better ways to make eternal questions come to life for each new group of ND students.
The GGL team frequently leads outreach events to groups both within ND and the broader public. For example, we recently hosted a discussion of virtue ethics with The Good Place’s creator and showrunner, Mike Schur. We are always happy to share resources with other educators and occasionally host consulting programs both at Notre Dame and at partner institutions. Contact Meghan, Paul or Justin to learn more.