Opinions are like our homes, familiar and comfortable. More specifically, they're like that picture on the wall in your kitchen -- you've seen it so often, it's so familiar, you no longer even recognize that it's there. It's only by leaving the comfort and familiarity of your intellectual homes, by subjecting your opinions to the challenges of others, that you begin to recognize your own starting point because then you can no longer take it for granted. . . .

But thinking about them by yourself is not enough. . . . Make the arguments that support your view -- make them to your classmates, to your teachers, to your friends. And then, listen carefully to their arguments, and be willing to change your mind if you find their arguments sufficiently compelling. Because of the common character of this course, you can engage in this conversation night and day, in and out of the classroom.

Paul Stern, professor of politics,

addressing freshmen in 2001

Before my [Common Intellectual Experience] class, I was a political dunce. I did not have any interest in our government or the history of its development. Because of the information I had gained from the different texts, like "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," [Ama Ata] Aidoo's "No Sweetness Here," various essays by John Locke, and "The Communist Manifesto," along with many others, the importance of our history and of democracy came alive. I began to truly appreciate the privileges available to us because of what our country went through and the many struggles people have undergone to maintain it, in addition to becoming more aware of many current political struggles in other countries.

Exploring different philosophies and ideas presented by Aristotle, Nietzsche, Descartes and Adams, we were able to investigate the true nature of humans (good or evil), the difference between humans and other beasts and the importance of action in addition to thought and cognition. Though we never managed firm answers, I left the course with the desire to explore the concepts further, and to continue to ask these questions as I listen to current events three years later.

Adrianna Brewer, Ursinus Class of 2005

salutatorian, in an essay