In Our June, 2017 Issue:

AS A MATTER OF COURSE: Big Questions, Big Tent


This sum­mer, Metro State stu­dents are broad­en­ing their world­views using the teach­ings of a 19th-​century edu­ca­tion move­ment in IDST 323 Chau­tauqua: Sense of Place.

Dr. Carol Lacey, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor in the Col­lege of Indi­vid­u­al­ized Stud­ies (CIS), cre­ated this new inter­dis­ci­pli­nary course. She mod­eled it on the spirit of the Chau­tauqua Insti­tu­tion, an inno­v­a­tive lib­eral arts pro­gram that is more than 140 years old. She incor­po­rated what she learned from attend­ing the Chau­tauqua Insti­tu­tion sum­mer sea­son in 2016 in south­west­ern New York

Lacey wel­comes stu­dents from any major to enroll in the online course. It can be used to sat­isfy goal 5, goal 10 and upper-​division Lib­eral Studies.

Mul­ti­sided Syllabu

Asked how the class dif­fers from WRIT 532 Writ­ing About Place, Lacey said that her stu­dents first con­sider a per­sonal expe­ri­ence in a place that is spe­cific and sig­nif­i­cant to them.

Class exer­cises push stu­dents beyond casual obser­va­tions. They must explore phys­i­cal, eco­nomic, social, cul­tural and spir­i­tual aspects. They must tackle eco­log­i­cal and envi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges, and eval­u­ate the sus­tain­abil­ity of their cho­sen place.

The expan­sive, mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary nature of the class gen­er­ates big ques­tions: What was this place before you laid eyes on it? What could it become? How can an indi­vid­ual make an impact on future generations?

His­tor­i­cal Roots

chau·tau·qua \shǝ-​tȯऒ-​kwǝ

n. (1873) : any of var­i­ous trav­el­ing shows and local assem­blies that flour­ished in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies, that pro­vided pop­u­lar edu­ca­tion com­bined with enter­tain­ment in the form of lec­tures, con­certs, and plays, and that were mod­eled after activ­i­ties at the Chau­tauqua Insti­tu­tion of west­ern New York

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Col­le­giate Edi­tion, Eleventh Editio

The Chau­tauqua Move­ment began in 1874 with the work of Methodist Church leader John Heyl Vin­cent and busi­ness­man Lewis Miller. They con­vened at Lake Chau­tauqua in New York to build an orga­ni­za­tion, which offered life­long learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to the pub­lic. It was mod­eled after an ear­lier adult edu­ca­tion pro­gram, the Lyceum Movement

To serve those who could not afford to attend col­lege, the Chau­tauqua Move­ment offered cor­re­spon­dence courses. The Chau­tauqua Lit­er­ary and Sci­en­tific Cir­cle (CLSC) book club encour­aged par­tic­i­pants to form local read­ing circles

Chau­tauqua caught on. By World War I, groups had orga­nized across the U.S. Trav­el­ing Chau­tauquas offered pro­grams under tents or pavil­ions. They brought edu­ca­tional lec­tures, enter­tain­ment and cul­tural enlight­en­ment to iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties. Audi­ences could learn about sci­en­tific dis­cov­er­ies, receive a deeper reli­gious edu­ca­tion, lis­ten to famous ora­tors, or enjoy music con­certs. Women, teach­ers and those liv­ing in remote areas ben­e­fit­ted most from these programs.

Influ­en­tial Model

The Chau­tauqua Movement’s influ­ence can be seen in the devel­op­ment of sum­mer school, uni­ver­sity exten­sion, cor­re­spon­dence courses and “great books” discussions.

As the Great Depres­sion began, the Chau­tauqua revivals dimin­ished. Radio, auto­mo­biles and the shift from rural to met­ro­pol­i­tan liv­ing all con­tributed to the decline

But in spite of these cul­tural changes, the orig­i­nal Chau­tauqua Insti­tu­tion still draws thou­sands to sum­mer pro­grams on its 750-​acre cam­pus every year. It con­tin­ues to play a unique role offer­ing stud­ies rang­ing from the recre­ational level to the professional.

Modern-​day Minnesota

Dr. Lacey noted that vibrant Chautauqua-​style pro­grams con­tinue to pop up across Min­nesota too.

St. Cather­ine Uni­ver­sity in St. Paul has offered a sum­mer Chau­tauqua with renowned speak­ers, fac­ulty pre­sen­ta­tions and alum­nae involve­ment. The Arts Access Chau­tauqua in Min­neapo­lis in 2015 assem­bled artists to dis­cuss acces­si­bil­ity and disabilities.

By gath­er­ing Metro State stu­dents under the ‘big tent’ of IDST 323, Lacey keeps the Chau­tauqua tra­di­tion alive.

As a Mat­ter of Course” is a new series that explores inter­est­ing and unusual course offer­ings in every col­lege at Metro State. Know of a course we should cover? Tell us about it at TheMetropolitan@​metrostate.​edu