The Paideia Seminar


The Paideia Seminar is a humanistic community of students and faculty from the Collegium Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, the Villanova Humanities Department, and the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University. We convene monthly for dinner seminars at each university and cultural excursions in the Philadelphia area – together, we explore the full promise of the liberal arts.

 Over the years, we’ve examined different questions and topics, including How Can the Humanities Humanize Us?, Enchantment and Disenchantment in the Modern World, What Does it Mean To Be a Humanist?, and most recently, Friendship and the Common Good. The Paideia Seminar will now embark on it’s fifth year of programming – the theme for the 2019 – 2020 academic year is Living with the Humanities.

Student Testimonies

The Paideia Seminar encourages curiosity, conviviality, and kindness. The program provides me with a fruitful outlet in which I nurture intellectual desire as I encounter special individuals, in unique spaces, who provoke and inspire.

– Ethan Swain, Villanova University

The Paideia Seminar was a wonderful opportunity for me to explore the art of living with students of various perspectives, backgrounds, and interests. In the Paideia Seminar, we not only reasoned about the role of the humanities, but we enjoyed music, language, and good food together. By pairing intellectually-rigorous discussions with the arts and fellowship, we learned both the theory and practice of becoming more fully human.” 

– Abigail Storch, Eastern University

“I loved Paideia Seminar because it offered me the unique opportunity to step beyond my education and interrogate it. The discussions we had and ideas we brought to the table caused me to think deeply about not just what I’ve been learning in college, but what the whole point of an education is (or should be) in the first place and what its significance — and duty — is in the bigger scheme of things. This chance to really examine what I want from an education and how I think education should be implemented and understood in order to make the most meaningful impact has been incredibly special for me. It is so important that we ask these questions of ourselves and figure out where we stand on them.”

– Emily Hoeven, University of Pennsylvania

Sessions from 2019 - 2020

Friendship and the Common Good Opening Session

Session I – September 7th, University of Pennsylvania

A crucial component of the pursuit of learning and the way we live our lives more generally is friendship. In an effort to bring light to this important facet of human life, and to recognize the deep influence this type of relationship can have on our varied paths, Paideia has set Friendship and the Common Good as its central theme. For our first session we explored the influence modern technology can have on the quality of time we spend with the people we care about by reading enticing passages from Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, the work of MIT professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, Sherry Turkle. 

War, Friendship, and Imagination: The Impact of WWI on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

Session II – October 11th, Eastern University

The Philadelphia Commons Institute hosted a dinner, a lecture, and discussion with Joseph Loconte.

Joseph Loconte, PhD is an associate professor of history at The King’s College and author of New York Times’ bestseller, A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War. The 5-part documentary film series based on this book starts 11/11/18, the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Check out these links for more information on Joseph Loconte’s book and documentary series!

Who is Friendship? Friends From St. Augustine to Friends

Session III – November 9th, Villanova University

We unpacked the character of friendship – what are its forms, how does it manifest itself, why is it important to cultivate it, is it necessarily good?  This form of human relationship almost takes on a life of its own, so much so that it seems appropriate to ask, who is friendship? As part of our quest to understand friendship and how it can be conducive to the common good, our texts included a final address by Dr. Michael Tomko that highlighted the uniqueness of the phenomenon of friendship, an account by St. Augustine from The Confessions that spoke to some of the dangers in friendship, and a poem by Wordsworth that brought into relief what we call the good. 

Amicitia in the Polis: On the Political Power of Friendship in a Polarized World

Session IV – January 25th, University of Pennsylvania

In today’s political and cultural atmosphere there is a sense of animosity across the political spectrum, a growing sentiment that it is impossible to be friends with those whose political ideas differ from one’s own. But is this true? What does it look like to foster friendships within the realm of the political? Can friendships survive the impact of politics and actually transform the public square and culture?

We explored these questions and more by delving into the thought of Aristotle and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and took a closer look at the current state of relationships in politics through an article examining friendship in the Age of Trump and a video that highlighted the unexpected friendship of professors Robert George and Cornel West.

Uninvited Girl: An Immigrant Story

Session V – February 28th, Eastern University

Our friends at the Philadelphia Commons Institute hosted a play by Nimisha Ladva (professor at Haverford College), followed by a Q&A with Dr. Ladva and Ed Sobel (director and professor at Villanova University). 

About Uninvited Girl: An Immigrant Story | An arrest, a family separation, and an impossible romance: for one immigrant, the hardest journey begins after she arrives in her new country. Nimisha Ladva’s solo performance play explores what happens when the rules of “where you’re from” and “where you want to be” compete and collapse in humorous, humbling, and dangerous ways.

Courtesy & Humility: Dante on the Forgotten Virtues of Friendship

Session VI – March 22nd, Villanova University

Dr. Paul Camacho facilitated a fascinating discussion on friendship based on excerpts from Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio, and an essay by G.K. Chesterton titled “A Defense of Humility.” 

Searching for Friendship: A Philadelphia Museum of Art Exploration

Session VII – April 12th, Philadelphia Museum of Art

An evening cultural exploration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a dinner at Trio, to celebrate a year of Paideia events centered on the theme, Friendship & the Common Good. We searched for representations of friendship in the different galleries of the museum. Then we had dinner at Trio to close the 2018 – 2019 Paideia Seminar.