CIE100: Common Intellectual Experience

[ Course Info | Course Objectives and Goals | Resources | Instructors | Textbooks | Schedule | Grading | Course Policies | Course Details ]

Szenebild aus Lysistrata von Aristophanes Max Reinhardt 1920
Platon Cave Sanraedam 1604
Rembrandt - The Good Samaritan - Louvre
Welcome to CIE100!

Course Info

  • Course Number and Title: CIE100 - Common Intellectual Experience
    • Section V
  • Credit Hours: 4 Semester Hours
    • Credit Hours include "contact time" in the classroom and outside course work. It is expected that the sum of classroom time and outside course work time should add up to three times the listed credit hours per week.
  • Course Designation: CIE

  • Course Webpage:

  • LMS (Canvas): Canvas

  • Course Calendar: Import the course calendar into your favorite calendar app with this link!

  • Academic Term: Fall 2023-24

  • Term Start and End: through

  • Course Prerequisites: None

  • Class Meeting Locations and Times:
    • Section V:
      • s from 1:30 PM to 2:45 PM in PFA 109
      • s from 1:30 PM to 2:45 PM in PFA 109
  • Final Exam:
    • Section V: 2023/12/13 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM in Pfahler 109
  • Course Description: The first of a two-semester course introducing inquiry into the core questions of liberal education at Ursinus: What should matter to me? How should we live together? How can we understand the world? What will I do? The course will explore these questions through the study of influential primary texts. The first semester focuses on texts from antiquity up to the modern era. Four semester hours. (CIE)

Course Learning Objectives and Learning Goals

Learning Goals

  1. Students will develop habits of self-reflection about what matters to them.
  2. Students will become active participants in a campus intellectual community.
  3. Students will become better critical readers of texts from a wide range of disciplines, cultures and time periods.
  4. Students will become more skilled participants in group discussions.
  5. Students will become better writers.

The Questions

Throughout the course, we will be thematically guided by the Ursinus Questions:
  • What should matter to me?
  • How should we live together?
  • How can we understand the world?
  • What will I do?



Ursinus College and your instructor are committed to ensuring equal access and providing reasonable accommodations for all students. If you have, or think you have, a disability in any area such as, mental health, attention, learning, chronic health, sensory, or physical, please contact the Director of Disability Services.

Ursinus College is committed to ensuring equal access and providing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. The Institute for Student Success works with students who have any kind of disability, whether apparent or non-apparent, learning, emotional, physical, or cognitive, and need accommodations to increase their access to this learning environment. I encourage you to reach out to the Director of Disability Services, Dr. Dee Singley to discuss about supports and accommodations you may need. Dr. Singley’s office is located in the Institute for Student Success in Lower Wismer. You can schedule a meeting with Dr. Singley by using this link:, by emailing her at or by calling her at 1-484-762-4329. Students can also review accessibility and disabilities services on the ISS website.

Peer Coaching

The Institute for Student Success offers Peer Coaching that you can sign up for anytime. The Institute for Student Success connects students to the resources, activities, services, and programs that can help students be successful, thrive, and persist to graduation. They offer academic skills workshops, one-on-one coaching, tutoring, and more. Contact them at or 610-409-3400.

Early Alerts

From time to time, I may send academic early alerts through the college to you reagarding your academic performance or engagement in the class. These alerts are intended to help you engage in a way that will improve your ability to be successful. Should I send you an alert, I expect that you will follow up with me within 5 days to discuss your engagement on campus or in our class.

Religious and Spiritual Life Observance Policy

Per the Religious and Spiritual Life Observance Policy, students who expect to miss classes, examinations, or other assignments due to religious observance may notify me two weeks prior to the observance. I will be happy to discuss reasonable alternatives with you.

Wellness Center

Wellness Center resources are confidential and free to all students. Please consult the Wellness Center website for more information. As a student, you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. These might include strained relationships, anxiety, high levels of stress, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, health concerns, or unwanted sexual experiences. The Wellness Center provides free short-term individual counseling, group therapy, and referral services that are confidential and are not a part of your educational record. Call Wellness at 610-409-3100 between 9:00-5:00, M-F. If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis after hours, call Campus Safety at 610-409-3333. For a local resource, Montgomery County Mobile Crisis is available for 24/7 telephone support at (855) 634-HOPE (4673). The National Suicide Prevention Hotline also offers 24/7 support at 800-273-8255. As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce a student’s ability to participate in daily activities. Ursinus College Wellness Center offers services to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. If you or someone you know are suffering from any of the aforementioned conditions, you can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus via the Wellness Center by emailing or calling 610-409-3100. If you are interested in more academic support, please contact the Institute for Student Success at or 610-409-3400. If you find yourself struggling with your mental or physical health this semester, please let me know. I am one of many people here at Ursinus who care about you and your welfare. For example, the Wellness Center provides numerous health and counseling services, including free short-term individual counseling, group therapy, and referral services that are confidential and are not a part of your educational record. Contact the Wellness Center by emailing or calling 610-409-3100.

Center for Writing and Speaking

The Center for Writing and Speaking is available for one-on-one and group appointments to advise you as you revise your writing projects and presentations. They will even support your personal projects and extracurricular activities! Please feel free and encouraged to review any and all writing and speaking work from this class with them.


The college recognizes that temporary financial hardships can impact students' access to course materials, as well as their access to opportunities on campus. Please be aware of the Bear2Bear fund, which has been established by donors to the college and provides special grants for students who have exhausted other sources of funding.

Help Room

The Math Help Room (Pfahler 102) is a great place to go if you are struggling and is managed by the Institute for Student Success. Students who have previously taken the course will be there to help you with the assignments.

Course Instructors and Student / Office Hours

Role Name and Contact Information Student Hours / Office Hours
Professor William Mongan
Picture of Professor William Mongan

Phone: 610-409-3268
Office: Pfahler Hall 101L
  • s from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM in Pfahler Hall 101L
  • s from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM in Pfahler Hall 101L
  • s from 11:15 AM to 12:00 PM in Pfahler Hall 101L
  • s from 11:15 AM to 12:00 PM in Pfahler Hall 101L
  • s from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM in Pfahler Hall 101L

Sign up for a one-on-one appointment during my office hours!
Writing Fellow Madi Neiman
Student hours (also known as "Office Hours") are certainly available for asking questions about the course, about your assignments, and other academic questions you may have. You do not need an appointment to come to student hours, and you do not even need to have an agenda or set questions! You can come and just have a general chat about things with us. If you cannot make it to student hours, you can contact us for an appointment as well. Student hours are also for non-instructional topics of conversation: you can talk with me about your adjustments to college life, your long-term goals, advice about your academic journey, and most other things. If I don't know the answer to something or if I don't feel I am the best person to offer you advice about it, I will be happy to help connect you with the right people. In other words, don't be afraid to ask me things that you think are "off topic" - I love teaching because I love to be a resource for you on your journey. I'll be happy to see you there.


Required? Title Author Edition ISBN Freely Available?
Required Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
Required Allegory of the Cave - The Republic of Plato Plato
Required Analects of Confucius. Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan Van Horden, editors Second Edition
Required Lysistrata Aristophanes (Ian Johnston, translator)
Required Between the World and Me T. Coates
Required On the Origin of Species Charles Darwin
Required God is Red Vine Deloria, Jr.
Required Genesis Robert Alter, translator
Required Euthyphro (Four Texts on Socrates) Plato and Aristophanes (Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West, translators)
Required Luke 10 and Matthew 5-7 Bible - KJV
Required Sappho: A New Translation Mary Barnard, Translator
Required Evolution's Rainbow Joan Roughgarden
Please Note: The cost of the book may be prohibitive for some students, so please note that renting the book is much cheaper. Please communicate as early as possible if you are having trouble obtaining the book, rather than keeping this to yourself, so that we can work on a solution together. If you are experiencing a financial hardship, please consider the Bear2Bear Emergency Fund for temporary relief applications.

Course Schedule

Week Date Title Readings Deliverables Handed Out Deliverables Due
Week 1 Allegory of the Cave, Feminist Manifesto, the Matrix, and Katie Merz's Live the Questions (The Smokestack)
  • Common Event: The Matrix (8/25)
  • Allegory of the Cave
  • Feminist Manifesto
Week 1 Allegory of the Cave, Feminist Manifesto, the Matrix, and Katie Merz's Live the Questions (The Smokestack)
Week 2 Allegory of the Cave, Feminist Manifesto, the Matrix, and Katie Merz's Live the Questions (The Smokestack)
Week 2 Allegory of the Cave, Feminist Manifesto, the Matrix, and Katie Merz's Live the Questions (The Smokestack)
  • Participation: Thesis Statement and Outline for Essay 1 Due
Week 3 Lysistrata
  • Lysistrata
  • Participation: Introduction and Text Summary for Essay 1 Due
Week 3 Lysistrata
Week 4 Sappho
  • Sappho (poems 1-2; 4-5; 8-9; 12-15; 17; 20-21; 37-84; 87-88; 97-100)
  • Common Event: Difficult Discussions Sep 20
Week 4 Sappho
Week 5 Euthyphro
  • Euthyphro
Week 5 Euthyphro
Week 6 Genesis
  • Genesis chapters 1-22
  • Discussion with Robert Alter (supplemental recording)
Week 6 Genesis
Week 7 Confucius: Analects
  • Analects of Confucius
Week 7 Confucius: Analects
  • Participation: Thesis Statement and Outline for Essay 2 Due
Week 8 Matthew 5-7 and Luke 10
Week 9 Matthew 5-7 and Luke 10
  • Get Over Yourself - Self-Transcendence in the Book of Genesis (talk by Rabbi David Wolpe, 10/24)
Week 9 Darwin and Roughgarden
  • On the Origin of Species
  • Participation: Analysis Section for Essay 2 Due
Week 10 Darwin and Roughgarden
Week 10 Darwin and Roughgarden
  • Evolution's Rainbow
Week 11 Darwin and Roughgarden
Week 11 God is Red
  • God is Red
Week 12 God is Red
Week 13 Between the World and Me
Week 14 Between the World and Me
Week 14 Between the World and Me
Week 15 Select Your Quest: Coded Bias
Week 15 Select Your Quest: Coded Bias
Please note the following holidays this term:
Please note the following key calendar dates:
  • Add Deadline:
  • Drop with a W Deadline:
  • Reading Day:

Grade Breakdown

Letter grades will be assigned on the scale below at the end of the course. "Grade grubbing" is not conducive to professional practice; every assignment has or will have very precise expectations and point breakdowns, and I will evaluate submitted work carefully according to these standards. I will also return assignments in a timely manner, and the running weighted grades will be updated frequently. Therefore, I expect a commensurate level of respect from you. In sum, you should know where you stand at all times, there will be plenty of opportunities to improve your standing, and there should be no surprises at the end of the course.

Grading Table

Item Weight
Writing 60%
Participation 40%

Letter Grades

Letter Grade Range
A+ 96.9-100
A 93-96.89
A- 89.5-92.99
B+ 87-89.49
B 83-86.99
B- 79.5-82.99
C+ 77-79.49
C 73-76.99
C- 69.5-72.99
D+ 67-69.49
D 63-66.99
D- 59.5-62.99
F 0-59.49

Course Policies

Netiquette in Online Discussion Boards infographic
Courtesy of the Online Education Blog of Touro College.

Classroom Environment and Inclusivity Standards

My goal is to foster a environment in which students across all axes of diversity feel welcome and valued, both by me and by their peers. Axes of diversity include, but are not limited to, age, background, beliefs, race, ethnicity, gender/gender identity/gender expression (please feel free to tell me in person or over e-mail which pronouns I should use), national origin, religious affiliation, and sexual orientation. Discrimination of any form will not be tolerated. Furthermore, I want all students to feel comfortable expressing their opinions or confusion at any point in the course, as long as they do so respectfully. As I will stress over and over, being confused is an important part of the process of learning computer science. Therefore, I will not tolerate any form of put-downs by one student towards another about their confusion or progress in the class. Learning computer science and struggling to grow is not always comfortable, but I want it to feel safe. Much of this material is probably new to everyone, and those with some prior experience likely recall a time when it was new to them, too. Remember that this is not a competition: helping others to grow is itself a richly rewarding professional development opportunity. In order to allow for equitable access to class for students who may be attend and participating remotely, I may record our class sessions. These recordings will only be available on our Canvas site. I will announce that we are recording in the beginning of any classes of this kind; out of respect and privacy for me and all class members, please do not download, copy, or redistribute class recordings.

Online Communication Policy

Since this is a class-wide communication, the following rules apply to message groups and electronic communications:
  1. Students are expected to be respectful and mindful of the classroom environment and inclusivity standards.
  2. They are equally applicable to a virtual environment as they are in class.
  3. Students are not permitted to share direct answers or questions which might completely give away answers to any homework problems or labs publicly on Microsoft Teams. When in doubt, please send me a direct message there.
  4. I will attempt to answer questions real time during student / office hours. Otherwise, I will make every attempt to respond within 24 hours. Of course, students can and should still respond to each other outside of these intervals, when appropriate!
  5. Students may ask anonymous questions.

Course Management Systems: Canvas, Microsoft OneNote, and Microsoft Teams

We will be using Canvas to post all of the grades. For the most part, we will submit work using Canvas as well. For class activities and notes, we will be using OneNote, and for other discussions and announcements for the course, including messaging me directly with questions, we will use Microsoft Teams. OneNote and Teams are linked to your Office suite through Ursinus, so you are automatically enrolled. There you can ask and answer questions about the lecture content and assignments.

Since it is likely that students will have similar questions, it is much more efficient for me to answer them there so the whole class can see the answer, so it is possible that I will ask you to re-send a question publicly that I get in an e-mail. If you'd prefer, I could anonymize the question as well, but I'd like you to have the opportunity to post it so that you are credited with having such a good question!

Collaboration Policy and Academic Integrity Policy

Communication between students is allowed (and encouraged!), but it is expected that every student's code or writeups will be completely distinct! Please do not copy code off of the Internet (repurposing code from the Internet will probably make it harder anyway because the assignments are so specialized). Please cite any sources in addition to materials linked from the course website that you used to help in crafting your code and completing the assignment.

See the Course Management page in the Faculty Handbook for an explanation of college policies on plagiarism and other academic honesty violations.

To encourage collaboration, students will be allowed to choose one "buddy" to work "near" during the assignment. Students are still expected to submit their own solutions, but they are allowed to provide substantial help to their designated buddy, and even to look at the buddy's code during the process. Students must indicate their buddies in the README upon assignment submission. Please let me know if you would like a buddy but are having trouble finding one.

Below is a table spelling out in more detail when and how you are allowed to share code with people (table style cribbed from Princeton CS 126).

Please Note: The terms "exposing" and "viewing" exclude sending or ingesting electronically, which would be considered copying. Exposing and viewing are normally done in the context of in-person working or in the help room. In addition, "Other People" includes internet sources!
Your Buddy Course Staff Course Grads Classmates Others
Discuss Concepts With OK OK OK OK OK
Acknowledge Collaboration With OK OK OK OK OK
Expose Your Code/Solutions To OK EXCEPT FOR
View the Code/Solutions Of OK EXCEPT FOR
Copy Code/Solutions From NO NO NO NO NO

If the work you submit appears to be copied from previous work or the collaboration policy has been violated in any way (including working with more collaborators or "buddies" than the course deliverable specifies) according to the College Academic Honesty policy, regardless of intent, then it may be an academic dishonesty case, and it will be referred to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. I am required to make this report in every occurrence, so it is best to speak with me first if there are any questions about the policy or expectations. You should feel free to have these conversations with me anytime prior to making your submission without fear of penalty. Finally, aside from the collaboration policy here, it is expected that your work is your original work. You must cite any collaborations or references that you use, including consultation with or work generated through the use of generative AI systems. You may have a friend or relative with computing experience, but they should not do your assignments, labs, etc., for you.

Flexible Submission Policy

In the absence of accommodations arranged in advance with the instructor or college, all assignments are due at 10:59PM Eastern Time on the date(s) stated on the schedule. Assignments will be accepted without prior permission following this time with a points deduction of 4% per day if submitted before 10:59 PM Eastern Time on the day submitted. Each student will receive a total of 10 "slack days" for the semester with which to waive these grade reductions; for example, one assignment may be submitted 10 days late, or two assignments may be submitted 5 days late, with no grade reduction. Should an exemption to this policy be requested and granted, a 5% per day reduction will be applied. Extra credit will not be awarded for assignments submitted under the flexible submission policy. Students with accommodations will receive additional "slack days" as specified within the accommodations letter; however, some deliverables cannot be subject to accommodations due to the time-sensitive nature of the assignment (for example, group assignments, presentations, and course surveys). Students who add the class late shall receive additional slack days equal to the number of days between the start of classes and the first date that approval is given or that class is attended (whichever occurs first). Under no circumstances (including accommodations) can late work be accepted after the final class meeting, nor during final exams week, nor after the exam.

A Word About Submitting Work On-Time

Managing your time and pacing yourself consistently are crucial to your academic success. In professional practice – and in the spirit of the Ursinus Question “how should we live together?” – others will depend on you and will build upon the work you create. In the classroom, these interactions are modeled in the form of group projects and activities, and also in the form of cumulative course content that builds upon itself thematically throughout the semester. Research indicates that self-imposed or flexible deadlines does not lead to optimal scheduling [1], which, in turn, can lead to a compounding of overdue work across multiple classes. In addition, extensions to or prolonging of assignment deadlines has been shown to yield a detrimental appearance of complexity [2]: we tend to believe that assignments with longer durations are more difficult, and can find it more difficult to get started due to the anxiety that results. Your professor has established a schedule and procedure for completing and submitting classwork that complements the topics being covered during the semester. The specific details of that schedule and of those procedures may vary from instructor to instructor, depending upon the unique needs and instructional approach of the class. These details are specified in the course syllabus, and because those details have been designed thoughtfully and intentionally to best enable your consistent engagement with the class, the guidelines in that syllabus pertaining to engaging in the course, completing work, and posting grades (including a grade of incomplete) shall be considered effective policy for the course. Regardless of the implementation details from one course or from one instructor to another, these instructional designs are intended to enable you to engage with the course in a healthy and consistent manner, to manage your time effectively between your class, your other classes, and your extracurricular activities, and to better position you for success in class and beyond. (References: [1] Ariely, Dan, and Klaus Wertenbroch. “Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment.” Psychological Science, vol. 13, no. 3, May 2002, pp. 219–224, doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00441. [2] Meng Zhu, Rajesh Bagchi, Stefan J Hock, The Mere Deadline Effect: Why More Time Might Sabotage Goal Pursuit, Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 45, Issue 5, February 2019, Pages 1068–1084,

Grade Posting Policy

Feedback and grades will be provided frequently, generally within one week of the due date of any deliverable, and no more than two weeks following the due date. Inquiries seeking a change of grade must be made within 7 days of the posting of the grade in question, including the posting of a reduced grade for a missing submission. Final grades are due within 48 hours of the final exam (or last class scheduled meeting in a class with no final exam); grades are not subject to change (including a change from a posted grade to a grade of incomplete) once submitted to the college.

Incomplete Policy

A grade of I may only be granted by permission of the Office of the Dean. A petition to the Office of the Dean will only be made upon written request by the student, including all information requested by the Office of the Dean. Requests for a grade of I will only be made in situations where such a request is warranted. Specifically, the student's grade must be passing at the time the request is made. A petition for a grade of I will not be considered if an academic alert was submitted by the instructor prior to the course Drop with a W (withdraw) deadline.

Title IX

Title IX is a federal law, under which it is prohibited to discriminate, harass, or commit misconduct on the basis of gender or sex. The Title IX Coordinator is available to receive inquiries and to investigate allegations in this regard. As a professor, I am a mandatory reporter under Title IX, and am required to report disclosures made to me related to Title IX.

Inclement Weather and Class Cancellation Policy

In the event that the College closes due to inclement weather or other circumstances, our in-person class sessions, student / office hours, labs, or other meetings will not be held. I will contact you regarding our plan with regard to rescheduling the class or the material, any assignments that are outstanding, and how we can move forward with the material (for example, any readings or remote discussions that we can apply). If necessary, I may schedule online virtual sessions in lieu of class sessions, and will contact you with information about how to participate in those. I will communicate this plan to the department so that it can be posted on my office door if it is feasible to do so. This policy and procedure will also apply in the event that the College remains open but travel conditions are hazardous or not otherwise conducive to holding class as normal. Should another exigent circumstance arise (for example, illness), I will follow this policy and procedure as well.

Student Perception of Teaching Questionnaire (SPTQ)

I will be soliciting student feedback through the SPTQ and possibly through other forms of commentary. This feedback greatly assists me and the department as we develop our courses and overall curriculum for this program. This course has benefitted from the feedback of those students who took the course before you, and your feedback will help maintain and improve the course for those to follow. I strongly encourage you to participate in this important and valuable process.

Syllabus Subject to Change

I will do my best to provide all relevant information about the course on this syllabus. Sometimes, exigent circumstances, the pace of the class, or other circumstances will warrant minor revisions to the syllabus. For example, inclement weather or other campus closure might affect the course schedule and assignment deadlines; in addition, I may find that the class benefits from spending more time on a particular topic, and adjust accordingly. Although I try to avoid rescheduling student / office hours, it may become necessary from time to time to accommodate other events in the College. Should any revisions be necessary, I commit to making any revisions in my estimation of the best interests of the class, and commit to communicating those changes to you as soon as I make them.

Course Details

The Common Intellectual Experience (CIE 100) [1]

The Common Intellectual Experience is a two-semester course for all first year students that brings academic inquiry to bear on the central questions of a liberal education: What should matter to me? How should we live together? How can we understand the world? What will I do? Students engage in conversation about a common set of works drawn from diverse historical contexts, cultures and beliefs, selected to prompt thoughtful examination of the central questions of the course. Through this conversation the course accomplishes its goals: to cultivate the self-knowledge necessary to live a considered, independent, and responsible life; and to establish an intellectual community enjoyed by students and faculty alike.

The course fosters the essential skills of critical reading, careful interpretation, effective discussion, clear writing, and the use of evidence to construct a compelling argument. Enrollment in CIE classes is limited to 16 students to provide an atmosphere conducive to intellectual challenge and discovery. The engagement of all students and faculty from all disciplines, the shared syllabus, and the occasional gathering of the entire class for common events allow students to confront as a community the enduring issues of our existence.

In this course you should expect to encounter people of racial, ethnic, spiritual, economic, sexual, etc. backgrounds different from your own. Be prepared to voice your ideas and analysis in a respectful manner and support them with clear evidence. This is especially important in the current circumstances. Should circumstances require us to meet remotely, or to wear masks while in class, we will not be able to see each other clearly; accurately detect body language or facial expressions; or understand tone as easily. If you think that something is inappropriate, rude, or disrespectful, you have the right to say so. Some students may not feel comfortable addressing such problems head on. In that case, you should contact me to discuss the problem. Of course, students and even faculty with the best intentions may offend without meaning to, and it is important that we be constructive as we call attention to problems. We will work together as a class to resolve any disputes that may arise and restore a healthy learning environment.

CIE is a four-credit course that meets for three hours each week. The additional semester hour is accounted for by attendance at the required common events; the quantity of required reading—including reading prior to the start of the semester; and the focus on revision for each of the required papers.

If you encounter barriers to learning in this course, or if you are struggling to keep up with paper due dates, do not hesitate to discuss them with me. The Institute for Student Success also works with students who have any kind of disability—whether apparent or non-apparent; learning; emotional; physical; or cognitive—and need accommodations to increase their access to this learning environment. I encourage you to reach out to the Director of Disability and Access, Dr. Dee Singley to discuss supports and accommodations you may need. Dee’s office is in the UCARE Suite in Myrin Library. You can schedule a meeting with Dee by using this link; by emailing her at; or by calling her at 1-484-762-4329. Students can also review accessibility and disabilities services online at

Demonstration of Learning Goals

  1. Students will develop habits of self-reflection about what matters to them. They will demonstrate this by:
    • articulating their own stances and values on issues related to course discussion;
    • expressing willingness to question their own assumptions and take intellectual risks; and
    • exhibiting curiosity about the reasons behind, consequences of, and connections between their own ideas, values, and life experiences.
  2. Students will become active participants in a campus intellectual community. They will demonstrate this by:

    • expressing appreciation for and engagement with multiple perspectives on any given problem, question, or topic; and
    • showing openness to discussion of complex and/or sensitive topics in a setting where disagreement is likely.
  3. Students will become better critical readers of texts from a wide range of disciplines, cultures and time periods. They will demonstrate this by:

    • asking questions of texts and
    • actively engaging with authors' ideas, language, and arguments.
  4. Students will become more skilled participants in group discussions. They will demonstrate this by:

    • participating actively in discussions that touch on sensitive questions or questions of basic values and submitting their views to the scrutiny of their peers;
    • clearly presenting their own ideas and arguments;
    • listening thoughtfully and respectfully to the ideas of others; and
    • considering, questioning, and responding creatively to the themes and topics of class discussion.
  5. Students will become better writers. They will demonstrate this by:

    • constructing clear, articulate, and compelling arguments and ideas;
    • developing a creative and original voice in writing;
    • showing an understanding of the texts through thoughtful analysis and effective use of the readings to support their arguments and ideas;
    • exploring the Core Curriculum questions in creative and meaningful ways; and
    • taking part in a substantive drafting and revision process.

The following texts are required and should be purchased at the campus bookstore. Those marked with an * can be found in the CIE 100 Course Reader, which should be purchased at the campus bookstore.

Summer readings

  • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. New York: Anchor Books, 2017.
  • *Plato. “Allegory of the Cave.” The Republic of Plato. Allan Bloom, translator. New York: Basic Books, 1968. (from Book VII. 514a-521d).

Semester reading list

  • *Analects of Confucius. Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy. 2^nd^ ed. Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan Van Norden, editors. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2001.
  • * Aristophanes. Lysistrata. Ian Johnston, translator. Open Source, 2020.
  • Coates, T. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015.
  • *Darwin, Charles, On the Origin of Species.
  • *Deloria, Jr., Vine. God Is Red. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2003.
  • Genesis. Robert Alter, translator. New York: Norton, 1996.
  • *“Euthyphro.” Plato and Aristophanes. Four Texts on Socrates. Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West, translators. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984.
  • *Luke 10 (KJV)
  • *Matthew 5-7 (KJV)
  • Sappho. Sappho: A New Translation. Mary Barnard, translator. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1958.
  • *Roughgarden, Joan. Evolution’s Rainbow. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003. California Press, 1999.
  • Select your Quest faculty will provide the texts they would like to incorporate into their class discussion. We recommend that any readings be provided in PDF format, instead of assigning and additional purchase through the bookstore.
  • Films: Persepolis. Dirs. Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnoud. Sony Classics Pictures, 2007. Film; and The Matrix. Dirs. The Wachowskis. Warner Brothers. 1999. Film

The college recognizes that temporary financial hardships can impact students' access to course materials, as well as their access to opportunities on campus. Please contact the CIE Chair, Diane Skorina, if you need assistance.

Writing Fellow

Our class is most fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a Writing Fellow.
Writing Fellows are highly qualified undergraduates trained in how to teach and tutor writing. You will meet with your writing fellow twice during the semester. The writing fellow will read and consult with you on two of your essays. You will reflect on these meetings in formal follow-up assignments.
In addition, you will have time to (and be expected to) revise your essay drafts in light of the feedback you receive from both your writing fellow and from the instructor.

Attendance and Class Engagement

A significant component of this class is the reflective discussions that we will have as a group, to share our diverse perspectives on the readings with which we engage throughout the semester. As such it is imperative that you both attend and thoughtfully engage with these discussions and class activities. You may miss up to three classes during the semester; you do not need prior permission or any stated reason for doing so. Subsequent absences will result in a grade reduction of 30% (per the class participation grade component).


Writing (60%)

  • Paper 1 – 20% (1200 – 1500 words)
  • Paper 2 – 20% (1200 – 1500 words)
  • Paper 3 – 20% (1500 – 1800 words)

Participation (40%)

  • In-class participation – 30%
  • Informal writing (pre-class/in-class) – 10%

Approximate Weekly Reading and Paper Assignment Schedule (see the formal schedule with exact dates above)

  • Friday, August 25—Friday, Sept 08.: “Allegory of the Cave,” Adichie, Feminist Manifesto, The Matrix and Katie Merz’s Live the Questions (informally known as “The Smokestack”)

Common Event: The Matrix on Fri., Aug 25 Common Event: Community Drawing Project on Weds., Sep. 6

  • Monday, Sept. 11—Friday, Sept. 15: Aristophanes, Lysistrata

09/14-18—First Draft of Essay #1

  • Monday, Sept.18—Friday, Sept. 22: Sappho (poems 1–2, 4–5, 8–9, 12–15, 17, 20–21, 37–84, 87–88, 97–100)

Common Event: Difficult Discussions Workshop, Sep. 20

  • Monday, Sept. 25—Friday, Sep. 29: Plato, Euthyphro

  • Monday, Oct. 2—Friday, Oct. 6: Genesis chapters 1-22

Discussion w/ Robert Alter (supplemental recording)

  • Monday, Oct 9—Friday, Oct. 13: Confucius, Analects

  • (Fall Break Oct. 14-17, Sat-Tues)

10/18-20—First Draft of Essay #2

  • Wednesday, Oct. 18—Tuesday, Oct. 24: Matthew 5-7 and Luke 10 (“Sermon on the Mount” and “The Good Samaritan”)

Oct. 24: On October 24, in Olin Auditorium, at 7:30 P.M., Rabbi David Wolpe is visiting Ursinus to give a talk entitled, “Get Over Yourself: Self-Transcendence in the Book of Genesis.” It will focus on how biblical characters, particularly in Genesis, grow beyond their limitations.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 25—Tues, Nov. 7: Darwin and Roughgarden

  • Wed, Nov. 8—Tues., Nov. 14: Deloria, God is Red (one week)

  • Wed, Nov. 15—Friday, Dec. 1: Coates, Between the World and Me

Common Event: Persepolis on Wednesday, November 15
In His Own Words: Ta-Nehisi Coates (supplemental recording)

  • Thanksgiving Break Nov. 22-24

12/01-12/05—First Draft of Essay #3

  • Mon, Dec. 4—Friday, Dec. 8: select your quest

Common Events

  • CIE Common Events are mandatory for all CIE students.
  • If CIE faculty are not able to attend an event, they may ask for help in taking attendance at the event to ensure that their students are in attendance.
  • Some events have multiple presentation times. Closer to the events, CIE faculty will be asked for preferences as to which times work best for their classes.
  • We encourage CIE faculty to incorporate the content of the CIE Common Events into the classroom (for instance: short written assignment, classroom discussions, etc.)
  • Confirmation of location sites is still being worked out. Specific details about each event will be sent to all CIE students and faculty prior to the event.


Friday, August 25– FILM SCREENING: The Matrix

Wednesday, September 6 – Community Drawing Project

5-8 pm, Location TBD

After considering the public artwork, Live the Questions, students will develop imagery and contribute to a large-scale drawing/installation that reflects a common theme derived from “Live the Questions” specifically for the class of 2027 and their CIE faculty.

Common Event: Difficult Discussions Workshop, Sep. 20

Wednesday, November 15 – FILM SCREENING: Persepolis

Time and location TBD


Links to the following will be made available to you through email when applicable:

Discussion / Robert Alter, Genesis translator

Stream online anytime between Monday, Oct 2 and Friday, Oct. 6

In 2021, Ursinus hosted Robert Alter, translator of Genesis, to speak with us about his work. This virtual salon, titled “Bible Remix: A Return to the Beginning (Genesis),” was an open discussion that engaged the themes and texts of both semesters of the CIE. Dr. Alter gave a brief talk positioning Genesis in relation to the overarching themes of CIE. This was followed by a Q&A from faculty, staff, and students. We recorded this unique event and will make it available to students this semester as they read Alter’s work for class.

In His Own Words: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Stream online anytime between Wednesday, November 15 and Friday, Dec 1

“In His Own Words: Ta-Nehisi Coates” will include sections of Coates’ video interviews and speeches, in addition to readings of his work. The goal is to give you a fuller sense of Coates’ writing history, his motivation and intent for writing, and his thoughts on Between the World and Me. The recording will provide more context about the author of Between the World and Me as you are reading his work.

  1. This introduction is adapted from the common CIE 100 course syllabus as of the time of this writing.