Skip to main content

Core Seminar

Each fall or spring semester, new entering students should plan to enroll in an MLAS Core Seminar. The Core Seminar is an interdisciplinary graduate course designed and required for MLAS students in the early phase of their graduate studies, examining a topic, theme, or event from the multiple perspectives within the liberal arts. As a premier academic and research institution, Vanderbilt University has an obligation to model, teach and actively promote the responsible conduct of research in scholarship. Research integrity is fundamental to good research and crosses all disciplines and areas of focus.  The Core Seminar is the principal way MLAS students are formally taught the concepts associated with integrity in scholarship. The Core Seminar engages important topics such as research misconduct (including fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism); conflicts of interest; and, data acquisition, management, sharing, and ownership.

An example of a Core Seminar would be an interdisciplinary course concentrating on the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago, an event that offers a multiplicity of subjects to study. From a literary standpoint, Frank Norris’ The Pit: A Story of Chicago and other works might be examined. From a sociological perspective, there was a large influx of farmers and immigrants into the city. From an economic perspective, the depression in the 1890’s lead to massive social displacement, adversely affected many, providing an impetus to many social innovations, like Hull House and other social welfare programs. It was the age of Chicago-Boss politics and the Age of Muckraking in journalism. It was the beginning of the skyscraper and profound changes in many of the arts. Students in this Core Seminar will explore these and other topics subsumed under the theme of the Chicago Exposition.

Another example would be a Core Seminar on the Panama Canal, investigating thematically the history, science, sociology, politics, and literature associated with the construction of the canal. In other words, rather than a strict emphasis on a single discipline, the Core Seminar sets out to introduce students to the interdisciplinary perspective of the MLAS program.

Practically, the Core Seminar also concentrates on the skills and information MLAS students will need to pursue graduate work at Vanderbilt: writing a critical and analytical graduate research paper, conducting library research, and contributing to the seminar discussion. By enrolling in this course early in their MLAS career, students will be familiarized with graduate-level research strategies, responsible conduct of research, and the research resources central to the liberal arts. An important aim of this course is focus on the range of current research methods and the writing skills necessary for graduate study.

Both academically and practically, the new MLAS student will be amply prepared for the subsequent coursework in the program. The course will be conducted by a noted Vanderbilt professor, and there will be guest speakers, as the occasion and course material allow.

Because of the interdisciplinary focus and innovative design of each Core Seminar, it is possible for an MLAS student over the period of their studies to enroll in more than one Core Seminar. However, priority for enrollment will be given to MLAS Students in the initial stage of their involvement in the program, and others may enroll, provided there is available space in the course.