The core of courses at Saint Anselm serves the philosophy of the college: "It is through an appreciation of the several kinds of truth -- the scientific, the technical, the poetic, the philosophical, and the theological -- that students may learn to challenge resourcefully both personal and social problems.... As a Catholic, Benedictine institution, Saint Anselm observes and promotes Christian and Catholic standards of value and conduct.". . .
In 1968, college administrators and faculty members saw that there was insufficient integration among the core courses.... It appeared that the core was a collection of courses, rather than a unified program with a sense of purpose.
Supported by a planning grant from NEH(1973-5), the college ... [developed] the "Portraits of Human Greatness" program .... Its aim is, "through readings, lectures, seminars, and a varied program of cultural events, to confront the student with questions of value, moral choice, and the real significance of human life...." In order to staff and finance the Humanities Program, . . . several departments gave up two semesters of courses required of first year students.
The first year consists of units that range from ancient Greece through the European Middle Ages. In examining these portraits, the student experiences diverse value systems and can face the question of why and whether a given individual or portrait can be called "great." Units include: the Warrior (The Iliad, Achilles, the gods, ancient Mycene, Alexander, modern pacifism); the Philosopher (Socratic dialogues, Greek view of the afterlife, Aristotle and the good life); the Medieval Artisan (Marie de France, Walther von der Vogelweide, Chaucer, cathedral architect, Gregorian chant). The content of the first year units is not strictly chronological. In addition, each unit seeks to apply the unit's themes to contemporary issues.
The second year consists of portraits of individuals arranged chronologically, from the Italian Renaissance to the 20th century. Each individual, great in his or her own right, has far-reaching social, cultural, or political significance. Portraits currently offered include Michelangelo, Luther, Hobbes, Jefferson, Beethoven, George Sand, Catherine the Great, Darwin, Tolstoy, Picasso. Twelve portraits are offered each year; the pool of portraits from which each year's list is drawn is made up of some twenty units. These include Erasmus, Elizabeth I, Camus, Dorothy Day, Bach, Calvin, Lenin and Goethe....
Lectures highlight one facet of the portrait and also act as introductions to the next day's seminar reading. The program asks students to get involved in three ways: lectures, twice weekly [with] outlines provided; seminars, twice weekly, in groups of 18 students and one faculty leader; writing: a submitted paper every two weeks, evaluated by seminar leader. [In the seminar] students are graded on quality of participation; mid-term and final exams are given in seminar.
The Humanities Program is required of all students, candidates for both BA and BS (nursing majors). . . .