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Morrissey College of Arts and Science

UNCP550001 One Life, Many Lives

capstone program

Fr. James M. Weiss

Director, Capstone Program; Professor of Theology

Maloney Hall 352, 21 Campanella Way
Telephone: 617-552-3897

Office Hours: Thursday after class or by appointment.

This course is also offered as THEO2410.

This Capstone is designed for students who have engaged in service projects during college and want to reflect on that as they plan their future lives. The service projects may have been through BC (Pulse, 4Boston, Arrupe, service trips, etc.) or on their own in Boston, the USA, or abroad. To enroll please email Fr. Weiss or call 617-552-3897.

Meditation to Begin a Capstone Seminar

"Here I feel that no human being anywhere can answer for you
those questions and feelings that deep within them have a life of their own,
for even the best err in words when they are meant to mean most delicate
and inexpressible things. ... You are so young—you are before your own beginning.
I want to beg you, as much as I can, to be patient
toward all that is unresolved in your heart and to try
to love the questions themselves,
like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.
Do not now seek the answers.
They cannot be given you, because you would not be able to live them.
The point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually,
without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."
—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, #4

Books, coursepack, and folder for purchase

  • Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pron.: “chick-sent-me-high”), Finding Flow
  • C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
  • Willkie Au and Noreen Cannon, By Way of the Heart
  • Otto Kroeger and Janet Thuesen, Type Talk: The Sixteen Personality Types
  • Greg Levoy, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life
  • Coursepack of Readings for Capstone UN500
  • A personal course folder with a photograph of yourself stapled inside front cover. All written work should be kept in a single folder. Turn in every assignment in the folder with all previous ones.

How a class meeting runs

  • 10 minutes – Quiz
  • 10 minutes – Meditation
    One student explains and presents some meaningful text, music, or artwork to the class; maximum five minutes. Then the class observes a few minutes of silence.
  • 60 minutes – Part I: Discussion centered on the week’s readings.
    Discussion leaders conduct class.
  • 10 minutes – Break
  • 45 minutes – Part 2: Less formal reflection on personal topics related to reading.
    Discussion leaders continue to preside.
  • 15 minutes – Professor comments on next week’s reading themes.

Course schedule, readings, and assignments

** Indicates a reading found in the Coursepack.

Week 1

  • Introduction: Why a Capstone?
  • Getting acquainted
  • The Four Gifts you give to a Seminar: Attention, Preparation, Contribution, Leadership
  • Rilke, selection from “Letter to a Young Poet”

Identity and education

Week 2

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: Levoy, Introduction, pages 1-14
  • Readings: Type Talk, ch. 2, 3, 4, and the part of ch. 10 on your Type; ** Brooks;
    ** Kolvenbach


  • Quiz 1 on contents of readings
  • What elements of Brooks match your BC experience? How did you go along with or fight against them?
  • What elements of Kolvenbach match your BC education? How did you go along with or fight against them?

Week 3

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: ** Golden; ** Zinn
  • Readings: Appleyard, The Journey to Adulthood (handout); ** Nussbaum
  • Viewing: The Big Chill (available in O'Neill Media Center)


  • Quiz 2 on content of readings and movie
  • Reflection paper (6-8 pages, 1,500-2,000 words minimum)
  • Topic: How does BC match, overlap with, or differ from the "scenarios" described in Kolvenbach, Brooks, Appleyard, and Nussbaum? This paper is not about you, it is about your judgment of BC. The Transcript Analysis, due Week 5, will reflect on these same readings in terms of your own choices.

“Life has taught me, either as a sign of maturity or maybe just some bad luck, that sometimes the experiences we long for do not turn out to be the most meaningful ones. Sometimes the events we do not anticipate are vastly superior to anything we could have imagined.”
—Former BC student, Class of ’93, Now Friend, writing in 2003

A sense of calling emerges

Week 4

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: Passage from Jesus, to be assigned
  • Readings: Au-Canon, ch. 1, 2; Levoy, ch. 1, 2, 10
  • Assignments
  • Quiz 3 on readings
  • Tuyrn in SVPI (handed out in class previous week)
  • Brief exercise—one line or sentence per item, maximum
  • Five things that have kept me from being who I am meant to be or doing what I have needed/wanted to do
  • Five things I have done that have made a change or difference in my life and the life of another (or others)

Identity, education, calling, community, roads taken and not taken

Week 5

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: ** Bateson
  • Reading: Kingsolver, to page 170


  • Transcript Analysis due
  • Quiz 4 on reading

Week 6

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: ** Safford
  • Reading: Kingsolver, page 171 to end; Finding Flow, ch. 2, 3


  • Quiz 5 on readings

Work and fulfillment, or work vs. fulfillment?

Week 7

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: Leaders' Choice
  • Reading: Finding Flow, ch. 4, 7; Type Talk, ch. 6; ** Wuthnow; ** Miller-McLemore
  • Viewing: Wall Street or Erin Brockovich (class choice)


  • Quiz 6 on readings and movie
  • Steppingstones assignment (explained week 6)
  • Name of person for your work interview, including their work phone number and the dates and times set for your two interviews

Week 8

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: ** Bertell; ** Nouwen
  • Reading: Au-Cannon, ch. 6; ** Gustafson; ** Levoy, ch. 3, 13, 14


  • Quiz 7 on readings
  • Discussion today will include some time spent on the people you are interviewing for your work interviews.


Week 9

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: Biblical Passage (to be assigned)
  • Reading: Finding Flow, ch. 6; C.S. Lewis, Introduction, ch. 1, 2; Au-Canon, ch. 7, 8

Week 10

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: ** Wallis
  • No readings or quiz


  • Work interviews due.
  • Discussion will focus on your work interviews.

Week 11

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: ** Palmer
  • Readings: C.S. Lewis, ch. 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Viewing: Sliding Doors


  • Quiz 8

Summing Up

Week 12

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: Material chosen by leaders from readings below
  • Reading: ** Kleinman; Levoy, ch. 12, 16


  • Quiz 9; first set of autobiographies due on Friday, November 20

Week 13

  • Discussion Leaders: ____, ____
  • Meditation: Material to be assigned
  • Reading: to be decided


  • Quiz 10; second set of autobiographies due on Friday, December 7

Explanation of assignments

  • Quizzes – 10% – ongoing
  • Participation in class – 20% – ongoing
  • Reflection on BC – 20% – Week 3
  • Transcript Analysis – 10% – Week 5
  • Work Interview – 20% – Week 10
  • Autobiography – 20% – Week 12

Quizzes 10%

A quiz feels like a dumb thing for a senior seminar, but experience shows that the informal friendly atmosphere in a seminar can lead some people to slack off. Quizzes prove your preparedness. They involve no-brainer questions that show whether you read the material or viewed the film; no trick questions, no interpretative attempts. As long as you prepared the reading and/or viewing assignment, you’ll pass the quiz.

Participation 20%

By taking a seminar, you make a covenant to give “four gifts”, with the expectation that you will receive them from each other: attention, preparation, contribution, and leadership. This means that you must be present for all class meetings. You are allowed only one absence, after that, your course grade drops by 25% for each absence. If you think a particular absence should be an exception to the rule, e-mail Fr. Jim in advance to let him know the reason and he will determine if it is excusable. The “four gifts” mentioned above are:

Preparation is measured in part by the quizzes.

Attention is shown by reflecting back to fellow students your awareness of what they have said by supporting them, disagreeing with them, questioning them, etc.

Many people are uncomfortable when speaking in a group. Nevertheless, that is a necessary skill in life, and an education that did not help you overcome this would be an education that failed your needs.

Capstone is all about shared communication. You are expected to take a regular part in class discussions. If this is new or uncomfortable for you, speak to the professor. Do not wait for the professor to tell you at mid-term that you are failing in participation. Take the initiative. After the first four or five classes, if you are not participating regularly, meet with the professor to discuss the steps you want to take to become more involved.

Most discussions will be led by a team of two discussion leaders. This means that they must meet with each other for at least one hour in the week before class to develop their plan. In class, timing demands creative planning. You are urged, but not required, to make an appointment to discuss your strategy with Professor Weiss (M 9:30 p.m. or W 6:00 p.m.) The grade for this part of the course is a single collective grade shared by both leaders. The leaders’ role is not to lecture on their own opinions, rather, their role is to prepare a framework for the discussion and keep it moving. This includes:

  • doing more background work on the subject for the week; this can include information on the author, the subject, reviews of the book, or additional material from other sources
  • linking your background work to the main questions you will pursue in discussion
  • articulating your overall plan to the class by naming the questions you want to pursue. Pose questions that generate maximum discussion, not ones that just get answers. (e.g. not “Do you agree with Au?” but rather questions like these: Why does Au think this way? Is he consistent with what Frankl says? What do we see in life around us that proves or disproves him? How does that fit the theory of “Flow”? Can people in the novel live their lives the way Frankl says? Why does or doesn’t it matter to you personally?”
  • being creative: making as many connections to our experience as you can: bring in news, film clips, music, to link our reading to our reality
  • getting everyone involved in discussion: when you see certain persons holding back from conversation, it is your job to draw them in. Calling on a person is not a threat, it is a way to let them know they are valued and desired.

Reflection on Boston College 20%

Your paper must be at least six pages (1,500 words, maximum ten pages. Discuss BC as you have experienced it, using the four readings by Brooks, Kolvenbach, Appleyard, and Nussbaum as examples of what a BC education might be, or is, or strives to be. Feel free to compare this with what you know of education at other colleges or universities, but be specific.

Transcript analysis 10%

You submit an analysis of your BC transcript, 8-10 pages (2,000-2,500 words). Your paper must include a copy of your BC transcript—not the course audit, but the transcript that shows the chronological order of your courses. You may white-out or black-out the grades if you wish. The point is not your grades, but your pattern of choices. You are to consider how the BC requirements shaped you, how you shaped your own choices, what pattern of motives emerges as you consider your "strategies" for getting through core, majors and minors, and electives. Your essay should include reflection on Brooks, Kolvenbach, Appleyard, and Nussbaum.

Interview on work 20%

You will submit a 12 page (maximum 17 pages, 250 words per page) paper in which you describe and analyze a person whom you interview in terms of their work and their work history. Work means paid employment.

This paper combines a hands-on intervidw with "research background" taken from our readings. It is not a straight reporting of what your interviewee tells you; it uses our readings to interpret the interview material and set that in a larger framework. Frankl, Sennett, Levoy, and Csikszentmihaly are essential. You will have a different perspective on the meaning of your interviewee's work than they do.

Note: You are required to interview your subject twice. In Week 7 class you must submit the name, phone number, email and job title of the person whom you will interview, along with the two times you have scheduled for your interviews. This assumes you have their agreement to the interview. In the first interview you gather information and probe spheres of significance. After at least one day's interval for reflection on our readings, you return to ask follow-up questions, drawn from a deeper consideration of our readings.

If your interviewee wants to see your paper, but you have things to say that you do not want them to see, then put those things in a detachable part of the paper.

Persons for interview

  • The person whom you interview must have completed all education and training at least five years ago and have been working at some job for at least five years. The longer a person has been in the workforce, the better.
  • You may not interview a parent, grandparent, or sibling. Reasons will be given in class.
  • The interviews must absolutely take place face-to-face.

Format of paper

You must spend at least three pages describing the person’s previous work history, how they obtained the main job(s) that you discuss in the paper, and a specific description of the duties of the position, even as far as a time-breakdown. The person might not wish to name their salary, but you should ask whether they consider it (a) fair in return for the work, and (b) adequate to their lifestyle and needs.

You must show reflection on the issues of our course readings up to that point in the course. In other words, you are not just reporting and reflecting. You are also using the readings to shape your analysis. Remember, you may have issues of interest to you that you do not name to your interviewee, but that you “listen for”.

Autobiography 20%

The crowning exercise of the Capstone Seminar, this allows you to discover your own patterns of identity, choice, and change, voluntary and involuntary, conscious and unconscious. You should not attempt a complete chronological narrative. In fact, it should be virtually impossible to do justice to your 22 years in 15-25 pages. Rather, you should make clear at the beginning that there is a principle of selection to include material, and a pattern of interpretation that guides the paper. But that pattern must yield a real narrative of anecdotes, episodes, personalities, decisions, influences, changes, etc.

Students have used a variety of approaches successfully.

  • Chronological. You pursue a linear sequence, with a clear principle of selection that shows a larger pattern emerging.
  • Thematic. You select certain themes, state them, unfold them at length with an explanation of how they interrelate. This allows you to move backward and forward chronologically within a clear framework.You must, however, use specific stories and illustrations, name important persons, etc.

On different dates, as assigned, your autobiography is due. It must be at least 15, at most 25 pages. Grammar, organization, clarity are essential. You should refer to or allude to some significant writings in the course, but they are not the focus of the paper. Use them as they occur to you, or as they inspire you. This is not a term paper. Footnotes are not required.

If there is material too confidential or personal for you to discuss, this is a good practice in conveying some of the meaning of your life without all of it. This may render your paper less full than the full YOU. But that is a key life-skill, too, telling the world what we are about, without telling everything about ourselves.