All College

For the first time since Thomas Aquinas College opened the doors of its New England campus in 2019, the faculty of both coasts convened in California earlier this month for discussions and fellowship, assessing the current state of the curriculum, and bringing old colleagues together once more.

“It is a custom of the College to defer discussing curricular issues until the summer academic recess, when we can give them the attention and thoughtful consideration they deserve,” explains California tutor Dr. David Appleby. “Our way of arriving at decisions about such matters involves not only private reflection and careful thought, but also the expression of our ideas out loud in one another’s presence. We focus on these issues the same dialectical, logical, and discursive skills that we encourage the students to practice in class discussions during the academic year.”

For more than 50 years, the College has been faithful to its founders’ educational vision, as outlined in its governing document, while also submitting to the tutelage of experience. Accordingly, the College has occasionally revised certain of its tutorials — particularly in the areas of science and mathematics — to accommodate tutors’ insights gleaned from that the classroom

The perennial need to assess and refine the curriculum poses a new challenge now that the College offers its one program on two coasts. “Since the founding of the New England campus three years ago, the single teaching faculty of the College has comprised tutors on two campuses, and as a result our common Curriculum Committee meetings have been held on Zoom the past two summers,” says Dr. Stephen Shivone, a tutor in New England. “This is not the best forum for such discussions, and its limitations were only too apparent.”

The College thus decided to host the cadre of New England tutors on the California campus in early June. The complete faculty spent a week contemplating potential revisions to the curriculum and discussing other administrative matters. To soften the edges of those complex subjects, the tutors also spent time discussing several of Shakespeare’s plays and enjoying several communal dinners on mild California nights beneath the stars, sometimes with music provided by summer student workers.

Time alone can tell whether this year’s proposals will lead to new and clarified revisions of the curriculum, but the very act of meeting in-person proved fruitful on its own merits. “It was clear to all that the week was a great success,” reflects Dr. Shivone. For the tutors of both coasts, the work was both arduous and invigorating, like the best of conversations between friends. “Though the faculty may be separate in place,” concludes Dr. Shivone, “it is still very much one faculty in spirit and vision.”