Students, Alumni Engage in Lifelong Learning through CTEQ Symposium

Dec 31, 2020

A cornerstone of Assumption’s Catholic liberal education is imparting upon students and alumni with the tools and opportunities for lifelong learning. As such, the University’s Core Texts and Enduring Questions (CTEQ) Program—a unique and intellectually rich interdisciplinary Great Books program—recently held its second Alumni Symposium, inviting  Assumption alumni and current CTEQ students to come together and explore perennial questions about good and evil, freedom and responsibility, and sin and redemption through informal, yet serious, discussions of four of author Flannery O’Connor’s short stories.

“The seeds of a liberal education need to be cultivated over the course of a lifetime,” said Marc Guerra, Ph.D. ’90, G’94, director of the Core Texts & Enduring Questions Program. “Bringing students and alumni together to discuss O’Connor’s artful reflections on enduring human questions and themes is not only a natural fit for the CTEQ Program, it also reflects Assumption’s commitment to cultivating an appreciation of life-long learning in its students.” 

The Fall Alumni Symposium, which was held virtually on November 21, focused on the writings of Flannery O’Connor. According to Prof. Guerra, O’Connor is “arguably the greatest 20th century Catholic writer of fiction; at every turn, her memorable stories about the strange relation of sin, grace, and redemption force us to think of the unexpected—and often unwanted—ways that God’s grace interrupts the life of broken and fractured human beings.”  Each participant received a copy of Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works (Library of America), from which the group collectively discussed “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, “The Enduring Chill”, “Good Country People”, and “The Lame Shall Enter First” in 75-minute sessions throughout the day. 

The CTEQ Alumni Symposium is held twice a year, once in the fall and again in the spring, and is an invitation-only occasion. As with the inaugural Symposium held in person last spring (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak), alumni from a variety of classes were in attendance, ranging from the Class of 1965 to the Class of 2016. 

“The aim of the CTEQ alumni symposia is twofold,” said Prof. Guerra.  “We want to institutionalize a concrete venue at Assumption where students can continue to pursue the timeless goals of a Catholic liberal arts education (even after they graduate) and to show current CTEQ students that they really can place a Catholic liberal education at the center of their time at Assumption and still become a doctor or lawyer or businessperson—not just a somewhat quirky academic type.” 

Paul C. Verderese ’72, G’73, who owns a financial planning practice in Auburn, learned the value of lifelong learning at Assumption and believes an education shouldn’t conclude at commencement. He’s hoping more faculty consider undertaking programs similar to the CTEQ Symposium. 

“Professor Guerra’s design of the program accomplishes many important elements, among them he brings together several generations of alumni to study a particular topic or writer,” said Verderese, adding that the group dynamic encourages participants to diligently prepare for the event. “Participants challenge each other to think through the topics more deeply as differing viewpoints are examined during the discussions. The event provides a holiday from the workday world, allowing for the continued cultivation of the vocation to be a lifelong learner.”

Also in attendance was Assumption Provost and Academic Vice President Greg Weiner, Ph.D., and Michele D’Amour HD’10, who, with her husband, Donald AP’60, AU’64, HD’10, have generously funded many initiatives at Assumption, including the CTEQ Program and whose generosity was recently recognized with the naming of the D’Amour College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

The CTEQ Program, established with a donation from the D’Amours and supported by subsequent gifts from alumni and friends of the program, is truly a reflection of an Assumption education. 

“The CTEQ Program integrates four distinct field of study – art history, philosophy, political science, and theology – into one pedagogically coherent, interdisciplinary curriculum,” said Prof. Guerra. “Guided by the claims of faith and reason, CTEQ provides a visible, designated place at Assumption for students who want to broaden and deepen their undergraduate studies – regardless of their specialized major – with the kind of distinctive and humanizing academic experience that a serious Catholic liberal education can offer. At its core, the Program invites students to think deeply and seriously about what it means to be a human person and what it means to live a genuinely thoughtful and happy human life in light of all that we know about our world and ourselves. That intellectual pursuit has always been—and continues to be—a hallmark of an Assumption education.”
The CTEQ Program allows students the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions with fellow students and faculty and to attend national lectures, participate in intercollegiate student research and essay contests, as well as travel throughout the U.S. and Europe on CTEQ-sponsored trips. 

The next CTEQ Alumni Symposium, which will take place in the spring 2021 semester, will examine some of the writings of Frederick Douglass.