When this class first met at the beginning of the spring semester, there was no course syllabus. There was no reading list. There was nothing but one general topic, one expert in religious studies, and eight invited students.
By semester's end, when the class met for dinner with sponsor and longtime Wagner friend Ruth Qualben, they had gone on a considerable journey through the terrain of contemporary spirituality studies: from shamanism, to the Kabbalah, to women's roles in religion, to enlightenment experience, to the spirituality of nature, rock and roll, and African-American music.
Each topic was selected, developed, and taught by one of the student participants in the weekly seminar meeting. “I wanted to see what interests self-motivated college students have in the area of religion and spirituality, and they're not interested in mainline religions,” said Walter Kaelber, professor of religious studies, the convener of this unusual classroom experiment.
The students seem to have enjoyed the ride, saying that they appreciated the chance to develop their own ideas, and also to see how each topic built on the next. “Getting others' feedback on my ideas was the most rewarding part,” said Andrew Hager '10.