Sample Course Syllabi
The Cornerstone block is the first course that all students take upon entering Quest. The current topic of the Cornerstone course is "What is the relationship between human beings and nature?" The Cornerstone is designed to encourage broad critical thinking about our relation to our environment. The faculty have collectively designed the course to incorporate the insights and methods of a number of disciplines, including art, literature, theology, political philosophy, mathematics, environmental science, and earth science. Students not only learn about the origins of various ideas of nature and discuss scientific models, but also engage directly in field research and outdoor activities in the spectacular natural surroundings of our campus. Note that the Cornerstone theme does change from time to time. The Cornerstone block is not a first course in a traditional field of study, it is a preparation for the unique educational journey found at Quest.
After the Cornerstone block, all students take a required block in Rhetoric. The theme for the Rhetoric block varies according to the individual Tutor, but all sections of this block are designed to give students the opportunity to work intensively on good writing and effective public speaking at the outset of their Quest career. The skills involved include research and professional requirements for documentation, the uses and abuses of academic research, an introduction to quantitative reasoning, as well as techniques for writing cogent, persuasive, university-level papers. Throughout the entire class, we focus on improving students' critical thinking skills. Students are given the opportunity to make and then improve upon several presentations in front of their peers and to learn to deliver effective talks, reports, and speeches. The lessons of cogent writing and speaking will serve students throughout their university career - indeed, throughout their lives.
At the end of their Foundation Program, Quest undergraduates work with a faculty advisor of their choosing to submit a statement of their "Question": a proposal describing a topic of special interest to them. The Question guides students' attention in a sustained and rigorous intellectual inquiry during the final 16 Concentration blocks. The proposal may take the form of a statement or a question or even a set of related questions. For example, one student might be interested in the broad thematic question, "What is honour?" Another might choose a specific policy topic like, "How does politics influence the treatment of global epidemics such as malaria, SARS, or AIDS?" By designing their own Question, students construct an academic program that suits their intellectual interests, allowing them to cross disciplinary boundaries. We expect there to be as many different questions as there are Quest students.
Self, Communities and the World: Social Sciences
Democracy and Justice
Democracy and Justice examines the ideas of leading thinkers in the history of political thought and the questions they raise about the design of the political and social order. It considers the ways in which these thinkers have responded to the particular political problems of their day, and how they contribute to a broader conversation about human goods and needs, justice, democracy, and the relationship of the individual to the state.
The aim of this course is to orient the student toward contemporary problems around the world. Themes may include intercultural communications, globalization and development, international relations, and global social issues such as AIDS, poverty, and environmental degradation. The course explores how information gets transmitted from one person to another and explains specific communication processes. It helps students become more conscious of how people can converse across cultures and ethnicities, step outside of their own experiences, and appreciate the positions of citizens from a variety of origins.
This course will impart students with a deeper understanding of economic life and government's role in it. It introduces students to economics and economic policy-making and explores the fundamental principles of capitalism. The course connects capitalist economic decision-making to both political liberalism and religious and cultural practices. Students learn fundamental economic terms and concepts as they explore the development of modern economies. Self, Culture, and Society Students reflect upon psychological, anthropological, sociological, and geographical issues in human populations. The guiding question for a particular block could be, "What does it mean to be civilized?" In order to explore this question, we consider a range of topics investigated in the social sciences, beginning with definitions of self, culture, and society along with issues of power, rights, and responsibilities.
Imagination and Expression: Arts and Humanities
Dimensions of Music
Music has served in all known cultures as a means of social bonding and identity creation, and as a powerful medium for the communication of ideas and emotions. In this course, students develop a vocabulary for discussing music before exploring topics such as the history of Western classical and popular music; the traditional music of non-Western cultures, and the roles of music in social conflict and rehabilitation. Students also have the opportunity to create and perform their own compositions.
Fate and Virtue
In this course students are asked the fundamental question, "How should we live our lives?" Fate and Virtue takes up Ancient Greek texts in philosophy, history, and imaginative literature. Philosophy, Socrates claimed, is a kind of training for death. We are all fated to die, but some of us will lead better lives than others. Is the best life a matter of fate, and thus out of our control, or is it a life of virtue, and thus within our control? Through coming to grips with the related concepts of fate and virtue we better understand both contemporary and ancient views regarding the good life. Authors include Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, and Aristophanes.
Identity and Perspective
What does it mean to be human? That question underlies much of what we do in the humanities - in literature, philosophy, history, and the fine and performing arts. In this course, we investigate changing notions of what it means to be human, focusing broadly on the notions of "identity" and "perspective" in the modern world. We ask what it means to have an "identity": who are we? Is our identity defined individually or collectively? We think critically about "perspective": about our own perspective on ourselves, our perspective on others, and the variety of perspectives on the human condition. Authors may include Marx, Freud, Woolf, de Beauvoir, Levi, and Morrison.
We are increasingly a global community; good world citizens should therefore respect, understand, and be able to work with communities different from their own. One of the ways to achieve this goal is to gain familiarity with a foreign language. All students must take one block in a non-native language at Level 2 or higher. Currently, Quest offers courses in French, Spanish, and Mandarin, and there are opportunities for language immersion programs abroad.
Reason and Freedom
This course emphasizes the foundations for, and the problems with, making moral choices in the modern world. Reason and Freedom develops the self-conscious nature of modernity and its belief in reason, and explores the paradoxes of our position in history. Authors may include Montaigne, Galileo, Montesquieu, Kant, Wollstonecraft, Dostoevsky, and Nietzsche.
Religions - such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Sikhism, Shinto, Judaism, Christianity, First Nations beliefs and Islam - offer distinctive perspectives on important issues in our university curriculum. To identify these issues, students examine a selection of religious foundational texts, historical developments, and contemporary practices. The study of religion at Quest aims to understand the unique characteristics of different religions; to articulate the principles of a responsible and objective study of religion; and to explore the dynamic interaction of religion and culture in its diverse expressions.
Science, Technology and Society: Physical Sciences
This course introduces students to the workings of different aspects of the Earth system, from the Earth's core to its outer atmosphere, and emphasizes their inter-relationships and the connections between our planet and our species. Quest's unparalleled location allows us to use the Coast Mountains, the Squamish River basin, and Howe Sound as natural laboratories. The course relies heavily on field trips, first-hand observations, real geophysical datasets, satellite images, and remote observations of the Earth and other planets. Topics may include the co-evolution of life and the atmosphere, formation of the planetary bodies, plate tectonics and climate, the carbon cycle, and natural resources including water, energy, and materials.
Energy and Matter
This course introduces students to two of the most powerful intellectual achievements in the physical sciences: thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. Thermodynamics was articulated in the mid- to late 19th century, but still forms the fundamental basis for modern work in chemistry, materials engineering, atmospheric physics, among other fields. Quantum mechanics and quantum chemistry frame our understanding of how observable material properties follow from fundamental first principles. Beyond introducing students to some of the most powerful sets of ideas in the history of science, this course applies these ideas to the frontiers of science today, including nanotechnology, computer science and developing sustainable sources of energy.
Life and the Natural Environment: Life Sciences
This course studies the relationships between organisms and their environment. It includes local field work to investigate ecological hypotheses using field methods. Population and community dynamics, energy and nutrient and disturbance patterns, and the ecological aspects of current environmental issues are covered.
This course emphasizes the critical role that molecular biology plays in society. Though basic molecular biological concepts and mechanisms are covered (cell structure and function, gene expression, genomics), the focus is more on how this knowledge is currently applied in a practical sense and its implications. Topics of coverage may include genetically-modified organisms, antibiotic resistance, genome projects, stem cells and cloning, cancer, genetic biodiversity, conservation genetics, and infectious diseases. This course may include a lab component.
This course examines brain structure and function, with an emphasis on understanding the biological mechanisms that ultimately underlie behaviour. Specifically, the focus is on the cellular, molecular, and systems levels of analysis, using animal models to discuss experimental approaches that are ultimately aimed at explaining human behaviour. Topics include basic neuronal and glial cell function, electrophysiology, neural development, the cellular and molecular basis of drugs and addiction, mood disorders, and learning and memory.
Born from the study of celestial motions in ancient Greece, spherical trigonometry became a standard part of the repertoire of mathematicians, astronomers, and navigators until it was almost forgotten in the late 20th century. This course takes a primarily mathematical view of this beautiful subject, bringing in astronomical history to provide context. Topics include the properties of a spherical triangle, both right and oblique; Menelaus's Theorem; the Rule of Four Quantities; the Law of Sines; Delambre's and Napier's analogies; duality; areas and the spherical excess; relations to plane trigonometry; applications to polyhedra; and the role of stereographic projection.
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