Finding Meaning Everywhere

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | | 215-898-6460April 11, 2012

Peter Struck sounds like a freshman effusive about attending his first college classes when discussing the Benjamin Franklin Scholars Integrated Studies Program.

“We’re learning a lot this year and we’re learning from each other. I got a chance last semester to take Intro to Biology and Intro to Anthropology.  The students just came in full of energy,” he said.

Struck is faculty director of BFS and an associate professor of classical studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Struck says ISP, introduced in last fall, is concluding a successful first year.

This academic year, 81 incoming freshmen in the College were accepted into the BFS program.  They began taking the ISP specialized curriculum of liberal arts studies in humanities, social sciences and science.  As part of the program, the students enrolled in a multidisciplinary liberal arts course of study, which focuses on classics, anthropology and biology. 

Struck taught the classics component of the course. Greg Urban taught the anthropology component, Scott Poethig the biology unit.  In a new residential aspect of the program, all BFS students were assigned to live in Riepe College House in the Quad their freshman year.

Students in Penn’s four undergraduate schools -- the College, Engineering, Nursing and Wharton -- have BFS programs based on their interest in liberal arts and sciences. Each program operates a bit differently.  All require students to take BFS Seminar courses. 

Next year Struck says the character of the program will be retooled to bring in more “real world types of problems, a mix of things that are continually evolving: human nature, probability, prediction, infinity, secrecy, human identity, change, the shape of the cosmos.  We’ll mix in contemporary topics, genetic engineering, the financial collapse -- a lot of these big juicy questions.”

Struck’s teaching interests lie mainly in ancient practices of divination, hidden meanings in the world, mythology and magic. What interests him most about the ISP curriculum, he says, is the very thing he finds most intriguing about his own scholarship, the extraordinary curiosity of people.