How We Begin

The Common Intellectual Experience

Summer reading for all incoming students: ‘The Allegory of the Cave,’ from ‘Plato’s Republic.’ An individual forced from a cave begins to question his previous beliefs and returns enlightened about the world.

Like the cave dweller, Ursinus students challenge their beliefs as they spend the year debating three perennial questions: How should we live our lives? What does it mean to be human? What is the universe and how do we fit into it?

The Common Intellectual Experience (CIE) is more than a class. It is, as its name suggests, an experience that introduces students to the Ursinus intellectual community, where the answers are not always clear but discussions are part of what makes Ursinus College distinctive.

Such reflection on life and beliefs should be a lifelong endeavor. During this past year, 14 years since its first pilot program, the CIE was brought to staff and to alumni.  “Expanding CIE helps others understand the value of a liberal arts education,” explained Stephanie Mackler, a CIE coordinator and associate professor of Education. “We should be an intellectual community at large… No matter who you are, where you are, you are always a liberal art-ist.”

The CIE is the foundation for a broad, four-year program that allows graduates to adapt to an ever-changing world, enabling them to think critically, communicate effectively, work cooperatively, and act ethically, characteristics valued by employers. Through the Independent Learning Experience (ILE), Ursinus students study abroad, conduct research, student teach or complete an internship.