academics

Civitas—Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What does “Civitas” mean?

A. The word “civitas” is Latin and means “citizenship”: the position of inhabiting a given place and exercising the rights, privileges and responsibilities inherent to that place. Its meaning in terms of the honors program at Augustana is to suggest the central importance of citizenship at Augustana, in the United States, and as part of a global community to those students who choose to be part of the program.

Q. What courses will I take in the Civitas program?

A. Civitas students begin in their freshman year by taking special honors sections (labeled CV) of the required Religion 110 and English 200 courses. (Students who have not passed out of English 110 will be required to complete that course before taking English 200.) They then take a sequence of four courses (CIVT 201-204) that speak to concepts drawn from theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s essay “The Structure of Responsible Life”: deputyship, pertinence, justice, and freedom. In their sophomore year, Civitas students begin planning an individual learning experience (CIVT 395), usually to be done in or immediately following their junior year. The final Civitas course is the Capstone course (GENL 492) taken by all seniors.

Q. Is there a particular order in which I need to take the Civitas sequence courses?

A. Ideally, you should begin with CIVT 201 (Reading Augustana) freshman year or first semester sophomore year. Beyond that, however, you may take CIVT 202, 203 and 204 in any order – and if scheduling demands it, you may also take CIVT 201 later than one or some of the others in the sequence.

Q. Will Civitas courses increase my general education requirements?

A. No. The religion and English courses during your freshman year are already part of the general education requirement, as is the Capstone course you take during your senior year. The sequenced courses (CIVT 201-204) may be substituted for any four courses in the general education program, except for Capstone. The individual learning experience (CIVT 395) will usually be done as part of your major; in a number of majors, it will constitute an honors thesis.

Q. Will Civitas courses count toward my major?

A. As noted above, CIVT 395 can count toward the major in certain departments. Some CIVT 202-204 courses are crosslisted with individual departmental offerings and can count toward that departmental major for Civitas students. Recent examples include Biology 180/Civitas 202: Introduction to Environmental Science, and Journalism 290/History 290/Civitas 203: History of the American Press.

Q. Can I major in any discipline and be part of Civitas?

A. In almost every case, yes. Civitas currently includes students representing 25 majors, spanning all three divisions of the college. (Incoming 2009 freshmen represent 22 majors.) 

Q. Will Civitas overwhelm me with extra work?

A. No. Civitas classes are not designed simply as standard courses with extra books and extra writing. Instead, we emphasize the quality of work, in terms of both participation and production, over quantity. These are courses that require critical thinking, careful reading, and clear writing, as well as informed and enlightened discussion. While you will be doing a fair amount of work in Civitas classes, we also respect the need to reflect on and share ideas with others in order to make that work as meaningful as possible, both to you and to your professors.

Q. What are the grade point requirements for Civitas?

A. Civitas students are required to maintain an overall GPA of 3.0. If at the end of his/her freshman year a Civitas student has a GPA under 3.0, he/she will be given a semester to improve the GPA. A GPA under 3.0 any semester thereafter will constitute grounds for dismissal from the program.

Q. Are there other requirements for the program?

A. Civitas is an honors program based on the notion of citizenship, participating responsibly in the life of the community. As such, we encourage you to be involved in as many aspects of college life as possible, whether in student organizations, residence hall leadership, volunteer activities on or off campus, or other venues. Along with that encouragement, we expect you to be involved in Civitas activities, including student meetings/gatherings, presentations by outside speakers as well as by your fellow students.

Q. Who teaches Civitas classes?

A. It is our belief that the best students deserve the best instructors. Many of Augustana's professors who teach Civitas classes have been recipients of or nominees for the college’s highest teaching awards. A number of those professors have also written books that are highly respected in their academic discipline. CIVT 201 classes, though taught by a single professor, also feature contributions from a number of other professors, administrators, and staff on campus. CIVT 202-204 classes are designed to be team taught by professors from different disciplines; when that is not the case, the voice of the individual professor will be augmented by those of other professors or guest speakers with topical expertise.

Q. Who runs Civitas?

A. The honors program is administered by a director and a committee that includes two professors from each division (humanities, natural sciences, social sciences), as well as representatives from the offices of academic affairs and admission, the library, registrar and the Chair of Moral Values.

Q. Whom do I contact if I have questions?

A. Dr. Jeffrey Miller, associate professor of English and journalism, is the Civitas director. He can be reached by phone at 605.274.5431 or by email. His regular office is Humanities 109; he will also be available on Fridays or by appointment at the Civitas office, located in office 106 in the Center for Western Studies.