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The Great Books Seminar: Great Thinkers who Shaped Western Civilization

Coordinated by Dr. Jeanne Buckeye and T. Dean Maines, the Great Books Seminar is a unique graduate-level elective course based on the world-renowned Aspen Institute Executive Seminar. Students and alumni of any St. Thomas graduate program are welcomed.

Course Format

A six-day "residential" seminar, the Great Books course uses selected writings of great classic and contemporary thinkers as a launching point for intensive, focused group dialogue. The readings revolve around such universal human concerns as justice, rights, liberty, equality, power, leadership, democracy and community. Moderators lead conversations on the enduring ideas and ideals of world civilization, the problems and opportunities facing society today and critical issues to be encountered in the years ahead.

Discussion and debate are spirited, and the learning experience enhanced as students get to know one another in a retreat-like environment. Participants stay onsite during the seminar and enjoy meals together at the beautiful Oak Ridge Conference Center in Chaska, MN (no exceptions to this policy.)

A one-hour orientation is held about six weeks prior to the seminar and a 90-minute closure session is held about four weeks after the seminar.

Great Books qualifies as a three-credit elective for graduate business and law students.  Students in other St. Thomas graduate programs are welcomed, but should check with their program advisor as to whether it can apply to their degree plan.

View a sample syllabus (PDF).

Frequently Asked Questions

Each of these questions is linked to a video that provides answers about the Great Books course.

  1. What type of experience might I expect?
  2. Why should I take this course? 
  3. What is it like being away for a week to participate in the seminar?  
  4. What are the seminar sessions like?  
  5. How do you get through such difficult readings?  
  6. We have to stage a play?!? What is this experience like?  

Contact us 

For more information about the Great Books seminar, content, and learning experience, please contact Professor Jeanne Buckeye at

Kenneth E. Goodpaster Great Books Seminar Annual Scholarship

The Kenneth E. Goodpaster Great Books Seminar Annual Scholarship was established in 2014 to honor Professor Ken Goodpaster for his contributions and 25 years of service to the University of St. Thomas. The $1,000 scholarship will be awarded by the Graduate Financial Aid Office to one graduate student in the Opus College of Business who is in good academic standing, demonstrates financial need and is currently enrolled in the Great Books Seminar. 

If you would like to give a gift to the scholarship, click on the button below.