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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
November 1, 2014

Canadian Excellence

What Students Learn in Laurierís Medieval Studies Program



What Students Learn in Laurierís Medieval Studies Program

By crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries and intensively studying a variety of cultural materials from the Middle Ages, students can improve their cultural literacy, cultivate their sense of internationalization, learn to use an unbounded array of theories and methodologies, enhance their commitment to engage with the world with sympathy and awareness, and communicate with skill. Ideally, the Medieval Studies Program teaches students what it means to specialize in a period: the challenges, the risks, the endless possibilities, the often permeable boundaries, the core issues, the important debates, and the most productive and useful research. Our general attitude to the learning process in Medieval Studies is that it should be generous and reciprocal: classes offer opportunities for students to contribute not only to their own intellectual development, but also to that of fellow students and faculty. Classes try to provide safe environments where students and faculty are prepared to cross disciplinary boundaries, to work together as a team, and to engage in open-minded discussions; where questions are encouraged so that students are able not only to deepen their knowledge but also to develop their intellectual maturity, their intellectual competence, their professional competence, and their abilities to recognize opportunities and unrealized potential. Ideally, students will also gain a sense of purpose, self-knowledge, and confidence: qualities that are essential to good leadership. Teachers in particular need the kinds of time-management, team-building, motivational, inventive, and intervention skills that define strong leadership, and many of our graduates choose teaching as their profession.

The Program also encourages its students to engage with the new technological advances that are necessary to survive in a global intellectual society where information management and timely access to it are important. More specifically, the progressive development of a Medieval Studies program at Laurier has important implications for civic engagement, personal decision-making, perspective-adjustments, behaviour-adjustments, quality of life, and interpersonal relationships in Canada. Medieval peoples are often characterized as "barbaric" and "primitive," while their cultural materials have been frequently ignored and slighted by later societies. Research into these materials enhances in a fundamental way our understanding of prejudice and discrimination against societies perceived as distant from present-day ones, and promotes ideas of justice, tolerance, understanding, respect, and other multi-cultural concerns and initiatives that Laurier outlines in its most recent academic plan and that the university is known for internationally. There is no better vehicle for broadening peopleís minds than study of the Middle Ages.