Revamped minor provides opportunity for students to change culture


Franciscan University has done much to distinguish itself as a premier Catholic educational institution. It only adds to that credibility with the repurposing of its Human Life Studies (HLS) minor, a study meant to flood the secular world with positive Catholic influence.

Originally instituted at the university in 1986, behind the efforts of professor Brian Scarnecchia, who holds a juris doctorate, the minor promises to introduce “pro-life leaders” into society, and to make students “torch-bearers in the Church’s ongoing efforts to transform the Culture of Death into the Culture of Life,” according to its course pamphlet.

Program Director Benjamin Wiker, who holds a doctorate in theological ethics, said the minor has the capacity to change the world, and he understands the implications of such a claim.

“It gets students beyond the notion that they’re cheerleaders for life, and gets them to very practical disciplines,” he said.

The course pamphlets available outside of Egan G10 describe a minor recently revamped, because students experienced complications when attempting to complete its requirements. As program director, Wiker worked in collaboration with fellow professor Stephen Krason, who holds a doctorate in political science, to refashion the existing minor.

“It’s a reshaping, but it’s drastic.” said Wiker, describing the minor. “The old system made it very difficult for students to be able to satisfy their requirements. We decided to streamline the minor, so that it’s easy to get, and doesn’t interfere with the students’ attempts to satisfy core requirements.”

Wiker stressed the importance as one both simple and vital, for many an undergraduate student. “I can’t think of a minor that’s easier to fulfill,” he said. “There are only three courses for HLS, with no prerequisites.”

The minor, “the only thing of its kind in the country” according to Wiker, also requires students to schedule weekly meetings with Franciscan University’s Career Services program, to update the university weekly on their progress toward attaining what Wiker called “their next step upon graduation.”

Career Services will help students fill out forms, get into graduate programs, apply for internships, enter religious orders, etc., all toward the purpose of placing students into positions where they can work tangibly toward achieving a Culture of Life.

Each of the three mandatory courses of the Human Life Studies minor that aren’t already core requirements are prescribed by the program because of their potential to educate students on that which they will face after graduation. Courses begin with the study of the roots of the Culture of Death, with readings by Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke and more, before transitioning to the Culture of Life, informed by readings like Saint Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae.

“(Students) learn how the Church is being destroyed, and how to build it up,” said Wiker. “The goal is, with their major, to change the part of the Culture of Death that they are directly connected to.”

After three HLS courses, a one-hour practicum course is required to fulfill the minor. The paper submitted for the practicum uses a paper submitted in HLS 201 as its template.

As of now, the minor does not necessitate an internship as part of its curriculum, but Wiker hopes eventually that will change. He said, however, that finding “internships of substance” takes “money, staff, and time.”

The minor, easy to attain and vital to success, answers Wiker’s question to his HLS classes: “What will you do with this desire that you have to bring a Culture of Life out of a Culture of Death”? The minor was born and then revamped out of the desire on the part of the university to provide students with tangible opportunities to change the world.

“If you’re going to take the next step, then you need to know what that is,” said Wiker. “If you don’t infuse the gospel in the culture at all levels, that space is not neutral. The other side takes it.”

Hemisphere by hemisphere, he said, we can revitalize society, by bringing a Culture of Life to a world which only understands one of death.

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