Although each Colloquium is in some respects unique, all tend to follow the same general format. The Colloquium is scheduled for two hours—90 minutes for the Colloquium itself and up to 30 minutes for the committee members to discuss the student’s performance among themselves and with the student. The Colloquium usually begins with a brief discussion that contextualizes the student’s academic concentration.
After this introduction, the student and the faculty committee proceed to discuss the works on the student’s Booklist. Students should bring a copy of their Rationale and Booklist to the Colloquium. The general tone of the Colloquium is that of an intellectual conversation. Its purpose is not to test the student’s rote memory of the details in the texts, but rather to evaluate the student’s capacity to think, to inquire, to make connections and to suggest interpretations. Students may be asked to explore the similarities and differences between two or more books, to comment about the historical context of a work or to discuss the work with respect to the themes described in the Rationale. Questions are asked only about the works on the Booklist, although students may feel free to make references to other books. Students may also discuss creative projects or critical writing as part of the Colloquium by presenting a research paper or a portfolio of photographs, showing a brief film or video, playing a piece of music, etc., but the primary focus of the Colloquium should be the conversation between the faculty and the student.
Evaluating the Colloquium
At the conclusion of the Colloquium, the faculty committee discusses the student’s performance. The main criterion for the committee’s evaluation is simply this: Was the student able to discuss the books in a thoughtful, insightful way and to respond intelligently to the questions put forward by the faculty committee? A pass or fail requires a majority vote of the committee. If the committee concludes that the student’s performance has been unsatisfactory, the committee will provide suggestions about what the student needs to do to prepare for a second Colloquium. A student may not do the Colloquium more than twice. If a student fails a second time, he or she will be dismissed from the School.