Frequently Asked Questions about NSA’s Classical Christian Studies Programs
Q. Who are the CCS programs for?
A. We have crafted our Classical Christian Studies programs for those who want to secure their footing in western literature, history, philosophy and theology. We aim to serve mature, busy individuals—teachers, engineers, full-time moms, carpenters, accountants, pastors—who have at least a bachelor’s degree, yet who would like to build up their appreciation for the liberal arts. The liberal arts inform what it means to fulfill these various specific callings—and to do so as human beings who are created in the image of God, and who live in a society that has been shaped by western expressions of both faithfulness and rebellion toward the triune God. Our CCS programs are ideal for church leaders, parents, educators and other professionals who are driven to learn.
Q. Will CCS courses fit into my schedule?
A. We have designed our CCS programs to accommodate students who have busy schedules at home and at work. They involve online courses in the fall and spring, and also summer courses that include a brief residency here at the College in Moscow, Idaho. (The residency portion of our summer courses spans eight weekdays with an intervening weekend.) We offer two CCS programs: a 32-credit Master of Studies degree, which requires three resident summer sessions and a final paper; and also a 16-credit Graduate Certificate, which can be completed without summer residence sessions. Recipients of the Graduate Certificate can opt to continue their studies and complete the Master of Studies degree.
Q. What background must I have before enrolling? Does NSA require me to enter with a strong record in the liberal arts?
A. Our instructors presume that our CCS students are mature individuals who have demonstrated the disciplined curiosity required to meet the intellectual challenges of graduate-level work. Our students will have already earned a bachelor’s degree. Yet we understand that the readings and subjects we cover may be entirely new to them. No, then, we do not require our students to enter with a strong record in the liberal arts; in fact, this is what our programs provide to students who lack such a background. Our CCS courses are advanced introductions—introductions in the sense that we presume no prerequisite familiarity with the material, and advanced in the sense that our students are already mature in their capacity to read, analyze and communicate nuances in writing.
Q. How are these graduate-level CCS courses different from undergraduate courses?
A. We organize most of our CCS courses around close readings of a few primary texts, texts that have shaped western culture for centuries. These are not survey courses that are common at the undergraduate level, though our courses do equip students with the broad background information they will need to contextualize the primary texts. To complement the central readings, CCS courses acquaint our graduate students with secondary literature representing various perspectives on the primary texts, or with strategies for teaching these texts to others. We expect graduate students to move beyond summarizing characters and plots, and beyond restating the claims and arguments presented by others. We help them develop and communicate their own appreciation and criticism of these primary texts, and to assert their own voice in a conversation among insightful readers across the centuries who have also discussed these same primary texts.
Q. How does NSA bring its confessional perspective to bear upon its CCS courses?
A. We organize our CCS courses around primary texts that have something important to say about God, people, and things; about past, present and future; or about truth, beauty and goodness. As Christian scholars we embrace the Bible’s authoritative teaching in all these areas while acknowledging with humility that we can never exhaust its depths. We teach our graduate students to welcome vigorous engagement with seminal writings of western culture because such engagement raises challenging questions, questions that drive us back again to the word of God, where we search the depths afresh and find answers.
New Saint Andrews is confessionally Trinitarian, Reformed and Evangelical. We do not see ourselves as distinct from other academic institutions in possessing a faith commitment; every coherent institution has a body of ultimate commitments. We believe that true liberal learning is encouraged and academic freedom is advanced when an institution declares its faith openly and honestly rather than by trying to keep it simultaneously operative and hidden.
Q. What are the courses like?
A. The fall term and spring term courses are delivered online. Students work through assigned readings on a weekly schedule, participate in regular class discussions related to the readings, and submit assignments. Class discussions are usually conducted by posting to online forums or, if the schedule allows, verbally in real-time conferences. The classes are scheduled and paced in a way that allows students the flexibility to organize their study routines around their other obligations. Some students prefer to set aside a little time each day for coursework; others might set aside a couple large blocks of time in a given week. Students have regular deadlines to meet, but how they meet those deadlines is up to them.
Summer courses have an online component and a residence component. For the residence component, students spend up to two weeks at the college in Moscow, Idaho, participating in intensive in-person workshops and seminars.
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