"Faculty development" in the Human Odyssey program.

Since 1977 the Human Odyssey Program has served continuously as Auburn University's primary faculty development program. It has provided an opportunity to explore in depth the areas traditionally separated by disciplinary boundaries.

During these three decades over 100 Auburn faculty members (past and current) have had the experience of teaching a common curriculum with several other faculty members from outside their discipline. Each has had to accommodate the thoughts of another, and give up being the sole authority in the classroom.

Ideally, each learned from other’s discipline, and from each others "way of knowing." More importantly, each has had the opportunity to revisit and reexamine what they know, and what they don’t.

In a classroom setting, each has the opportunity to examine his or her assumptions about the nature of reality, and "... the societal problems to which a university addresses itself." This is a humbling experience. Academics rarely agree on everything (anything?), and human odyssey students have the opportunity to entertain complexity, and to model the thinking and rhetoric of opposing views.

The 170 source readings in Human Odyssey are academically challenging for faculty and students alike. Many of the readings propose tough questions and propositions, with few to no easy answers. Engaging in these questions changes faculty who participate in the Human Odyssey program. Often, new and lifelong friendships are made. One of the functions of collegiality is to maintain a social environment that promotes cooperation and trust Each week, either before or after the Tuesday lab, HO faculty gather to break bread at a social reception featuring light refreshments. Past and present HO faculty members gather annually for social events in each others homes. Few of us remain unchanged by our own Human Odyssey.

Some examples follow: Are humans clever apes? What is myth, and why may it be important for "modern" western cultures? Is war an inevitable part of the human condition? How should humans respond to the knowledge that their earth is a speck in a barely measurable universe? Why do humans produce visual art? Music? Why should humans care about the environment? Can the human mind be explained by the chemical interactions of the brain? How should humans respond to the indeterminacy of a quantum universe? When does life begin? When does a person begin?

Last Updated: May 2, 2012