Sophomore Residential Seminars are a unique and immersive living-learning experience during the sophomore year. SRS students have opportunities to build deep academic communities based on common interests and sustained interactions with SRS faculty members. The capstone experience is a 7-10 day trip in January or May that extends the academic experience out of the classroom and into the real world. Apply in now to join this exciting academic community!

The application period for the 2021-22 academic year will begin in January 8, 2021, and all applications must be submitted before February 8, 2021.



The program is a transformational series of intensive residential seminars for sophomores, initially made possible with a significant grant from the Mellon Foundation. Students who are selected will live and study together, meet regularly with the seminar professors and guest speakers in their residence hall, and engage in an embedded academic travel experience related to the course at no extra charge. Each spring, all SRS students will continue the dialog with a one-quarter-credit course with their professor.

Applications Due February 8, 2021 

Faculty teaching in the program will interview students during the first two weeks of February 2021 and offer spots to students beginning in mid-February.

2021 - 2022 Seminars

Race, White Supremacy and Education: Allies, Advocates, and Co-Conspirators will investigate the historical, social, and cultural aspects through a racial justice theoretical lens. The main objective of the course is for students to gain valuable insight into racism and white supremacy beyond the individual level through a critical analysis at an institutional, societal, and cultural level. In preparation for our SRS related trip, students will research key historical Civil Rights Movement events and people and the direct relationship to our schools. The story of white supremacy does not end here; it continues to roar into the 21st century. The course will delve into educational policies at the federal level that have led to further “resegregation” and thus exacerbated racial oppression in our schools. In short, our public school system has been and continues to be at the forefront of the fight against racial segregation and oppression. Most importantly, the course will revolve around critical dialogues that encourage students to be vulnerable in revealing their racial identity development (ally), bold in their analysis and interpretations as they develop their understandings of critical race theories and race-based policies (advocate), and empowered as they move to enacting transformative change at Colgate and in the larger community (co-conspirator). Our travel will begin in Washington DC at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. From there we head to Atlanta to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and the Ebenezer Baptist Church as the starting site for the Civil Rights Trail. The week will take us to the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration as well as a walk across the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge (site of Bloody Sunday in Selma) and will end in Memphis where we will stand on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. In each of the cities, it is my hope that we will engage with Colgate’s Alumni of Color to assist us in understanding Colgate’s history and current social justice activism.

More About Professor Palmer


John D. Palmer is a professor of educational studies and the current academic director of the office of undergraduate studies (OUS). His teaching philosophy of Engage, Empower, and Enact is built on a belief that an engagement of one’s racial identity (ally) will develop an empowered identity that holds a critical and expansive understanding of race, racism, and white supremacy (advocate) that will ultimately enact a social justice agenda for anti-oppressive, anti-racist, anti-white supremacist institutions (co-conspirator).

Communities and scholars alike have witnessed a set of dramatic, yet uneven, shifts in the geographic and demographic migrations of people with regard American cities (one could make a parallel, yet distinct, argument globally). Breaking with post-war years of suburban sprawl and white flight, post-industrial American cities are going through what some cultural critics and beneficiaries regard as something of a renaissance. After years of racialized disinvestment in urban infrastructure, accompanied by militarized policing and social abandonment, the contemporary moment is now marked by a rapid rate of speculation, an almost compulsive appetite for new construction (physical and cultural), and new forms of sociality (pop-up communities). Newly branded neighborhoods have been settled suturing a new layer upon the historical palimpsest that constitutes American urban spaces. The contours and edges of the political economy of “urban America” find themselves marked by a new (and not so new) set of political, social, and economic paradigms.

Simultaneously, or perhaps synergistically, communities and scholars have witnessed a set of dramatic, yet uneven, shifts in the realm of education policy. Though many of us have heard of terms like high stakes standardized tests, charter schools, and alternative certification programs (i.e., Teach For America), the question this class will ask is about the relationship between these policies and institutions and the changes (and non-changes) we see occurring in many American cities. Who are the actors pushing for and benefiting from these shifts? Where is the money coming from to underwrite place-making? Who is being removed from schools and neighborhoods and who is moving in?

The purpose of this course is for students to be able utilize existing and emergent theory and data to learn to read a city with nuance and with an eye toward the interdependency between education and “development.” Drawing upon theories from political economy, critical educational studies, post-colonial studies, and queer studies, you will be encouraged to think about how urban space is called into being, how it is lived in, and how it changes—with a special eye toward education policy within these unfolding processes.

More About Prof. Mark Stern

Mark Stern is an associate professor in and chair of the Department of Educational Studies at Colgate University whose work examines the intersections of contemporary education policy, political economy, and public culture.

Throughout history, people have been captivated by questions about what constitutes the good life and how such a life can be cultivated.  What is the nature of human happiness, joy, meaning, purpose, and pleasure?  How can people most effectively cope with the inevitable difficulties faced in life? Are some people simply born more content than others? How are happiness and life satisfaction affected by health, relationships, material wealth, culture, political structures, habits of thought, and spiritual practice? Because this course fulfills the Core Scientific Perspectives requirement, the major focus of the course is on how contemporary psychological research can be used to answer these enduring questions, but we will address religious and philosophical perspectives as well. Students will be introduced to original research articles on these topics and to a variety of research methods, and they will gain hands-on experience collecting and analyzing data. To increase existential engagement with the material, students will also be asked regularly to engage in activities designed to impact well-being, both individually and together. Throughout the course, students will be helped to recognize the unique strengths and limitations of the scientific method for approaching questions about the good life and will be encouraged to articulate their own emerging views of what constitutes a life worth living.


We will travel to Iceland, a place consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world (Iceland ranked 4th in 2020). Icelanders’ high level of well-being is especially striking because of the country’s climate, long dark season, and relative isolation. During our trip, we will explore some of the potential reasons for Icelanders’ greater happiness: low levels of inequality and a robust safety net, high levels of engagement in creative activities (e.g., writing books, playing music), immersive experiences in nature even when conditions are difficult, and resilience in the face of hardship.

More About Prof. Rebecca Shiner

Rebecca Shiner is a professor of Psychological Science whose research and teaching span personality, clinical, and developmental psychology. She studies personality development in children, adolescents, and young adults, and the development of personality disorders, depression, and anxiety. Together with Mark Shiner, she founded Ciccone Commons in 2015 and has served as Co-Director from 2015 to 2021. She teaches courses in personality, psychotherapy, and developmental psychopathology, as well as Introduction to Psychological Science—the largest course at Colgate. She developed her Scientific Perspectives course “The Good Life” in 2000 because she thought this topic offered students an exciting opportunity to see how psychological research can address important and enduring questions.


Geographers are fascinated by how people find sustenance in nature. What we eat and drink connects us to a global socioecology and a staggeringly complex exchange of commodities. But the linkages can seem abstract. What’s in your cup? uses our daily consumption of beverages to analyze the social and environmental implications of how we live. As Augustine Sedgewick (2020: 13) asks in his book about U.S. consumption of coffee from El Salvador: “What does it mean to be connected to faraway people and places through everyday things?” From the energy used to boil water for a cup of tea to the biota disturbed by farmers across the world, what we drink may be linked to carbon emissions, water pollution, and public health hazards. But there are also many examples of efforts that empower farmers to live well and care for the land, provide consumers access to ethically produced beverages, and that promote sustainable development. By using in-depth examples from around the world – including Central American and Colombian coffee, South African rooibos and wine, Fiji bottled water, Ugandan tea, and Central New York beer and cider – the course explores the geography of what we drink.

What’s in your cup? is structured around lectures, a diverse mix of scholarly and popular press readings, films, and lots of discussion. But we’ll also do field work. During the semester, we’ll interview local producers of beer and cider as well as coffee vendors. Then, in January 2021, the class will travel to Colombia, South America, the second most biodiverse country in the world. Starting in Bogotá, students will learn about the city’s people and environment. The group will then travel to the National Coffee Research Center en route to the country’s coffee-growing region. There we’ll visit farms and interview workers about their way of life, including their efforts to adapt to climate change. In addition, the group will stay at a research station located at the Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados. We’ll hike through páramo (a unique high elevation grassland ecosystem), and learn about biogeography, land tenure, and nature conservation. The course has no pre-requisites, will satisfy an Area of Inquiry requirement in Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents, and may be counted towards a major or minor in Geography.

More About Prof. Peter Klepeis

Peter Klepeis studies people and the environment. With case studies primarily from agrarian landscapes, he explores approaches to natural resource management and opportunities for advancing sustainable land use. Two recent projects focus on the spread of invasive grasses in Australia, and religious traditions that protect biodiverse church forests in Ethiopia. He has extensive experience guiding students in research and study abroad, including four semester-long Colgate programs (twice to Australia and once each to England and to South Africa) as well as a three-week “extended study” to Uganda. During his undergraduate junior year, he studied abroad in South America (Ecuador and Chile). Along with Colgate and Colombian colleagues, he is excited to help students explore a fascinating part of the world. 

Professor of Educational Studies; Academic Director, Office of Undergraduate Studies
  • MW 10:30am - 12:00pm (La Casa House)
  • T 11:00am - 1:00pm (La Casa House)
Associate Professor of Educational Studies; Chair, Department of Educational Studies
Spear House, First Floor
  • T 12:00pm - 1:30pm (Spear House, First Floor)
  • W 2:00pm - 3:30pm (Spear House, First Floor)
Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Professor of Geography

Frequently Asked Questions

The seminars allow you to live and learn with other sophomores who share similar academic interests. The seminars also allow you to work closely with a Colgate professor over an entire year.

The online application will be available beginning in late December/early January. Faculty teaching the Sophomore Residential Seminars will interview students during early February. Scheduling an appointment is done after you have successfully submitted your application. The assignment of rooms and roommates will come later.

Students selected for the SRS program live among members of their class. Your roommate will be a member of your class, and a special SRS roommate selection process will take place around March-April.

No. There is no direct charge for your research trip or the field trips and other activities connected to the program.

You will be given an interview slot for your first-choice course, but faculty will share information with each other during the selection process. So, while it's not possible to have more than one interview, you will still be considered for other seminars listed on your application.

Your GPA is a factor, but it is far from the most important one. We realize that you've been at Colgate for only one semester, so it is a small sample size. If there are things you'd have us know about your first semester that put your GPA into perspective, please let us know about them in the application.

You can direct your questions to Martin Wong, Associate Dean of the Faculty for International Initiatives (