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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What will Montserrat be like if most seminars are online?
Online, we will have small, vibrant, interdisciplinary seminars that involve discussion, live speakers, interactive small group projects, and, in particular with Montserrat, will have a focus on developing writing, public speaking, critical thinking, and reflection skills. A big advantage with Montserrat is that faculty have been planning their seminars and their shared experiences within clusters since January for this upcoming academic year, as they do every year. We've had multiple meetings as groups of cluster faculty as well as a large Montserrat-wide planning workshop in May where faculty put their heads together to think about ways to build community at both the seminar level and the cluster level in a virtual environment. Another advantage of Montserrat is that faculty have the freedom to incorporate time for skill-building, wellness check-ins, creative group experiences, speakers, virtual community building in Worcester, as well as activities like shared writing projects, interviewing, discussion boards, or podcasts.

Let's give you some examples of seminar experiences that folks have already been talking about in Montserrat. Professors are keen to provide opportunities for students to "be themselves" with one another online whether it be through break out rooms, zooming from spots in the natural world that are personally meaningful, having more frequent office hours, or teaching smaller groups of students regularly-- they want to create spaces and times for students in seminars to talk more freely with each other. Other faculty have discussed spending more time than usual trying to address with students what they believe to be central to a Holy Cross education including a close reading of the College's Mission Statement -- and how it speaks to us in particular ways now. As incoming students will see when they take a look at the rich and varied set of seminars we will be offering this fall, faculty, as always, will approach a topic in depth and incorporate multiple disciplines, opening students' minds to perspectives they have not encountered before-- while at the same time they will also make space in the week for conversations about struggles and challenges and provide tips on how to make use of College resources such as the Center for Writing and the libraries. Some faculty have been examining meaningful ways to introduce Worcester to our students (e.g., through the online presence of the Worcester Murals project and the Worcester Art Museum). Several seminars will work with the Donelan Office of Community Based Learning and engage with community partners on shared projects such as gathering personal stories related to Covid-19 through interviews.

Many of these experiences will build community at the cluster level as well, as individual Montserrat seminars are grouped together in clusters. Some clusters have talked about having "live tweeting movie nights" for cluster students where different seminars host films with discussion time throughout the year and other clusters are finding ways for students to connect with each other through the first year book about Henrietta Lacks. The Self Cluster's theme this year is "Myths, Maps, and Memes"-- students will create "story maps" in and across sections of the cluster. They'll turn the disadvantage of distance learning into an advantage as they narrate and assign meaning to their varied surroundings: the cluster is hoping to engage in a broad mapping project that gathers students' stories.  As always, students in the clusters will have these kinds of shared experiences as well as shared readings. Students in the Core Human Questions Cluster will address the question, "How do I find meaning in a chaotic world?" and read Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning; students in the Divine Cluster will be working with Arts Transcending Borders to incorporate live, virtual workshops with artists; and students in the Global Society and Contemporary Challenges clusters will share readings with their fellow cluster members about writing and also about what it means to be a active member of a community. The Natural World Cluster last year focused on hands-on projects related to the environment and are planning ways to incorporate shared projects this year as well.

This past spring, Montserrat faculty and students very nimbly translated their seminar experiences online. As a community of active and engaged faculty committed to supporting students through their first year, we’ve worked together to build upon these spring experiences to ensure that regardless of format, students will benefit broadly from their experiences in the program in terms of their well-being and from an intensive introduction to life at a liberal arts college. For more information about Montserrat, please see our website, read more about our seminars for the fall, check out the Gateways webinar (see Module 3) that includes information about the program and selecting seminars, and feel free to contact Pr. Alison Ludden (, director of Montserrat.

Why is participation in Montserrat required for all first-year students?
Montserrat gives every entering student a “jumpstart” on exploring intellectual life at Holy Cross. By participating in small, interdisciplinary seminars at the start of their college careers, students have the chance to interact closely with faculty, staff, and other students to create mentoring relationships that will grow stronger over their four years here. In addition to better integrating academic and social life, Montserrat provides intensive development in critical thinking and communication skills, and ensures that students are engaging with serious intellectual and moral questions early in their time at Holy Cross. These skills and intellectual experiences will enhance every student’s chosen course of study, no matter what their major or career goals.

How do I choose my seminar?
You will begin by reviewing Montserrat clusters and seminars. Please identify several seminars that sound the most interesting to you, regardless of your academic or career plans. Keep in mind that the clusters are interdisciplinary and attract students with different interests, goals, and potential majors. You will select six seminars that are interesting to you and indicate these preferences during registration. Keep in mind that you are not ranking these seminars. You will be enrolled in one of your six preferred seminars in early August.

Is a seminar one yearlong course or two separate, one-semester courses?
Each Montserrat seminar extends over the entire year, but there might be a different emphasis from semester to semester. Some seminars are team taught by professors from different disciplines, alternating semesters and providing contrasting perspectives on a topic. For example, for a seminar in Global Society on environmental sustainability, the fall semester could be devoted to an exploration into energy conservation with a physics professor, while the spring semester, led by a religious studies professor, could focus on issues of ethics and stewardship. Many other seminars are taught as a yearlong sequence by a single professor.

Do Montserrat seminars fulfill common area requirements?
Your Montserrat seminars count as two of the 32 courses required to graduate from Holy Cross and fulfill one Common Area Requirement. In instances where a course might fulfill two different Common Area Requirements, the student will have the option of selecting which Common Requirement the seminar will fulfill (it cannot fulfill both).