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Digging Deeper: Cave Dwellers Explore the Big Questions

As freshmen, Park Scholars participate in a weekly seminar that introduces topics related to leadership and service, and exposes students to the diversity of NC State’s academic offerings and other resources. The seminar also provides a framework for how different disciplines approach problem solving.

For years, Sandy Kessler, associate professor of political science and Park Faculty Scholar for the Class of 2007, has led one of students’ most beloved Park freshman seminars. It is a discussion of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” The allegory, which comes from the beginning of Book VII of Plato’s The Republic, considers the impact that education – in its various forms – has on human nature.

Inspired by the “Allegory of the Cave,” then-freshman Griffith Shapack ‘13 and a few of his Park Scholarships classmates approached Kessler in Fall 2009 about creating a forum for continued philosophical conversation. Together they developed Cave Dwellers, a group that encourages participants to practice introspection and critical thinking in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the human condition.

“We have learned that at a large public university, such as NC State, students come from all walks of life,” said Shapack. “Their varied upbringings and educations form different perspectives on the human experience.”

Since its establishment, Cave Dwellers has expanded beyond the Park Scholarships program to include University Honors Program (UHP) students and UHP associate director Aaron Stoller. The group, which meets regularly over dinner, has discussed topics such as technology’s place in society, and the meanings of freedom and success. Cave Dwellers’ readings for the Fall 2014 semester include works by Robert Frost, E.M. Forster, and Anton Chekhov.

“Our Cave Dwellers group offers students and faculty a wonderful opportunity to discuss the large questions regarding the meaning of life that are at the heart of a true liberal education,” said Kessler. “I am delighted to be part of this group.”

Story by Laura Turner

posted 2014.08.26