SMC One Seminars: Learning, Friendship, and International Experience

SMC One Seminars: Learning, Friendship, and International Experience


A shot from behind a group of students as they walk between columns strewn with vines in Italy.

Students in SMC One seminars travel to Rome, Ireland, and Silicon Valley for intensive international learning experiences.

Providing a unique bridge from high school to university, St. Michael’s popular SMC One seminars are now accepting applications for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas, the Boyle Seminar in Scripts and Stories, and the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology draw new students into close-knit learning communities that personalize the student experience at UofT.

“The SMC One seminars are among the most sought-after courses for first-year students at the University of Toronto. With small class sizes, discussions led by leading scholars and superb teachers, and unparalleled opportunities for intensive international learning experiences, these courses provide an excellent introduction to university-level studies,” St. Michael’s Principal Randy Boyagoda says.

The seminar format creates a supportive and dynamic environment in which new students are empowered to develop important academic skills they will rely on throughout their academic careers. The programs also draw from the historic interdisciplinary strengths of St. Michael’s sponsored programs.

St. Michael's Principal Randy Boyagoda teaches the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas in the Shook Common Room.

St. Michael’s Principal Randy Boyagoda teaches the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas.

The Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas

“SMC Ones emerge out of the distinct resources and traditions of St. Michael’s, which professors and students together placed in dialogue with the leading currents of thought and practice today,” Professor Boyagoda says.

He teaches the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas, which explores the intersection of faith with today’s most important questions. Students research and discuss issues in ecology, science, literature, social justice, and politics with reference to the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Graphic novels, memoirs, theological tracts, papal encyclicals and literary novels fuel wide-ranging conversations in both the main seminar and smaller tutorials, and the class culminates with a spring trip to Rome. There, students have the opportunity to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Observatory, and other world-famous religious and cultural sites.

“The Gilson community became a family,” third-year St. Michael’s student Taylor Medeiros writes of her own experience in the seminar.  “While on the trip, I fell in love with Roman art, architecture, and gelato. I never expected that I would fall in love with the liberal arts, too.”

Assistant Professor Alison More helps a Boyle Seminar student to prepare a quill pen in the manner of mediaeval monks.

Assistant Professor Alison More helps a Boyle Seminar student to prepare a quill pen in the manner of mediaeval monks. (Watch the seminar’s how-to video.)

The Boyle Seminar in Scripts and Stories

A key theme of education at St. Michael’s is the union of theoretical learning and practical knowledge. Bringing together two of St. Michael’s sponsored programs, Mediaeval Studies and Celtic Studies, the Boyle Seminar in Scripts and Stories equips students to study the history of knowledge preservation in the mediaeval era while also giving them hands-on experience in the practices of mediaeval knowledge transmission.

“We spend quite a lot of time talking about ‘how do we go from cow to page?’” says assistant professor Máirtín Coilféir, who co-teaches the course with fellow assistant professor Alison More. After learning how monks in a scriptorium approached the production of manuscripts, Boyle students have an opportunity to cut, finish, and write with their own feather quill pens – just as the monks did.

Boyle Seminar participants also receive hands-on experience with medieval manuscripts, a rare opportunity for first-year students to touch the past. The seminar’s May trip to Ireland includes visits to ancient cultural sites and an active archaeological dig, where students can touch artifacts that are fresh out of the ground.

Students in the McLuhan Seminar pose during a video about their trip to Silicon Valley in the fall of 2019.

Students in the McLuhan Seminar visit tech companies, foundations, and museums on a trip to Silicon Valley. Watch the recap video of the fall 2019 trip.

The McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology

Named for Marshall McLuhan, one of St. Michael’s most famous professors, the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology encourages students to turn a humanistic lens on the world of science and technology. Assistant Professor Paolo Granata, a scholar of McLuhan’s work, introduces student participants to leaders in the tech world while constantly posing the question: how does creativity make innovation possible?

“The McLuhan Seminar is designed for students who want to develop an awareness of the relationship between creativity and technology, and who want to know how that relationship impacts both individuals and broader culture and society,” professor Granata says. “It cultivates interdisciplinary and critical thinking, and suggests how creativity and technology can be embedded in everyday practices as well as in large-scale societal processes.”

Students in the McLuhan Seminar get to know the figures who put Silicon Valley on the map through their world-changing ideas and products before decamping to the Valley for a one-week international learning experience. A whirlwind itinerary takes participants to LinkedIn, the Mozilla Foundation, the Google Plex, and networking events to meet innovators and leaders who are determining the shape of our digital future.