Notre Dame ISI Chapter Hosts Seminar to Foster Extracurricular Scholarship

Though absent from the Notre Dame curriculum, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations finds a home through a seminar organized by the Notre Dame Intercollegiate Studies Institute chapter and the Program of Liberal Studies. 

The event was a new initiative for the ISI chapter, newly called the St. Thomas More Society, to expand intellectual discussion outside of the classroom. The seminar took place on November 8th and was led by PLS professor Gretchen Reydams-Schils. Together with Reydams-Schils, the students in attendance explored Stoic metaphysics and applied ethics. 

“It was cool to see students voluntarily get together with a professor to discuss philosophy on a football Saturday,” commented Irish Rover editor-in-chief Nick Abouchedid. “The St. Thomas More Society could be a great contribution to the intellectual culture on campus.”

John Henry Hobgood, president of the College of Arts and Letters Dean’s Fellows, also praised the seminar, stating that it “dispelled many preconceived notions of Stoicism.” 

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting civil, intellectual, political discussion on college campuses to combat one-sided narratives. For the St. Thomas More Society, the idea to do a seminar on Marcus Aurelius sprung from ISI’s mission statement to fill the gaps of higher education. Despite Stoicism’s palpable impact on Greek and Roman culture, the school of thought is not given serious investigation in Notre Dame’s curriculum. As discussed in the seminar, politically-minded students could learn a lot from Stoic statesmen—such as Marcus Aurelius, Cicero, and Seneca—who used their study of philosophy to inform their sense of civic responsibility and service to the common good. 

The choice to do a seminar on Marcus Aurelius also pays special homage to the chapter’s original name—the Marcus Aurelius Society. Luke Cannon, a Class of 2019 Notre Dame alum, started the chapter two years ago with the aim of extending the challenging conversations he found at ISI conferences to Notre Dame. At the time, Cannon was inspired by Aurelius as an “exemplary statesman who found time to dedicate himself to the liberal arts and learning, while at the helm of the largest empire at the time. He was a great example of someone able to choose the liberal arts and lifelong learning without giving up his ‘profession’, so to speak.”

Cannon now works at Saffron Ventures, a start-up venture capital firm that helps build non-profits and private businesses with charitable aims. Following Aurelius’ example, Cannon uses his liberal arts education to guide his professional decisions and serve a greater good.

The Marcus Aurelius seminar is only the beginning for the Thomas More Society. In the future, the society hopes to delve into more controversial topics that are not broached in classrooms. Ultimately, by fostering engaging student discussions, the group seeks to demonstrate the value of a liberal arts education in its capacity to produce well-formed students, teachers, politicians, businessmen, engineers, scientists, neighbors, friends, and families.

Jorge Plaza is a junior studying philosophy and economics. He is the head of the Thomas More Society, and he believes that the word “yippee” should be made illegal. He can be reached at