Jeffrey Brodd feels vaguely guilty about teaching honors students. He stresses, “They are such fun because of their intellectual curiosity and respect for ideas,” adding that many of them have become friends. Several of Brodd’s former students punctuate that point praising the personal touch that characterizes his teaching.
The Minnesota-bred professor’s academic specialty is religious studies. For the past three years he has taught Great Books but notes that the class has a broader reach into the realm of great ideas. Rather than concentrate on the literature, the students probe the philosophical underpinnings of different faiths.
Brodd emphasizes that the classes are essentially discussion-driven because the students are so eager to become embroiled in shades and variations of texts and themes. They are particularly intrigued by the global connection of varying beliefs as well as the counterpoint of atheism.
Their enthusiastic willingness to engage all points of view is precisely what makes these young men and women a “delight” to teach. He recalls a student who after being totally baffled by a class discussion on the Bhagavad-Gita, was determined to research the Hindu scripture and wrote a very perceptive research paper about the ancient spiritual text.
The soft-spoken Honors professor is particularly proud of the respect his students show one another and the subject at hand whatever their religious beliefs or lack thereof. “It’s not uncommon for college-age students to be cynical about society in general and religion in particular. But that’s not the case with my students,” he counters.
There is almost a “sweetness” about them, which brings us back to Brodd’s point that teaching honors students has such a bracing effect on him. This is exactly why he became a professor and eagerly anticipates the spirited discussions that suffuse his dynamic Honors classes.