Learning Clusters Explore Issues Both Timely and Timeless

March 30, 2023
A brunette woman wearing a jean jacket smiles as she speaks with other students in front of a variety of international flags.

The annual Learning Cluster at SUA allows faculty and groups of 12 or fewer students to co-design monthlong courses around a problem or question of interest and immerse themselves in exploring solutions together.

Students can enroll in any Learning Cluster course regardless of their declared concentration, which means the winter block courses can bring together students engaged in biomedical research, students training to become multidisciplinary storytellers, and students hoping to work at the United Nations. What unites Soka students across concentrations is their shared commitment to the university’s mission of becoming global citizens who lead contributive lives.

On February 1, students from 29 Learning Cluster courses shared their research and experiences at the annual Learning Cluster Fair sponsored by Academic Affairs. Enjoy these highlights from their work and the fair.


The Holocaust and America

Students pose with Professor Robert Allinson during "The Holocaust and America" Learning Cluster

During “The Holocaust and America,” 11 students and Professor Robert Allinson studied the tragic history of the Holocaust and the enduring legacy of anti-Judaism. The course critically engaged with the work of noted scholar, journalist, author, and political philosopher Hannah Arendt as she grappled with the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the “Architect of the Holocaust.”

In addition to engaging with challenging readings and documentary films, the class visited the Holocaust Museum LA and the Museum of Tolerance. They also had the opportunity to bear witness to Eva Perlman’s life story of surviving the Holocaust as a young girl. Hearing the experience of someone who survived such trauma at a young age deeply moved the students and humanized the painful history they’d studied throughout the course.

Reflecting on their experience in Prof. Allinson’s Learning Cluster, one student said, “I think that this course and similar courses should be taught to all college students. It’s good to face the evils in history to further develop our character and morals.”

Science and Theatre

Dancers dance in a blacklight setting

In “Science and Theatre,” students met with industry professionals and thought leaders who shared their knowledge of Broadway, improvisation, puppetry, and scriptwriting in a series of workshops and guest lectures. They researched scientific topics of interest in parallel to deepen their scientific knowledge, and went on field trips to enrich experience and insight. Their studies culminated in drafting scripts, four of which were selected and performed for the SUA student body on the last day of the course.

“Theater is my passion, and I have often used it as a means to introduce scientific concepts in a more humanistic, relatable manner,” said Susan Walsh, associate professor of molecular/cellular biology.

Scenes from the 2023 Learning Cluster Fair

Students smile as they discuss their learning clusters
A student is listening intently to a professor
A student smiles as he holds a green balloon that displays a dragon and the word "Wales"
Two staff members share a laugh
A group of students are laughing and enjoying a conversation

2023 Learning Clusters

• Contributing Through Education
• The Holocaust and America
• Self-Government in Wales
• The Politics of Disneyland
• Period Poverty and Stigma
• Traditional Medicine
• Nuclear Disarmament/Nobel Peace
• Being Human in STEM
• Dark Tourism Abandoned People
• English/Japanese Translation
• Leadership & Followership
• Genetic Engineering
• Machine Learning
• Japanese Language and Society

• Global Warming on Diversity
• Being a Global Citizen
• Animal Behavior
• Global Solutions
• Ethics of Zoos
• Whose Nature?
• Modern Drug Discovery
• Mexican Indigeneity
• Atlantic History
• Eating Asian America
• Film Theory and Criticism
• Acjachemen Project
• Science and Theatre
• Sinophone Cinema