After two brief months of studying "big history," Andy Gramajo, 18, has a new perception of the human species.
"When compared to the universe, we are a pixel on a computer screen," he said. "I feel privileged to learn about the big bang and evolution."
Gramajo is among 250 freshmen who are participating in a unique educational venture at Dominican University in San Rafael, Calif.
Big history has become the school's First Year Experience for freshmen. It has brought together the social sciences, the arts, humanities and sciences to look at the place of human beings within the context of the universe story, explained Mojgan Behmand, English professor and program director.
According to Behmand, 50 big history classes are taught on campuses around the world. But Dominican, a secular school with Catholic roots, is the only university that currently requires all of its freshmen to take the classes, she said. They study the origins of the universe, and consider such topics as human cultures, political systems, visual arts, trade, sex and gender, philosophy, and religion through the lens of big history.