What are Questions and Why Do We Have Them?

By Johannes – 3rd Year Student

“What’s your question?” is a sentence you will hear a lot at Quest. But what actually is a Question? And why do we bother with this whole thing in the first place? My name is Johannes and I am a third year at Quest. (This means that I actually do have a Question, but I won’t tell you what it is quite yet. Let us explore the meaning of it first).

Quest was founded on the idea of being different and innovative. But what does that actually mean? How is one different? What does innovation look like? These are questions which were asked by our founders.

But we quickly realized that a central theme of modern universities is the declaration of a “major”, meaning: the major field of study that you will focus on in your academic career. This idea holds for all levels of a university education, be that undergraduate, graduate or doctoral, and reflect a theme of focusing on a specific piece of knowledge in academia.

There are some obvious benefits to the singular focus on a specific field of knowledge. For example, the ability to delve deep into a subject, or in the words of one of our presidents, “learn more and more, about less and less” (Helfand, 2013).  But at the same time, this structure can become very restraining. “But what if I like music and physics? Or politics and biology? Or all of the above?” are concerns we often hear from students, which are then forced to make a choice. Is it a major in music, physics, politics or biology? This is somewhat remedied by the introduction of a minor, but even that can feel insufficient.  

So, our founders engraved a single concept into the university which is reflected even in our architecture: true interdisciplinarity.

Photo by Quest University Canada

Recognizing that any given world problem cannot be solved with one discipline alone (does the solution for climate change lie in economics or meteorology? Is poverty political science or agriculture?), and therefore must be approached with different disciplines in mind, we created the Question program.

What this means is that at some point in the latter part of your second year or the beginning part of your third year at Quest, you take a course called “Question”. In this course, for about a month, it is your job to write and defend a detailed plan about what your academic future will hold. Which disciplines do you want to look at? Why do you want to look at them? How will that help you later in life? And finally, what will your Question be?

This process can be extremely eye-opening to some and very confusing to others, depending on how much you have engaged in that kind of thinking before. The value of a Question is that you do not have to decide between any discipline or subject, and it is actually encouraged to build bridges between them. We truly believe that the ultimate learning experience comes out of recognizing the different relationships that disciplines hold. How does a scientist think different about a problem, than a historian just by virtue of their field?

Oh, and by the way, the purpose of Quest and the Question program is not to answer them, but to ask ever more insightful questions (ha-ha!). Because every new question you ask holds a little more truth than the last one. No one at Quest has ever been able, or will ever be able, to answer their Question. But the questions asked by our students, just get better and better each year. So, when you come out of Quest the questions you ask about a particular subject, will demonstrate a wealth of understanding an insight into a particular subject. And that, in my opinion, is infinitely more valuable than any answer you might think you had.   

And back to my Question before I forget. I am asking “How do we distribute power in a multipolar system?” focusing on international relations, economics and history. Don’t worry, I can talk about this for hours. So if you are wondering what that actually means, come to Quest and find out!

  1. Charming but Irrational

    Intriguing!
    Johannes: In 50 words or less, how do we distribute power in a multipolar system? Give if your best shot, even though you haven’t finished your degree yet — I want to understand your currents thoughts.

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