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Seminar descriptions

Note: We are currently updating the information for the upcoming fall term. The information listed below is from fall of 2013. Please check later for the current year's seminar offerings.

After reading the descriptions below, please return to the Advising Questionnaire to list which seminars interest you the most. For an explanation of the ESP general education codes at the end of each description, please refer to the Education through Skills and Perspectives link. Please note that the meeting time for all seminars is Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30-12:00.


Earliest Christianity (4 credits)

This seminar examines the earliest history of Christianity, from its origins as a small, persecuted religion in first century Palestine to its acceptance by the Roman state in the reign of Constantine. The seminar begins with an attempt to understand Jesus—and the writings about Jesus—in their historical context: What can we know about Jesus, his followers, and their beliefs? How did these beliefs become codified into Christian orthodoxy, and what beliefs (and scriptures) were rejected? How did the early Christians create an organized framework for their beliefs—a church—and how did they codify what it meant to be a Christian? (r, PRE)

Instructor: Professor Leedom
Student Success Leader: Hilla Haidari


Edible Poetry (4 credits)

Close reading and discussion of poems that deal with food, its gathering, preparation, sharing, and eating. As we explore these works in class, in our essays, and through experiential means, many questions will emerge, among them perhaps some of the following: Can the page be a plate, a table, a cutting board, a loaf, a soup? Can we taste words? How might sentences, their pacing, nourish us or make us hungrier? Is an adjective more fruit or bread? To which food group do prepositions belong, if any, or to more than one? Are nouns milk? What about verbs? Is the ear a kind of mouth? Could the mind, heart, mouth, and belly be more unified than we know? Are some words, like some ingredients, more local; if so, are they necessarily more wholesome and nourishing than others? How does food, in poetry, spark taste buds of memory, community, illness, health, the senses, tradition, fantasy, feeling, form, the spiritual, the heathenish, the romantic? (f, w, x, r)

Instructor: Professor Moeckel
Student Success Leader: Morgan Blalock


Fashion Forward: Dress and Its Representation in the Visual Arts (4 credits)

What do our clothes say about us? From togas to Lady Gaga’s meat dress, people everywhere have used clothing to create gender and class identity, as well as to protect themselves from the elements. In this seminar, we will look at the history of fashion in the western world from ancient times to the present, from Egyptian fashions to Alexander McQueen. We will be using the lens of art history to study clothing from the distant past, as well as fashion photography for the dress of more recent eras. We will think about fashion as a cultural industry. The core of our seminar will be student-led discussions and presentations, but we will also have hands-on activities involving the creation (by cutting, assembling, and sewing) of garments inspired by historical periods. (f, w, x, r)

Instructor: Professor Nolan
Student Success Leader: Johnna Henry


From Pinhole to Smartphone: Adventures in Photography (4 credits)

In this seminar, you will be introduced to various traditional and newer photographic technologies and apply them to specific projects that explore personal identity and autobiography. Using home-made pinhole cameras, toy Holga cameras, smartphones, and the basics of Photoshop, you will make self-portraits, transform family photographs that have recorded your life, and build grids from photographs of personal belongings. Along the way, you will learn both wet (silver) processes and digital processes (scanners, Photoshop). Class activity will include presentations of relevant historical and contemporary photographers. The seminar will also include a research component. (r)

Lab fee: $150.00

Instructor: Professor Sulkin
Student Success Leader: Alex Pell


From Solitary Reveries to Treks Across the Deserts: the Landscapes of Francophone Cultures (4 credits)

Whoever loves and understands a garden will find contentment within. ~ Chinese proverb

When you plant a tree, never plant only one. Plant three -- one for shade, one for fruit, one for beauty. ~African proverb

What do you think of when you hear the word nature? What is the earth to people in Africa, the Caribbean, or Asia? How is nature imagined, and what is humanity’s relation to it? These are just a few of the questions we will address in this first-year seminar that combines the study of literature, nonfiction, and films to explore the relationship between humans and their environment. Through an interdisciplinary and global lens, we examine interactions between human beings and the complex natural world we inhabit. Although the focus is primarily on nature in literature and film, this seminar also incorporates material from a number of disciplines and encourages us to make connections between concepts we might not have paired together before. The beauty of the study of nature, besides being a compelling subject, is that so many topics such as art, philosophy, painting, writing, music, sculpture, gardens, agriculture, food, health, science, economics, and political science, to name but a few, are intrinsically linked to nature. Class discussions, essays, nature journals, personal research, participation in the community garden, and walks around willow-bordered creeks will inspire us to make vital connections. (o, r, GLO)

Instructor: Professor Sampon-Nicolas
Student Success Leader: Brenna Rivett


Girls in Pink Tights: An Exploration of Women on Broadway (4 credits)

Do you sing, dance, or act? Love musical theatre? Write plays or scripts of your own? This is the seminar for you! We will be studying women on Broadway, from multiple angles. On one hand, we will delve into the portrayal of female characters and archetypes, as seen in both historical and present day productions. On the other hand, we will explore the actual women involved in the creation of live Broadway theatre as actors, directors, choreographers, producers, designers, and more. We will review scripts, study musical scores, take a closer look at notable Broadway women, and even sing a few songs. As an “o” course, students will spend time developing speaking and presentation skills, culminating in a final project and oral presentation. (o, r)

Instructor: Professor Wahl-Fouts
Student Success Leader: Deborah Rogers


How to Be a President (4 credits)

This course will step back from the daily "noise" of the 24-hour news cycle and examine just what goes on in a presidential campaign and in the first months of a Presidential term. Students will "adopt" either a presidential or vice presidential candidate (including candidates from a prominent third-party campaign, if there is one) and take part in a number of hands-on, collaborative projects designed to capture the essence and the spirit of trying to become president. These projects will include, but not be limited to, designing campaign materials, scheduling your adopted candidate in a key "swing state," counting likely Electoral College votes, and preparing for the first months of the new presidential term. The course will also make comparisons with other nations' methods of choosing heads of government. Whether or not you’d like to be president yourself someday, this course will help you to understand the men and women who do enter that unique arena. (r)

Instructor: Professor Lynch
Student Success Leader: Deborah Birch


How to Watch TV (4 credits)

"Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We switched 'round and 'round 'til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin' on"
Bruce Springsteen, 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)

The ultimate goal of this course is to change how you think about, talk about, and watch TV. TV is a pervasive aspect of modern life. Most of us grew up watching it and continue to do so—nearly five hours a day, on average. But we spend much less time reflecting on TV and the viewing process. How do we manage to make sense of the flow of images? How and why are these visual narratives created? Why is popular programming formulaic and predictable? Is the way we watch changing? These are some of the questions we will address. You will learn about the aesthetics and visual grammar of television programs, how these are shaped by the television industry, the effects of television on individuals and society, and the effects of changing technology on the industry and our viewing experience. In the process, you will also sharpen your skills in oral presentations and learn how to produce "live-on-tape" television in a multi-camera studio. (o, r, MOD)

Instructor: Professor Richter
Student Success Leader: Pavithra Suresh


Learning from Gaia: Nature, Myth, Archaeology, and the Environment in the Ancient Mediterranean (4 credits)

"Gaia, the earth goddess, teaches justice to those who can learn; for the better she is served, the more good things she gives in return," (Xenophon, Oeconomicus V.12).

This quote from Xenophon, a Greek historian of the 4th century BCE, illustrates that humans have never existed in isolation but have an awareness of and live intertwined with the complex biotic communities that surround them. This is as true for the ancient societies in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire, as it is for our contemporary world. What these ancient communities thought about nature can be found in ideas expressed in their mythology, literature, theology, and art. How they interacted with and altered their surroundings can be traced in the remains of their farmsteads, urban centers, religious sanctuaries...and garbage pits. This course will be an introduction to the environmental history of the ancient Mediterranean using many and varied ancient sources to discover the destructive and successful ways humans have lived in the natural world. (f, w, x, r, PRE)

Instructor: Professor Salowey
Student Success Leader: Catherine Hensly


Mythbusters (4 credits)

Have you ever wanted to see if a myth was really true? This seminar explores the science and ingenuity necessary to identify, solve, and present findings on whether or not an urban legend or myth is true or false. Through required readings and using the popular television series, Mythbusters, as an example, students will be presented with a series of myths or urban legends and be required to prove them true or false by using the scientific method. Students will also be required to design and build, with instructor approval, small-scale experiments to prove their findings using the scene shop in the theatre. Students will then present their findings to the class in an oral presentation, as well as submit their research, findings, and conclusions in a research paper format for each myth. (o, r)

Instructor: Professor Forsman
Student Success Leader: Katherine Ward


Thinking Like a Mountain: Discovery, Exploration, and Conservation of Our Natural World (4 credits)

The disconnect between humans and the natural world has become increasingly common. In his essay, Thinking Like a Mountain, Aldo Leopold ponders the meaning of wilderness and the disconnect humans have with wild things and wild places. More recently, in his 2006 book, titled The Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv refers to this disconnect as "Nature-Deficit Disorder." The goal of this course is to develop or reestablish the connections our students have with the natural world, converting nature from something abstract and ethereal to something tangible through experiential learning, discovery, and scientific inquiry. To give perspective and direction to this exploration of nature, conservation, and environmental sustainability, students will have the opportunity to explore the writings of Leopold, Louv, Thoreau, Emerson, Carson, Muir, and others. We will spend extensive time outside observing organisms in terrestrial and aquatic habitats, navigating and orienteering, and exploring natural environments through journaling and individual and group-oriented exercises. From these experiences, students will ultimately develop a personal environmental ethic. (r, SCI)

Instructors: Professors Wilson and Owens
Student Success Leader: Sarah Knox


War and Peace: Exploring Religion and Ethics within Global Conflicts and Democratic Movements (4 credits)

This course will examine the role that religion plays in historical and contemporary political and cultural struggles throughout the world. How important are religious divisions in understanding global conflicts? In what ways do warring factions "use" religion to sow division within their political groups? Alternatively, how are religious teachings used to construct visions of peace and reconciliation in war-torn regions? Among the case studies we will examine in the course are: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, South Asian politics (India/Pakistan), the Arab Spring, Liberation Theology, European Islamic movements, and the North/South division in The Sudan. In addition to learning about and discussing the major issues present within these case studies, students will prepare oral presentations on topics related to the course. We will work collectively in class to construct visions of creative and sustainable solutions to global conflicts. (o, r)

Instructors: Professors Bohland and Schumm
Student Success Leader: Cecelia Parks


Women/Bodies/Voices (4 credits)

This class works from the premise that "knowledge is power" to the conclusion that self-knowledge leads to personal and community empowerment. Reading from a feminist perspective, we’ll think about how literature helps us better understand ourselves and our communities. Course texts include fairy tales, stories, essays, and novels by authors such as Margaret Atwood, Eve Ensler, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Barbara Kingsolver, Robin McKinley, and Peggy Vincent. This is a seminar for women who love to read and write, who are interested in learning more about how the physical intersects with the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual, and who are open to thinking about the ways they are shaped by and can shape their communities. Students will develop their skills as writers and thinkers, participate in experiential workshops, and become part of a community of women committed to supporting and challenging each other. (o, r, AES)

Instructor: Professor Pfeiffer
Student Success Leader: Kindra Wyatt