Spring 2021 Courses


SPCL 400.301 | The Future of Work(ers): from Automation to COVID-19

Student Instructor: Clare Bradshaw
Faculty Mentor: Nichola Lowe
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
R, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Technological innovation, from robots to machine learning advancements, is accelerating the changing nature of work in America. Labor economists and demographers have warned for years that automation in the workplace is fissuring prosperity, not only within the office, but across the country. Certain skills that employers once valued, from small appliance manufacturing to private loan management, are becoming increasingly replaced or fundamentally changed by advanced technological programming. In addition, bureaucratic policies in many industries have hindered union power and worker voice, making employees especially vulnerable.
Occurring simultaneously with global disruptors like climate change and pandemic outbreaks, these industrial transitions are causing a skills gap in our employment system, and present a very different future for America’s workers. As wages remain extremely low in certain parts of the country, vulnerable workers lack the financial stability to pursue reskilling options. The unprecedented number of furloughed and laid off workers in the wake of COVID-19 is a massive accelerator of these worrisome trends, and millions may never go back to work.

In this course, we will start by understanding who are the vulnerable workers to these trends, where they live, and what their stories are. We will then take a step back to understand the unique landscape of employment in America, and the factors that are changing the nature of work. These will include topics like worker voice suppression, environmental justice, and the prosperity divergence between coastal tech hubs and heartland metros. Lastly, we will consider creative policy solutions, from the Green New Deal to apprenticeship programming. Class will consist of lecture, speakers, discussions, and interactive case studies. Students will leave the class with a better understanding of how the intersections of education, labor, and social policy can change the course of the future of work, and propose their own solutions to this complex issue.

SPCL 400.302 | The Art of Selling Art

Student Instructors: Katie Brandao
Faculty Mentor: Carol Magee
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
R, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Why did a banana duct-taped to a wall sell for $120,000? Or why would anyone spend that much money on a work of art in the first place?

It is questions like these that puzzle art market nay-sayers. In this course, we will explore the various systems at play in one of the most secretive commercial sectors: the art world. Approaching this topic from both a humanities and business perspective, we will begin by discussing how the art market, with little to no monetary regulation, operates dually as a director of cultural production and a playground for the wealthy. From galleries to dealers to auction houses, students will learn about the roles of the major players in the art world as well as their economic infrastructures. The learning experience will culminate with a project in which students will take on the role of an art dealer as they incorporate a variety of subjective factors with auction data to present a ‘fair value analysis’ of an artwork for potential investors.

SPCL 400.303 | Everyday Psychology: An Introduction to Psychological Scientific Validity through Applicable Topics

Student Instructor: M.J. Carter
Faculty Mentor: Kristen Lindquist
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
T, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Regardless of our chosen field, all of our lives remain entrenched in psychological influence. Each day, we rely on our past experiences to guide us socially, emotionally, and cognitively. However, the empirical study of psychology can contradict our preexisting beliefs, posing a threat to our sense of judgement. As a result, many often discredit the entire field, equating any factual evidence to rampant falsehoods in the face of very real, relevant, and intriguing findings.

This course aims to build an understanding of the validity of psychology and improve general scientific literacy. To accomplish this, students will read and discuss publications
most applicable to the average undergraduate, with readings primarily rooted in Social and Cognitive Psychology. Some topics will include:

  • Study and Learning Techniques
  • Emotional Awareness and Stress Regulation
  • The Power of Mindset and Beliefs
  • Social Perception
  • Love and Relationships

By the end of this course, students will be more familiar with evidence-based reasoning, more experienced with research design and interpretation, and have a greater
understanding of themselves and others.

No prior experience with psychology or statistical analysis is necessary.

SPCL 400.304 | Data and Narratives in Health Policy

Student Instructors: Donald Fejfar & Jay Sheth
Faculty Mentor: Suzanne Globetti
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
W, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Have you ever wondered why some drugs are exponentially more expensive in the United States than in Canada? Or, what factors led to the rampant opioid epidemic in rural America?

The ramifications of health policy are both complex and interconnected, requiring an in depth understanding of how its technical and human elements work together. Statistical analysis and stories provide perspectives that enlighten how policy can be crafted and how it can be effective. This course aims to use narratives and data to explore the social, economic, and political forces that inform health policy. We will look at societal struggles and wrangle with visualizations to create an informative and holistic picture of health care in the United States.

SPCL 400.305 | Eat to Live or Live to Eat? A Global Exploration into the Anthropology of Food

Student Instructors: Rami Imam & Rhea Jaisinghani
Faculty Mentor: Stephanie Martin
Mode of Instruction: In-Person – On-Campus Learners + Remote Learners (IR)
M, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Peabody 306

Whether it be human’s earliest civilization of Mesopotamia or NYC’s finest Michelin star restaurant, food has served as one of the strongest unifying factors of a community. In this course, we will investigate the anthropology of food, exploring the social manifestations of cuisine, both as a unifier and segregator. Our exploration of the bridge between food and community will help contextualize why some people eat to live, while others live to eat.

This course will explore the power of food in four areas of the world: India, Central America, Scotland and East Africa. In order to better empathize with the eating habits of each region, we will begin by contextualizing ourselves in its history, culture, and climate. With this background, we will explore how food acts as means for social stratification. We will compare the cuisine of the rich and poor of each region, while also exploring how its people interact with food–as an excuse to come together, a way to continue tradition, or a means of livelihood. We will conclude our exploration by delving into how the Chapel Hill community interacts with the cuisine of each region.

SPCL 400.307 | The Importance of Storytelling: Behavioral Data for Social Innovation

Student Instructor: Helen Johnston
Faculty Mentor: Melissa Carter
Mode of Instruction: In-Person – On-Campus Learners (IP)
T, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Phillips 206

How do we, as change makers, use data to move innovation forward?

With the combined power of effective storytelling and data visualization, students will leave this course with an appetite for change and a toolkit for action.

To become true innovators, we must study the process of understanding others, which is both quantitative and qualitative. Oral storytelling has been around for thousands of years to preserve parables, traditions, and history.   With the onset of data analytics, oral storytelling has transformed our abilities to communicate a more profound, empirical understanding of diverse individuals and communities.

The Importance of Storytelling: Behavioral Data for Social Innovation is designed to provide students with a working knowledge of behavioral data, social innovation, and storytelling.  We will combine the ancient practice of oral narration and data interpretation to drive holistic, revolutionary change. Expect to step outside your comfort zone in this course.  This class is divided into four parts: Storytelling, Data Analytics, Social Innovation, and finally, a personal project. Utilizing guest speakers, books such as Innovating for Everyone, and skill-based workshops, students will leave this course as effective listeners, inquisitors, and storytellers, armed with the ability to ask hard questions and produce creative, data-driven stories. Together, we will disrupt traditional industry.

SPCL 400.308 | Sports in Latin American Politics and Society

Student Instructor: Max Kobernick
Faculty Mentor: Cecilia Martinez-Gallardo
Mode of Instruction: In-Person – On-Campus Learners (IP)
M, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Phillips 208

Sports in Latin American Politics and Society will examine the dynamic ways in which sports interact with politics, culture, economics, and society in the region. We will start with an introduction to the history and politics of Latin America and then move into specific cases and topics to understand the intersection of sports and politics. Topics covered will include football and national identity, political repression and human rights, major events like the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, baseball and U.S-Latin American relations, drug violence and sports, social mobility, and gender in sports.

SPCL 400.309 | Hidden Ecologies of our Urban Worlds

Student Instructors: Mia Colloredo-Mansfeld & Klaus Mayr
Faculty Mentor: Javier Arce-Nazario
Mode of Instruction: In-Person – On-Campus Learners + Remote Learners (IR)
W, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Chapman 104

Have you ever wondered what was here before the sidewalk?  This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to reading the landscapes that are connected to our urban spaces. With each new house built, each new road paved or forest torn down, we make it that much harder to see the textured, complex ecological histories that are embedded in our landscapes.

In the midst of a climate crisis, what does this disconnect mean for our increasingly urban world?

This class will provide tools and ideas for you to take this question into your everyday life. It’ll do so in two parts. First, we’ll learn from designers, historians, writers, and scientists to be more attuned to the ecological world around us and to share those insights with others. Inspired by what we learn and the backgrounds of students in the class, we will then create a collective project about the ecological history of Chapel Hill that draws on archival research, outdoor experiences, mapping, conversations with guest speakers, and more.

The sidewalk will never look the same.

SPCL 400.310 | Vaccination: Past, Present, and Future

Student Instructor: Lauren McCormick
Faculty Mentor: Bradley Hammer
Mode of Instruction: In-Person – On-Campus Learners + Remote Learners (IR)
T, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Chapman 104

The first vaccine, a cowpox-derived immunization against smallpox, was discovered by the English physician Edward Jenner in 1796. Despite the medical establishment’s initial resistance, Jenner’s vaccine spread quickly throughout much of Europe and into the United States. Today, vaccination has become an essential part of modern medicine and a primary focus of infectious disease research. Even so, vaccination remains surrounded by unscientific folklore – fraught with disinformation and full of misconceptions.

This course will take a nuanced and multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the role vaccines play in the health of our society today. By co-mingling the fields of biology, anthropology, history, psychology, and statistics, the course will explore the contexts, research, and psycho-social dynamics of global vaccination. The questions we will seek to answer include:

  • How do vaccines work?
  • What empirical factors drive the science of vaccine efficacy?
  • What social, political, and historical movements drive vaccine hesitancy?
  • What are the challenges associated with global vaccine implementation?

Overall, this course aims to provide students with the background necessary to posit academic, critical, and nuanced questions about the public-health role of vaccinations.

SPCL 400.311 | Clinical Approaches to Literature: Mental Illness in Fiction

Student Instructor: Cherish Miller
Faculty Mentor: Inger Brodey
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
M, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

The ways in which we think of and experience the world are heavily influenced by the media that we consume. The aim of this course is to analyze the depiction of mental illness in film and literature, beginning chronologically with the ‘mad woman in the attic’ in Jane Eyre and ending with a modern-day example in Silver Lining’s Playbook. Over the course of this class, we will endeavor to answer questions like “How has thinking about mental illness changed over time?,” “How do these depictions relate to other important social issues (i.e. gender equality, racial discrimination)?,” and “How do depictions of mental illness in media compare to criteria in the DSM-5?” This course is interdisciplinary, spanning 3 films and 4 novels while also taking into account the DSM-5’s characterization of certain disorders.

SPCL 400.313 | Race, Gender, Class and the Environment

Student Instructor: Jack Walsh
Faculty Mentor: Jon Lepofsky
Mode of Instruction: In-Person – On-Campus Learners + Remote Learners (IR)
W, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Peabody 306

Why do three out of five African Americans live in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites? Why are the overwhelming majority of people without access to an improved water source located in the global south?

This course will examine how socioeconomic factors such as race, gender, and class impact the differential quality of the environments that people live in. In addition, it will introduce students to two influential theoretical frameworks within which environmental issues can be analyzed, Marxism, and world-systems theory. Students will be encouraged to think about environmental issues not only as products of poor regulation and shady corporate behavior, but as inevitable consequences of a functioning capitalist world system. The course will provide students with a good balance of theory and information, and students will be able to use the theories they learn about in the first part of the course to interpret the information presented in the second part.