Spring 2023 Courses


SPCL 400.301 | Introduction to Asian Art

Student Instructor: Sarah Frisbie
Faculty Mentor: Eduardo Douglas
W, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
035 Graham Memorial

A man opens his hands. From them tumbles a 2,000-year-old, million-dollar Han Dynasty vase. He stares defiantly at the camera as it shatters into a million pieces on the ground.

Find out the true implications of Ai Weiwei’s transgressive act—to the art market, to the history of art and craft, to the dialectics of preservation and destruction, and to the course of global history—in Introduction to Asian Art History.

With half the world’s population, 1/3 of its land mass, and thousands of years of history, the continent of Asia has presented one of the most confounding puzzles of scope in art history. In this course, we will attempt to cover geographic areas from Arabic to Korean and time periods from ancient to contemporary with an interdisciplinary and intersectional lens. We will look at the interrelations of Asian art and politics, religion and philosophy, society, geography, literature, economics, and globalization, and employ object-based analysis to deepen our understandings based on objects in the Ackland collection. We will discover new ways of seeing the objects that populate the Eastern world, overturning the exoticized gaze that has long characterized Western depictions of Asia.

SPCL 400.302 | Fusobacteria, Fungi, and Flatulence: Exploring the Frontiers of Fermentation

Student Instructor: Megan Lienau
Faculty Mentor: Corbin Jones
M, 5:40 pm – 7:40 pm
035 Graham Memorial

What’s living in you and in your food? Many of the foods that we consume and the materials that we use owe their distinct characteristics, capabilities, and flavors to microbes, specifically through a biochemical process of fermentation. Fermentation is a process that requires bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms to produce diverse chemical changes. Gourmands and everyday consumers can quickly name some of the most popular fermented foods and beverages we consume—beer, yogurt, pickles—but, what about that coffee you drank this morning, the chocolate bar you are saving for later, or the antibiotics you took when you had an infection?

Through hands-on exercises, we will experiment with materials to grow our own microbial environments to make kombucha, sourdough, tempeh, and more—and discover more about the role of microbiology in fermentation. In Fusobacteria, Fungi, and Flatulence: Exploring the Frontiers of Fermentation you will explore the science behind food and beverage fermentation and how it changes and enhances flavors, aromas, and tastes. You will witness firsthand industrial fermentation by visiting pharmaceutical and consumer product industrial systems on field trips. You will dive into your own microbiome to understand how the materials inside of you are uniquely ordered to turn food into fuel! From chemistry to microbiology to your dinner plate, this course will analyze the role of microbes in production, preservation, and enhancement of materials across a variety of industries and settings.

At the end of this course you will be able to answer:
What is fermentation and how does fermentation work? The course will work through both the chemistry and biology of fermentation, as well as practical aspects of fermentation at a small and large scale. You will walk away with knowledge of fermentation practices in foods, farming, industry, and medicine.

Specifically you will have these experiences:

  • Examine the underlying chemistry and microbiology of different kinds of fermentation
  • Experiment with fermentation in a lab setting!
  • We will ferment yogurt, kombucha, tempeh, coffee, and learn about alternative protein fermentation
  • Visit restaurants, labs, and pharmaceutical plants that use fermentation everyday
  • Develop skills in experimental design, data analysis, and interpretation
  • Develop an understanding and appreciation of fermented foods and their history, culture and science
  • Have a deeper knowledge of beneficial microbes to preserve food and harmful microbes that can contaminate food
  • Learn the scientific principles and application of instruments used for chemical and microbial characterization
  • Explore the chemistry of flavor molecules including the physiology of flavor and the microbial reactions that produce flavor molecules and other metabolites
  • Find a deeper understanding of the processes and applications of industrial fermentation via enzymes and microbes for consumer products
  • Speak with experts about the use of fermentation across industries
  • Explore the construction and maintenance of a fermentation system
  • Engineering, technology, automation, finance

SPCL 400.303 | Healthy Habits: Exploring the Foundations of Long-Term Health Behaviors

Student Instructor: Micah Long
Faculty Mentor: Vicki Chanon
M, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
210 Graham Memorial

Why does pizza taste so good? Why are cigarettes not popular anymore? How do people run marathons? Have you ever thought about questions like these? This course aims to answer life’s biggest mysteries surrounding health behaviors. This course looks at behaviors, intentions, and motivations regarding healthy lifestyles. We will take psychology and neuroscience approaches to discover why we think about health behaviors, the way we do. No previous knowledge is required.

SPCL 400.304 | Reels and Realities: Reimagining American Government through Film, c.1950-c.2020

Student Instructor: Nicholas Long
Faculty Mentor: Donald Reid
M, 4:15 pm – 6:15 pm
212 Graham Memorial

Why watch Hollywood films to explore American attitudes about the federal government during the twentieth century? After all, these films were marketed as an escape and viewers flocked to theatres to leave behind the workaday world in which they lived. But this is the point. What we see in films and what we know of their reception takes us to the otherwise hidden world of Americans’ aspirations and fears that no pouring over issues of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal can do. In this class, we will watch and discuss a dozen important Hollywood films to assess how the imaginations of Americans and their responses to the federal government took shape in movie theatres across the nation. From Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to contemporary Marvel hits, Captain America: The Winter Soldier & Black Panther, this mystification of government will ultimately be unraveled through engaging class discussions and critical analysis.

SPCL 400.305 | How Culture Defines Psychiatric Illnesses

Student Instructors: Tulsi Patel
Faculty Mentor: Kym Weed
R, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
213 Graham Memorial

How do different cultures define, perceive, and treat mental illnesses? Some cultures view psychiatric illnesses as the presence of a spirit, while others solely believe it to be a chemical imbalance. The field of ethnopsychiatry serves to examine possible stigmatization, origins of mental illnesses, treatment methods, and the cultural dimensions of mental health. Once a branch of medical anthropology, this subject matter now draws from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, english, and public health. Understanding how various cultures conceptualize and respond to mental illnesses can elucidate how to best promote the mental health of the diverse populations within the United States.

This multifaceted course utilizes seminar discussions and class activities to explore how specific mental illnesses, treatment methods, and healer-patient interactions are understood and viewed among different cultures and time periods. This seminar will engage with various information sources, including research articles, first person accounts from historical archives and modern day blogs, documentary clips, TedTalks, and graphic novels. Students will leave this course with an understanding of the influence of culture on the experience of mental illness among diverse populations.

The following topics will be covered in this course:

  1. Ethnopsychiatry and its relevance to diverse experiences of mental health/illness
  2. How specific illnesses (i.e. depression, schizophrenia…) are defined and treated across the world
  3. Comparison of first-hand accounts of living and caring for someone with a mental illness across cultural contexts
  4. How religious backgrounds affect perception and treatment of mental health/illnesses
  5. The history of asylums and its impact on current mental health institutions
  6. Current attempts to mitigate the mental health crisis in the United States

SPCL 400.307 | The History and Legacy of the Iran-Iraq War

Student Instructor: Jay Ramesh
Faculty Mentor: Tricia Sullivan
W, 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm
038 Graham Memorial

The Iran-Iraq war was a pivotal moment in the Cold War and shaped the modern Middle East that we know today. It was one of the clearest illustrations of how even the strategic interests of adversaries can intersect, and how international support can drag conflicts out for far longer than they naturally would have lasted. Understanding this war is crucial to understanding the realities of modern Middle Eastern geopolitics, and how war, instability, and economic decline in one area can affect the future of an entire region.

In this course, students will learn about the history and legacy of the Iran-Iraq war, from the events that preceded it to the events that were direct and indirect results of it. Students will learn the geopolitical considerations, battlefield tactics, and logistics of the war, how the war affected the welfare and social institutions of citizens on the home front, and the significance of foreign involvement in regional conflicts throughout the world. The course draws on a diverse collection of primary and secondary sources, from declassified CIA documents to wartime poetry.

Learning is the act of creating new knowledge, not simply memorizing information. As such, the course will be oriented primarily around seminars and class activities designed to facilitate the discussion and understanding of abstract concepts. Students will also have the opportunity to collaborate and plug gaps in existing research by creating a Wikipedia article on some aspect of the war that does not already have its own page. The course is designed to be engaging and collaborative, and students will finish the course with a robust understanding of how wars are started, how they are conducted, and how they cast a dark shadow on every aspect of a society.

SPCL 400.309 | Survey of Nonfiction Comics

Student Instructor: SamLevi Sizemore
Faculty Mentor: Matthew Owain
T, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
210 Graham Memorial

This course will examine queer nonfiction comics with both a literary and artistic lens. From alt comix and zines to web comics, the course considers how nonfiction comics as a genre have developed and the roll queer writers and artists have played.

SPCL 400.310 | Law & Information Technology

Student Instructor: Julianna Surkin
Faculty Mentor: Gary Marchionini
W, 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm
210 Graham Memorial

It is difficult to imagine an aspect of our modern society that is not defined by either law or technology. And yet, the exploration of the law’s impact on our digital world is still in its infancy. This course will examine contemporary topics in Information Technology Law such as surveillance, data protection, copyright, and intellectual property.

Debating schools of thought, investigating policies, breaking down traditional legal concepts, and exploring their practical implications with case studies will assist the investigation of the following questions:

  • How has the law responded to challenges posed by information technologies?
  • To what extent has the information society shaped the development of the law and vice versa?
  • How do “successful” information technology policies affect society?
  • How should “successful” information technology policies affect society (or individuals, governments, and economies)?

The global nature of IT Law means our analysis will include impactful developments from several governing bodies other than the United States, particularly from the European Union.

This course does not require an in-depth understanding of information technology or legal concepts – we are primarily interested in the implications of the use of information technology, and the intended and unintended consequences of regulating that use. At the end of this course, students will be able to intelligibly approach issues in technology policy and recognize its impact on their everyday digital interactions.

SPCL 400.311 | Dumpster Diving: The Ins and Outs of the Circularity, Recycling, and Waste Management

Student Instructor: Madhavi Trikha
Faculty Mentor: Amy Cooke
T, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
213 Graham Memorial

How often do you think about your products once you’re done with them? Have you ever wondered where your garbage goes, or what happens to your plastics once you’ve separated them to be recycled?

Too often nowadays we adhere to an out of sight, out of mind mentality with waste. Our tendency to over consume is driven by the perfect storm of societal pressures and corporate marketing strategies, all under the umbrella of capitalism. As waste becomes an increasingly prevalent issue for our industries and environment, we must make the discourse of circularity and waste management a more common one.

This course will engage in discussions addressing all aspects of waste. This includes “The Basics,” meaning how landfills and recycling routes work, as well as more technical lessons discussing the recyclability of certain materials, waste generation from specific industries, and common problems encountered by the recycling industry. The “Waste and Society” section of the course will shift to analyze anthropocentric issues, from corporate waste policies to environmental justice case studies and labor within the waste industry. This section seeks to discuss how we view our consumption habits, as well as how waste impacts our communities. Finally, the course will include a “Moving Forward” section, where we will narrow in on current circularity and waste reduction efforts on different scales.