Fall 2020 First Year Seminars



ANTH 053H.037 | Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

TR, 9:30 AM – 10:45 am. Instructor(s): Paul Leslie. Enrollment = 24.
Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is central to one of the most profound revolutions in the history of thought, generating stunning insights but also some misunderstanding and tragic abuse. This seminar aims to provide a clear understanding of how natural selection works, and how it doesn’t. We will examine objections to the theory; how the environmental and health problems we face today reflect processes of natural selection; and recent attempts to understand why we get sick, how we respond to disease, why we get old, why we choose mates the way we do, and more. Class sessions will feature a mix of lecture and discussion of concepts and issues. Students will also engage in small group projects—cooperative explorations of problems raised in class or in the readings and/or designing mini research projects.


Paul Leslie’s professional interests focus on human ecology, and he has pursued this primarily through research among nomadic peoples in East Africa. His most recent project entails studying (while nursing an aged Land Rover across the African savanna) human-environment interactions in northern Tanzania, especially how the changing land use and livelihood patterns of the Maasai people living there affect and are affected by wildlife and conservation efforts. When not teaching or practicing anthropology, he enjoys bicycling, motorcycling, woodworking, and jazz.

ANTH 089H.001 | Anthropology and the Tourism Encounter

TR, 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm. Instructor(s): Florence Babb. Enrollment = 24.
This Honors First-Year Seminar considers anthropological approaches to travel and tourism in the contemporary world and asks what focusing on travel and tourism can tell us more broadly about cultures and societies. We will examine differences of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin in the experiences of travelers as well as of those who work in the service industries that accommodate travelers’ needs. We will examine the ways in which travel destinations are often represented and marketed as “exotic” locations, appealing to notions of the desirable, foreign “other.” We will ask how the commodification of cultural identities and practices shapes the tourism encounter of tourists and toured. In addition, we will ask how power relations are negotiated and what prospects communities in the global South have for actively constructing the terms of their engagement with travelers from the global North. Students will play an active part in seminar discussion of the value of travel and tourism as a lens for understanding social, economic, and political dynamics of significance in the world today. Students will research, write, and present papers that they develop in consultation with the instructor. You will take part in working groups focused on particular areas of the anthropology of travel and tourism. Occasionally, attendance at outside lectures and other events will be recommended.


ARTH 055H.001 | Art, Gender, and Power in Early Modern Europe

TR, 9:30 am – 10:45 am. Instructor(s): Tania String. Enrollment = 20.
What did it mean to be a man or to be a woman in the Renaissance? This seminar will explore the ways in which constructions of gender are critical to understandings of the visual arts in the early modern period (c. 1400-1650). We will discuss and analyze a focused group of representations of men and women: portraits, mythological and biblical paintings and sculptures, and even turn our attention to the buildings these men and women inhabited. We will study the work of artists such as Michelangelo, Donatello, Titian, Holbein, and Rubens, amongst others, to find ways of understanding how masculinity and femininity were central concerns in early modern society and in the art produced in this period.


Dr. Tania String is an art historian specializing in the art of the Tudor period in England, and the Renaissance more broadly. She is the author of numerous books and articles on the portraits of Henry VIII. Before coming to UNC in 2010 she taught in England at the University of Bristol.


CLAS 057H.001 | Dead and Deadly Women on the Western Stage

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Sharon James. Enrollment = 24.
In this course, we will study the great tragic heroines of ancient Greek drama, focusing on Clytemnestra, Medea, Alcestis, Phaedra, the Trojan Women, Antigone. We will also read a contemporary novel, by Fay Weldon, that engages many of these mythic women. We will studythe Greek tragedies intensively, along with their reception in later art, from paintings to poems, stage productions to sculptures, operas to ballets. Our questions will include: why does Greek tragedy focus so intensely on women? Are the playwrights misogynists or do they express some sympathy for women? What about these female characters grabbed the imaginations not only of ancient Greek playwrights but of later writers, painters, composers, not to mention readers? How are their stories relevant to the 21st century? Did the ancient Athenians know something we don’t?


Professor James specializes in Roman comedy, Latin poetry, and women in ancient Greece and Rome.  She has published many articles on these subjects, as well as a book on Roman love elegy (published in 2003); she is currently preparing a large-scale book on women in Greek and Roman New Comedy (the plays of Menander, Plautus, and Terence).  She is also the co-editor of Blackwell’s Companion to Women in the Ancient World (published 2012).  Professor James regularly teaches all these subjects at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Her lecture courses, CLAS/WMST 240/240H (Women in Ancient Greece) and CLAS/WMST 241/241H (Women in Ancient Rome) are cross-listed between Classics and Women’s Studies. In summer 2012 she co-directed an NEH Institute on the performance of Roman comedy. She has two very lively dogs who keep her busy at home. In 2013, she won the University’s William C. Friday/Class of 1986 Award for Excellence in Teaching.


DRAM 081H.001 | Staging America: The American Drama

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Greg Kable. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar examines our national drama from its colonial origins to the present. Participants read plays and criticism, screen videos, engage in critical writing, and consider performance as related means of exploring the visions and revisions constituting American dramatic history. We will approach American drama as both a literary and commercial art form, and look to its history to provide a context for current American theater practice. Readings are chosen for their intrinsic merit and historical importance, but also for their treatment of key issues and events in American life. Our focus throughout will be on the forces that shaped the American drama as well as, in turn, that drama’s ability to shed light on the national experience.


Gregory Kable is a Teaching Professor in the Department of Dramatic Art, where he teaches dramatic literature, theatre history, and performance courses and serves as an Associate Dramaturg for PlayMakers Repertory Company. He also teaches seminars on Modern British Drama and American Musicals for the Honors program. He has directed dozens of productions at UNC and throughout the local community, and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.


ECON 055H.001 | Economics of Sports

MWF, 11:15 am – 12:05 pm. Instructor(s): Rita Balaban. Enrollment = 24.
This course uses real-world sports stories to introduce students to the study of economics.  Through readings, lectures, discussions, personal experiences, and different activities we will use the sports industry to learn about the economic way of thinking, competitive and noncompetitive market structures, labor markets, contest design, market failure, and public finance.


Rita Balaban is a Teaching Professor in the Department of Economics at UNC-Chapel Hill where she has been a faculty member since 2006.  She earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh in 1999 and prior to her arrival at UNC-CH, she taught at Samford University and the College of Charleston.  Rita is an experienced teacher whose teaching interests are in Applied Microeconomics, specifically the Economics of Sports.  She has won several university-wide teaching awards including the Chapman Family Award (201) and the Tanner Award (2015) for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.  Her research interests are in economics pedagogy and she has presented her work at conferences in Wilmington, Philadelphia and San Diego.


ENGL 057H.001 | Future Perfect

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm . Instructor(s): Matthew Taylor. Enrollment = 24.
What will our world look like in ten years? Fifty? One hundred? Will the future be a utopian paradise or a dystopian wasteland? Through a wide-ranging survey of popular science writing, novels, and films, this first year seminar will examine fictional and nonfictional attempts to imagine the future from the nineteenth century to the present. We will explore everything from futurology and transhumanism to warnings of imminent environmental collapse. Our focus will be less on assessing the accuracy of these predictions and more on determining what they tell us about the hopes and fears of the times in which they were made. The course will culminate in a short research paper on a future-oriented topic of your choosing.


My research focuses on the intersections among environmental humanities, critical theory (including posthumanism, biopolitics, science and technology studies, and critical race theory), and nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature. My first book, Universes without Us: Posthuman Cosmologies in American Literature (Univ. of Minnesota Press), examines cosmologies that challenge the utopianism of both past and present attempts at fusing self and environment. 

ENGL 089H.001 | American Poetry in Motion

MWF, 10:10 am – 11:00 am. Instructor(s): Eliza Richards. Enrollment = 24.
This course focuses on the creative processes involved in writing poetry. We will look at poets’ revisions of their work, their statements about poetry, their letters to and from other writers, and the publication and reception of their poems in their own time. We will concentrate on specific case studies: the manuscripts and letter-poems of the reclusive writer Emily Dickinson; the notebooks, letters, and poems of Walt Whitman that he wrote while tending the wounded in the Civil War hospitals; the poems, manuscripts, and letters of George Moses Horton, who taught himself to read and write and published two books of poetry while enslaved in North Carolina; and the drafts, revisions, and animal drawings of twentieth-century modernist Marianne Moore. The course seeks to develop close reading skills that are crucial for interpreting poetry; to explore how social and cultural conditions both limit and enable poetic expression, and how poets analyze and criticize those conditions; to strengthen writing and oral communication skills; and to develop research skills.


Eliza Richards is Professor of English, with a concentration in American literature before 1900 and American poetry. She has written about Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, the poetry of the US Civil War, and popular women’s poetry. Professor Richards has won awards for teaching on both the graduate and undergraduate level.


GEOL 072H.001 | Field Geology of Eastern California

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Drew Coleman. Enrollment = 20.
Have you ever wanted to stand on a volcano, see a glacier, trace out an earthquake fault, or see the Earth’s oldest living things? This seminar is designed around a one-week field trip to eastern California, where students will study geologic features including active volcanoes, earthquake-producing faults, and evidence for recent glaciation and extreme climate change. Before the field trip (which will take place the week of Fall Break and be based at a research station near Bishop, California), the class will meet twice a week to learn basic geologic principles and to work on developing field research topics. During the field trip students will work on field exercises (e.g. mapping, measuring, and describing an active fault; observing and recording glacial features) and collect data for the research projects. After the field trip, students will obtain laboratory data from samples collected during the trip and test research hypotheses using field and laboratory data. Grading will be based on presentation of group research projects, and on a variety of small projects during the trip (notebook descriptions, mapping projects, etc.). Students may be required to pay some of the costs of the trip (a maximum of about $500.) This course will require missing three days of classes. The course is designed to teach basic geology “on the rocks”, so there are no prerequisites. Link to Yosemite Nature Notes video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5RQp77uVPA


Drew Coleman’s research focuses on understanding how the Earth works by determining the rates of processes (mountain building, extinction, volcanism, etc.) that occurred in the past. To accomplish this he and his students date rocks. His teaching is inquiry based and he is most happy when he is teaching “hands on” in the field or lab.


GLBL 087H.001 | The Migratory Experience

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. Instructor(s): Carmen Huerta-Bapat. Enrollment = 24.
The course will critically analyze the migrant experience in both North America and Europe. Migration is a calculated decision that individuals, families, and groups make in an effort to improve their living conditions. We will adopt an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the motivation of migrants, the nature of the migrant journey to their destination states, and their integration into their new societies. Specifically, we will cover causes of migration in their home country, immigrant incorporation in destination states, and the politics of backlash.


Dr. Huerta holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from UNC-Chapel Hill, a M.A in sociology from UNC-Chapel Hill, and a M.A. in political science from Rice University. Her research agenda takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding how American institutions such as universities, schools and police bureaucracies are working to incorporate underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Her current research explores the impact of micro-aggressions on the lived experience of First-Generation College Students, police behavior toward new Latino migrants in North Carolina during the 2000s, and the social and health impacts associated with the immigration enforcement climate in the U.S. on Latino communities. She draws on her personal experience as a Latina first-generation college student to guide her student-centered teaching philosophy.


HIST 089H.001 | Race and Rights in the American Legal System: The Case of the Japanese American “Internment”

TR, 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm. Instructor(s): Eric Muller. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar introduces students to the workings of the American court system and examines the historical development of the constitutional norm of equal protection of the laws, using one notorious historical episode – the removal and confinement of Japanese Americans in World War II – as its central example.  Rather than presenting constitutional law as a group of static, binding pronouncements, it shows how constitutional principles evolve as a conversation among the branches of the federal government, between the federal and the state governments, and between ordinary citizens and their governments.  Along the way, the seminar offers an overview of the ways in which the law treated Asian immigrants and Asian Americans in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, and poses questions about the legacy of the Japanese American imprisonment for later problems of individual rights and liberties.


Eric L. Muller is Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor of Law in Jurisprudence and Ethics. Muller joined the UNC faculty in the fall of 1998. He has published articles in the Yale Law Journal, the Harvard Law Review, and the University of Chicago Law Review, among many other academic journals. His book “Free to Die for their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters of World War II,” was published in August of 2001 by the University of Chicago Press, and was named one of the Washington Post Book World’s Top Nonfiction Titles of 2001. His second book, “American Inquisition: The Hunt for Japanese American Disloyalty in World War II,” was published by the University of North Carolina Press in October of 2007.  His most recent book, “Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II”, published by the University of North Carolina Press in association with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, was profiled in the New York Times in June of 2012. It won the Joan Patterson Kerr Book Award from the Western History Association in 2013.

From 2008 through 2011, Muller served at the law school as Associate Dean for Faculty Development.  In both 2010 and 2011, he received the Frederick B. McCall Award for Teaching Excellence, voted by the graduating classes.

Muller serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina Press and is a member of the university-level Faculty Executive Committee at UNC-Chapel Hill.

From January of 2012 through December of 2015, Muller served as Director of UNC’s Center for Faculty Excellence, the campus’s faculty development center.


MATH 062H.001 | Combinatorics

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Ivan Cherednik. Enrollment = 20.
A leading expert in Modern Combinatorics wants to share his vision of the subject with the students. The seminar is a perfect background for future specialists in mathematics, physics, computer science, biology, economics, for those who are curious what statistical physics is about, what is cryptography, and how stock market works, and for everyone who likes mathematics.

The course will be organized around the following topics:

  1. Puzzles: dimer covering, magic squares, 36 officers
  2. Combinations: from coin tossing to dice and poker
  3. Fibonacci numbers: rabbits, population growth, etc.
  4. Arithmetic: designs, cyphers, intro to finite fields
  5. Catalan numbers: from playing roulette to stock market

The students will learn about the history of Combinatorics, its connections with the theory of numbers, its fundamental role in the natural sciences and various applications.

It is an advanced research course; all students are expected to participate in projects under the supervision of I.Ch. and the Graduate Research Consultant (the GRC Program). This seminar is partially supported by Honors Carolina.

The grades will be based on the exam, bi-weekly home assignments and the participation in the projects. The course requires focus and effort, but, generally, the students are quite satisfied with the progress they make (and their grades too).

From the Course Evaluation: “A difficult but wholly worthwhile course: I feel more competent for having taken it”, “I would recommend this FYS to others ONLY if they have a VERY strong affinity for and ability in Algebra (I thought I did, but I was wrong)”.


Professor Cherednik is Austin H. Carr Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. Trained at the Steklov Mathematics Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and at Moscow State University, his areas of specialization are Representation Theory, Combinatorics, Number Theory, Harmonic Analysis, and Mathematical Physics. Cherednik’s particular affection for Combinatorics is well known: he proved the celebrated Constant term conjecture in Combinatorics.


PLCY 061H.001 | Policy Entrepreneurship and Public/Private/Non-Profit Partnerships

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Daniel Gitterman. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar will define a policy entrepreneur and examine strategies used by policy entrepreneurs to achieve policy change or innovation in the policy making process. This course also aims to explore ways that public, private, and non-profit sectors collaborate to address problems that cannot be solved by one sector alone. There is growing recognition that sustainable solutions to some of the most complex challenges confronting our communities can benefit from these collaborative or “intersector” approaches.


Daniel P. Gitterman is Thomas Willis Lambeth Distinguished Chair in Public Policy and Director of the Honors Carolina Burch Field Research Seminar in Domestic and International Affairs.

PLCY 076H.001 | Global Health Policy

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. Instructor(s): Benjamin Meier. Enrollment = 24.
Global health policy impacts the health and well being of individuals and peoples throughout the world. Many determinants of health operate at a global level, and many national policies, social practices, and individual health behaviors are structured by global forces. Concern for the spread of infectious diseases, increasing rates of chronic diseases and the effectiveness of health systems to provide quality care are among the daunting challenges to health policy makers.
With profound social, political and economic changes rapidly challenging global health, the aim of this course in Global Health Policy is to provide students with a variety of opportunities to understand the epidemiologic trends in world health, the institutions of global health governance, and the effects of globalization on global and national health policy.
This course provides an introduction to the relationship between international relations, global health policy and public health outcomes. The focus of this course will be on public policy approaches to global health, employing interdisciplinary methodologies to understand selected public health policies, programs, and interventions. Providing a foundation for responding to global health harms, this course will teach students how to apply policy analysis to a wide range of critical issues in global health determinants, interventions, and impacts.


Professor Meier’s interdisciplinary research—at the intersection of international law, public policy, and global health—examines the human rights norms that underlie global health policy.  In teaching UNC courses in Justice in Public Policy, Health & Human Rights, and Global Health Policy, Professor Meier has been awarded the 2011 William C. Friday Award for Excellence in Teaching, the 2013 James M. Johnston Teaching Excellence Award, the 2015 Zachary Taylor Smith Distinguished Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching, and six straight annual awards for Best Teacher in Public Policy.  He received his Ph.D. in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University, his J.D. and LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from Cornell Law School, and his B.A. in Biochemistry from Cornell University.


RELI 073H.001 | From Dragons to Pokemon: Animals in Japanese Myth, Folklore and Religion

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Barbara Ambros. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar examines the cultural construction of animals in Japanese myth, folklore, and religion. We will discuss various kinds of animals: those that occur in the natural world, those that are found in myths and folklore, and those that have appeared in popular media such as animation. We will explore how images of various animals were culturally constructed as tricksters, gods, monsters, or anthropomorphic companions; how animals were ritualized as divine, demonic, or sentient beings in Buddhism, Shinto, and folk religion; and how animals could serve as metaphors that embodied collective ideals or anxieties. Most of our readings will focus on primary and secondary texts from the Japanese tradition (in English), but we will also read theoretical texts on human-animal relationships and historical studies on animals in the larger Asian context. We will also view and analyze several Japanese films, both anime and documentaries, that deal with animals and environmental issues.


Field of specialization: Religions of Asia Research interests: Religions in early modern through contemporary Japan; gender studies; critical animal studies; place and space; and pilgrimage. Fun fact: she holds a third-degree black belt in Shotokan karate and serves as the faculty advisor for the UNC Shotokan Club.