2013 First-year Seminars
Please study the following course descriptions and submit your top six choices using the first-year preference form, which also contains answers to frequently asked questions. For further information or assistance in making your course selection, you may also contact Kate Fashimpaur, Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising.
First-year Seminar Titles
First-year Seminar Descriptions
Great Masterpieces of Western Art (ART 102)
Ellen Hoobler, Assistant Professor of Art History
For thousands of years, people have grappled with the question of “what is art?” and in this course, you will begin to create your own definition. This course looks at a selected number of works and themes from the history of art, from ancient Greece to Andy Warhol. Through readings, videos, class discussions, and at least one trip to a museum, students will learn about both art and history, and be able to talk and write about art more fluently.
Diversity: An Evolutionary Perspective (BIO 108)
Marty Condon, Professor of Biology
What is diversity and why should you care? This course is designed to encourage students to read, discuss, and think about diversity—from a biological perspective. We will examine the diversity of life and life histories. Students will learn about diverse patterns of reproduction (sexual and asexual), gender, and interactions among predators, prey, and parasites within biological communities -- including human populations. We will compare patterns from an evolutionary perspective and discuss implications.
Chemistry of Global Health Issues (CHE 108A)
Cynthia Strong, Professor of Chemistry
Unsafe drinking water, malnutrition, infectious diseases, industrial pollution - these are all serious global health concerns. What is the chemistry behind these problems? How can an understanding of chemistry help us evaluate possible solutions? This course will begin with a basic introduction to chemistry and move into an examination of the chemistry behind global health challenges such as the provision of clean drinking water, the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, and the production of food to feed the world. Intended for non-science majors: no previous experience in chemistry required.
Science, Faith, and Myth: Why do we believe what we believe? (CHE 108B)
Charles Liberko, Professor of Chemistry
Being liberally educated means that we recognize that there are many ways to learn about our world. We will explore the power of broadening our worldview by crossing perceived boundaries such as those between science and belief. We will start by asking: What is Science? How is it really done, and what does it mean to “know something” in science? Can a scientific truth change with time? How does science depend on history, economics, politics, religion, language, or the pedigree of the scientist? What standards do we use to decide what is true or false, right or wrong, good or bad, and do we apply these standards consistently? What does it mean to believe? Is belief only concerned with matters of faith, or does belief show up elsewhere? Is it possible to do science without any belief? How has a misunderstanding of the proper role of science and the nature of science itself led to commonly perpetuated myths? We will explore these questions by using a variety of resources and by considering a broad range of viewpoints. By learning to use the tools provided by the liberal arts we will become academic “myth-busters”.
Classics and the Graphic Novel (CLA 275)
Philip Venticinque, Assistant Professor of Classics
The history, literature, and art of ancient Greece and Rome has inspired and influenced the world of comic books and graphic novels almost from the beginning. Jerry Siegel, the creator of Superman, claimed that Hercules was one of the inspirations behind the Man of Steel in the 1930s. Many comic book heroes have had brushes with classical antiquity, and entire works of classical literature have been re-told as comics, including the Iliad and Odyssey which appeared in Marvel's Classics Comics Series. Frank Miller's 300 and the motion picture it spawned has helped usher in a new period of interaction between classical antiquity and the modern world via graphic novels. But it has not been a period without controversy and questions about modern approaches to antiquity and the use of ancient art, literature, and history to refashion old stories and create new ones. This course will introduce students to the culture of classical antiquity through an examination of select graphic novels (Age of Bronze, 300, and The Sandman among others) paired with the material authors and artists have drawn upon: the History of Herodotus, the epics of Homer and Vergil, and the tragedies of Euripides and Aeschylus. Students will investigate modern reception of ancient texts, the use and reuse of myth and history, and the resulting implications. In addition to exams, essays, and in class writing, students will also be asked to research and develop their own graphic novels based on ancient stories, historical events, and myths in groups.
Markets and Social Networks (ECB 265)
Santhi Hejeebu, Associate Professor of Economics & Business
Networks pervade our tech savvy society. The people in our social networks influence the books we read, the jobs we obtain, the things we buy, and even the viruses that infect us! This course explores the new science of networks. The first half of the class will be focus on mastering the common principles that explain the structure of networks and processes that operate upon them. Students will learn basic mathematical models and play with network data. We aim to answer the following: How do networks affect social, economic, and business behavior? How does an agent's position in a social network advantage or disadvantage that agent? The second half of the class will explore social media networks such as Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube. Working in groups, students will initiate their own social media projects and present their findings to the class.
Foundations of Education (EDU 205)
Kathryn Kauper, Instructor of Education
This course explores the historical, sociological, and philosophical foundations of education. The class will draw upon the broad, theoretical issues of education through a variety of written and discussion-based activities. Particular attention is paid to curriculum theory, the civic and democratic mission of the common schools movement, Dewey and the Progressive Era of schooling, and the current social context of schools. Students are encouraged to critically analyze the purpose of schooling and to further develop their own philosophies of education through reflection and dialogue. No S/U option.
Introduction to Film Studies (ENG 202)
Michelle Mouton, Associate Professor of English
An introduction to film as an art form, cultural practice, and institution. The class focuses on questions of film form and style (narrative, editing, sound, framing, mise-en-scène) and introduces students to concepts in film history and theory (e.g. national cinemas, periods and movements, institution, authorship, spectatorship, ideology, style, genre). Students develop a basic critical vocabulary and research practices for examining film. They apply their skills in oral and written analysis and interpretation to a wide range of films: old and new, local and global, mainstream and less familiar.
Nature Writing: You and Your Environment (ENG 220)
Glenn Freeman, Associate Professor of English
In this class, we will examine our place in our environment. How do humans interact with their world? How should we treat our environment? We will read a variety of authors who confront important issues: agriculture, biodiversity, wilderness conservation, etc. and try to formulate our own opinions about these issues. You will be writing personal essays about the material, studying writing strategies to help you think about the issues and to express your thoughts. You will give and receive peer feedback on your writing throughout the class.
Iowa Geology: The story under your feet (GEO 114)
Emily Walsh, Associate Professor of Geology
Earthquakes, volcanoes, oceans, meteorite impacts, glaciers… in Iowa? Geology may not be the first thing you think of when you think about Iowa, but the geology of Iowa records valuable information about the geological formation and evolution of the Earth. Geologists are not only historians; however, but also detectives who use rocks, minerals, fossils, landforms, and Earth processes to piece together the physical history of the Earth. Because geology is active, the geology of Iowa is still changing today. In fact, as residents of Iowa, you affect the geology of Iowa through your everyday consumer choices. So, what does Iowa geology tell us about Earth’s history? And how do your choices influence the geology of Iowa?
This field- and laboratory-based course is designed to show how you can use your own observations and experimental data to interpret the changing Earth around you. In addition, we will meet and work with students in the first-year sociology course to examine the connections between the physical and social world and to gain insight into the social implications of those everyday consumer choices.
Abraham Lincoln (HIS 120)
Phil Lucas, Professor of History
Today Abraham Lincoln is often ranked among the top three presidents in American history. We often forget that his pre-presidential career was quite undistinguished, and many of his political allies thought he was a failure during the first three years of his presidency. This seminar will look at the life, political career, and ideas of Lincoln to unravel the mysteries behind the legend. No S/U option.
Travelers and the Exotic in the Pre-modern World (HIS 259)
Michelle Herder, Assistant Professor of History
Medieval readers thrilled to the travel tales of Marco Polo, John Mandeville, and others, full of bizarre people, strange customs, and curious creatures. How did these stories influence their ideas about the world around them? What did travelers consider exotic, and how did they explain unfamiliar cultures to their readers? In this course, we’ll read both fictitious and real-life travel accounts from the Middle Ages and the Age of Exploration and examine how such stories shaped the European imagination.
Foundations of Kinesiology (KIN 111)
Ellen Whale, Professor of Kinesiology
Historical and philosophical foundation of physical education. Current issues in research and literature. Biological, physiological, and sociological aspects of sport and exercise.
Opera goes to the Movies: Opera and Film (MUS 109)
James Martin, Professor of Music
The topic of "Opera and Film" has become one of the “hot” areas of scholarship in the past fifteen or so years. Both opera and film use a conglomeration of other constituent arts to create what Richard Wagner called a Gesamtkunstwerk or total artwork. (In fact, many of the first efforts in film were derived from opera and more specifically, Wagner.) My intention with this course is to explore the intersections between opera and film, using theories and practices of both genres, as well as numerous specific examples of the interplay between them.
Introduction to Philosophy (PHI 111)
Genevieve Migely, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Problems of philosophy as they are discussed in the writings of major philosophers, including such topics as the nature of reality, problems with knowledge, morality, and the rationality of religious belief.
International Politics (POL 242)
David Yamanishi, Associate Professor of Politics
How and why states compete and cooperate internationally. Addresses concepts such as the balance of power between states, collective security through treaties and international organizations, nuclear deterrence, and the growing influence of non-Western states. Typically includes historical and current case studies.
Sociological Thinking: Studying Society through Everyday Consumerism (SOC 101)
Erin Davis, Associate Professor of Sociology
Victor Lebow asserted: “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life... The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today is expressed in consumptive terms.”
Life, as we know it, is dependent on the everyday consumption of goods and services; however, our consumptive practices can also have negative social and environmental consequences. Sociology allows us to examine the changing meanings, practices, and social implications of consumption. In this course we will explore the social context surrounding these processes and examine the ways that social forces influence our individual ideas, behaviors, relationships, and place within the social world as well as the ways that we, in turn, impact the world around us. In addition we will meet and work with students in the first-year geology class in order to examine the connections between the social and physical world and to gain scientific insight into the physical processes and environmental implications of consumption.
Hispanics in the US (in English) (SPA 109)
Marcela Ochoa-Shivapour, Associate Professor of Spanish
This course is an interdisciplinary study of Latino/as in the United States (the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority group). The course will provide a foundation on Latino/a identity though a survey of works of US Latino/a writers, thinkers, musicians, politicians, filmmakers, etc. We will discuss the Latino/a experience as a group and as individuals from different perspectives, studying issues of history, race, politics, and culture.
Gender, Power and Patriarchy: An Introduction to Women's Studies (WST 171)
Aparna Thomas, Associate Professor of Politics & Women's
This interdisciplinary core course in Women’s Studies explores a wide range of subjects relevant to women’s lives. It provides the analytical framework for the social construction of gender and the study of gender-defining institutions and its impacts on women. In this course, we will seek to understand the complex and varied locations of women as political and social actors/subjects over time and space.
Through the assigned readings, lectures, class discussions, and films, this course will introduce us to current debates within the field of women’s studies on issues of reproductive health, violence, family, sexuality, globalization, and environment. The course will broaden our understanding and appreciation of gender issues and how they differently impact women and men’s lives across race, class, ethnic, national, and religious locations. The readings in this course will provide students an opportunity to familiarize themselves with current theoretical and ethical debates among feminists. We will conclude the course with imagining future goals and objectives for feminism. The course is also designed to enhance critical thinking, reading and writing skills.