Upper Division Seminars

Two Upper Division Seminars (3 credits each) are required to graduate with Honors. Click for the dropdown menu to see the course description. Western professors can apply to teach an Honors seminar and each year, topics are chosen in a competition like fashion. Each seminar topic is offered no more than once every other year and is exclusive to Honors. Seminars typically have between 10 and 15 students.

Additionally, you can explore past years' seminars by clicking the below button to explore our archive.

Summer 2022

Tristan Goldman, Honors

Fall 2022

Lori Martindale, Honors

In this seminar on specters, ghosts, and hauntings, we will discuss international ghost stories across the arts, literature, legends, and folklore.  We’ll read and listen to classic and obscure authors of the gothic and uncanny, such as works by award winning masters: Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Alice Walker, René Depestre, Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Takako Arai, Shveta Thakrar, Patricia McKissack, Shirley Jackson, Honoré de Balzac, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James, Toni Morrison, Nikolai Gogol, Edgar Allan Poe, and Okamoto Kido.  We’ll listen to folktales from the oral traditions.  We’ll study Painting, Music, early Cinema, Photography, and other hauntings.  The ambiguous figure of the ghost reveals endless possibilities for discussions on uncertainty, liminality, the uncanny, the humorous, unruly tricksters, and the sublime...  But the ghost can be much more - how lived experiences of postcolonial modernity are often haunted by the past, the ghost can be a complex figure of injustice, a historical specter who haunts the present, and more.  Whether they are humorous tricksters, killer phantoms, optical illusions, or uncanny wailings, be ready to get spooked and delve into a variety of stories which spark creative ideas.  Students will work on crafting their own story, as well as a reading journal.  Students then can work on a research paper or creative project for their final project. 

Paul Dunn, Honors

Advances in biomedical technology have introduced new ethical questions into our lives and greatly complicated decision-making with regard to medicine and health care.  The social, political, and economic ramifications of these issues also touch on broader questions of justice, equity, and personal freedom. 

During this course we will become familiar with some of the major debates in biomedical ethics, hone the analytical and critical thinking skills required for understanding, articulating, and evaluating the moral arguments behind them, and become more adept at arguing for our own views on these subjects.  Along the way, we will also be reflecting on what it means to live ethically. 

Some of the questions we will explore in this course include:  

  • Should people have a right to terminate their own lives under certain circumstances, and what obligations should medical doctors have to assist or prevent this?   

  • Should parents be allowed to influence the genetic make-up of their unborn children?   

  • Should we learn everything we can about our individual genetic make-up, regardless of whether we can do anything about it?  Does an individual have an absolute right to privacy regarding such information?   

  • How should limited medical and health care resources be allocated—including in pandemic situations—and what role should individual freedom and personal responsibility have in those considerations?   

In exploring questions like these we will draw on sources from philosophy, the social sciences, and medical literature for a variety of perspectives.  Course requirements will include small weekly writing assignments, class participation, two short papers, and a longer final paper. 

Zander Albertson, Environmental Studies

The American West: for many, the region invokes imaginaries of freedom, individualism, and natural open spaces. For others, Western landscapes are sites of dispossession, resistance, and conflict. The region is undergoing rapid environmental and social change, and is the site of ongoing contests over who and what the region is for. These changes and contests provide opportunities to examine latent meanings, identities, and senses of place that inform conceptions of the region. We will address the following questions:   

  • What and where is the West?   

  • How is it represented in popular culture, and what are the influences of cultural imaginaries and social institutions on the natural landscape?   

  • In what ways does the natural landscape shape these imaginaries and institutions?   

  • How can we make sense of the region’s contemporary struggles over endangered species, justice, resource use, and urbanization?   

This discussion-oriented seminar will examine a range of related issues including economic change, environmental values, water and energy conflicts, individualism and the frontier, private property, and race, class, and gender. We will address the aforementioned questions using a variety of academic sources as well as feature films.   

Daniel Chard, History

Since the tumultuous 2020 presidential elections, followed by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was “stolen” and his supporters’ January 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol, commentators from across the political spectrum have warned that leaders of the Republican Party are preparing to seize political power and institute minority rule at the expense of American democracy. In other words, leaders of the American Right are preparing for a second coup attempt. How did we get here? What is the contemporary American Right? What is this movement’s political agenda? Where did today’s American Right come from? Where is it going?  

This interdisciplinary history seminar will explore these questions through readings in political science and history, including works by historians and historical primary source documents. We will explore current assessments of the American Right from rightwing, liberal, and socialist perspectives and grapple with comparative case studies of coups and authoritarian regimes in other countries. Core readings will examine the history of the American Right and various strains of the conservative movement since World War II, particularly since the 1980 “Reagan Revolution.”   

This course is scheduled for Fall 2022 to coincide with the midterm congressional elections. Class time will center on facilitated student discussion of readings and research complimented with lectures and audiovisual materials. Students will be evaluated on weekly reading response posts, a primary source analysis paper during a week of their choosing (in lieu of a reading post), a synoptic final paper, and their participation in an inclusive, rigorous, and lively seminar.   

Ernest Hartwell, Modern and Classical Languages 

This course stems from the parallel development of cinema and US imperialism, since both phenomena officially debuted in the same era (1895-1898). Students examine understudied films about the Spanish American War and the Philippine American War that take place in the Philippines, but are filmed from three distinct national angles, the Spanish, the US and the Philippine perspectives. Using methods in film studies, history, gender studies, critical race theory, postcolonial studies and Filipino studies, the students explore a series of questions: What is the relationship between cinema and empire? How do discourses about empire change or not, given the technological advances cinema makes over the course of the 20th century? What are the possibilities for capturing history on film? How are race and gender constructed in cinema in the service of empire? How can we read film against the grain? How is radical cinema made? 

Melissa Osborne, Sociology

This seminar will explore the ways in which the social world is explored, reflected, contested, and subverted through games and gaming. As with other forms of media, games can be understood as a reflection of social life that can be engaged and analyzed to better understand the social world and the lived experiences of those within in. The lens of a game provides the player with a new avenue for understanding and thinking through the social world it depicts. In addition, games provide a valuable window into the relationship between rules, constraints, order, and disorder that invite thought about formal, historical, cultural, and sociopolitical dimensions of game and its role as a mechanism for critique and representation in society. 

This class will incorporate reading, discussion, and game play to explore topics like the role and status of games in historical and contemporary society, the development of games across different mediums, how games are situated culturally, the representation and (dis)inclusion of identity in games, game design and social impact, the role of community in game play and development, race, gender, and sexuality within games and the game design world, and the future of game design. Alongside these more structural considerations we will leverage the lens provided by a variety of games in different mediums to explore themes around inequality and stratification, identity formation, race and racism, gender and sexualities, childhood and youth, capitalism and the state, surveillance and social control, forms of violence, resistance, global warming, public health, and immigration. 

Tom Moore, Honors

The relative void left by the diminished influence of Christianity in the late 20th c. opened up new ways of thinking about the transcendent, whether one thinks of it as the sublime, the Brachman, Jehovah, the Way or the great goddess.  Some of the texts we’ll read are T. S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, Hesse’s Siddhartha, and Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies.  As before, we’ll hear speakers representing a variety of religious traditions, including Christianity, Judaism, Zen Buddhism, and others.   We’ll also screen films like Paths of the Soul and look at several of Joseph Campbell’s DVDs from The Power of Myth.    

Anika Tilland-Stafford, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies/ Honors

As climate change challenges food production and globalized systems leave many without land, there exist strong movements where local communities secure food for their people. Food and land rest at the intersections of gender, disability, class, colonialism, and diaspora. The study of food sovereignty movements is therefore intertwined with the efforts of black, indigenous, and migrant communities to create non-exploitative and sustainable food production networks. In order for students to leave this course with concrete ways to support food security in their communities, the term will blend academic study with hosting and visiting communities working for food security and land justice in the local context. Students will have the opportunity to apply their own interest areas to course material and assignments. 

James Hearne, Computer Science

The traditional Chinese world view is characterized by the understanding that the natural, personal, and political worlds form a unity so that human morality and political philosophy correlate with the organization of the cosmos. This view is grounded in what Sinologists term ‘correlative’ thinking, i.e., in viewing the cosmos as systems of correspondence between different realms – our bodies, the cosmos, society, amongst others. We will approach the subject through readings in both the primary and secondary literature in Chinese philosophy and science, as well as a consideration of literature and the visual arts. The course will include digressions into areas of the Chinese tradition that every educated person should know about and enjoy. In a dramatic turn, in the final week of the course, the class we will explore areas of contemporary science that suggest that this traditional mode of thinking might still have intellectual validity. 

Fernando Laso, Environmental Studies

Humans have valued natural resources and the environment for different reasons throughout history. However, the extractive processes and economic activities derived from the dominant value systems have caused widespread environmental degradation and socioeconomic inequalities. In this course, we will use examples from Latin America to explore the dominant (extractive) and the alternative ways humans interact with their environment and acknowledge a plurality of visions for sustainable futures.

350 Credit for ENVS Class

This course is taught by Patrick Buckley within Environmental Studies. Honors will add a note to students' Degree Works to allow this course to count as HNRS 350 credit.

Fall Quarter/Winter Break (4 credits)

Field methods course examining great cities. Concepts and themes in human geography and urban planning provide a framework for the analysis of the human environments and the forces and efforts that shape them. Course is repeatable up to 8 credits; course may only be taken once for each destination.

Major Goal: Explore areas of sustainability in the most isolated and hence dependent urban area on the face of the earth

This course will be organized around the following general themes and visits to institutions and discussions with local experts:  You will explore concepts and themes of sustainability through the triple bottom line the environment, the economy, and the culture. First by learning about the past, then exploring firsthand the present, and finally speculating about what could be the future.

Winter 2023

Christie Scollon, Psychology

Good health is the foundation of optimal functioning.  This course explores the complex interconnections between the micro and macro forces that shape physical and mental health.  The course aims to integrate previously disparate literatures from immunology, neuroscience, public health, nutrition, environmental sciences, sociology, social justice, and political economy.  The interdisciplinary lens highlights the compounding effects of inequality, racism, sexism, and poverty on health disparities and the impacts of global warming on human health.  In this journey, students will encounter new scientific research that challenges current thinking.  As such, the course requires an open mind and active learning.   

Peggy Watt, Journalism

Rights and legal restrictions on the “five freedoms” in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Examines the concepts behind these core constitutional guarantees and their ongoing interpretation through the courts, as well as their implementation in current events. 

Tom Moore, Honors

The 1960’s looks back at this tumultuous decade, which saw the War in Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, and the growth of Feminism all take center stage in American consciousness.  We’ll read books of poetry and protest, see films that reflected the ethos of the times, and listen to the music that your grandparents thought was cool.    

Ryan Castle, Business & Economics

This course will explore the legal and political foundations of the LGBT and Religious civil rights movements. How is this clash manifesting itself in everyday lives as well as behind the scenes with lawyers, judges, and politicians? What are the legal and policy solutions? Students will attempt to answer these questions in class and in research papers. For a solid foundation, we will start with a general overview of the Constitution and Civil Rights laws. With that needed context, we can then dive into the past, present, and future of the Religious and LGBT rights movements, largely from a legal perspective. Class will be structured using the Socratic method with student discussion, interspersed with lecture. Students will learn how to analyze a body of law, to read court decisions and legislative statutes, to create public policy, to communicate professionally, and to challenge their own biases. 

Tim Kowalczyk, Chemistry/Energy Studies

Smart contracts are the engines powering several emerging cultural phenomena, including decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), digital artwork expressed as nonfungible tokens (NFTs), and decentralized finance. These contracts typically reside and operate on a public blockchain. What is a blockchain, anyway? A glorified database? The foundation of a new monetary system? A wasteful environmental crisis in the making? This course aims to bring students from any discipline together to study the evolution of smart contract technologies and to examine popular narratives around the societal, political, and environmental implications of smart contract adoption. Through cross-disciplinary analysis and experiential learning, we will explore the current capabilities and limitations of smart contracts while critically assessing how effectively they are achieving the visions of their developers. 

Jason Brown, Global Humanities and Religions 

Sheila Webb, Journalism  

Charles Patterson, Modern and Classical Languages

Chocolate lovers will probably agree with the scientific name for the cacao plant’s genus: Theobroma, Greek for “food of the gods.” Cacao beans and the delicious product made from them have long had an association with the sacred. For almost just as long, however, people have had moral and ethical concerns about chocolate, even thinking of it as a sinful indulgence. 

In this seminar, we will explore both the sacred and the sinful aspects of chocolate over the centuries. We will begin with its place among the pre-Columbian peoples of Mesoamerica, followed by its mixed reception in early Europe after the Conquest. Then we will explore its development into a coveted commodity in the modern industrialized world. Although our primary focus will be chocolate’s place in history and culture, we will, along the way, also delve into the science, economics, and politics of the world’s favorite dessert. We might even try a few recipes! 

Emily Curtis, Linguistics

How do our behaviors around language, at macro and micro levels, perpetuate marginalization and oppression? How can we amend societal and personal habits to further equity for marginalized groups? Who are linguistically marginalized groups and what d̶o̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ does one do to assert themselves and persist?

This class takes a critical look at linguistic marginalization and reparative actions around the world and in our daily lives, with units on Colonial and Indigenous Languages; Language Policy; Language Death and Revitalization, among others. Students will contribute to class discussions perspectives and insights from their own identities, experiences, and interest areas in addition to readings and mini-research assignments. The final group project is a deeper dive into one language case study -- to include a proposal for actionable promotion of equity in that case. This course is well-suited to those interested in Ethnic Studies, Political Science, History, Languages & Linguistics, Anthropology, and those who value diversity and equity. 

Kevin Covey, Physics/ Astronomy

World-class astronomical observatories sit on high, dry mountaintops, where stars burn brightly in dark, rarely cloudy, and crystal clear skies.  These mountaintops are also typically sensitive ecosystems and significant cultural sites to local indigenous communities, leading to increasing scrutiny of the impacts of astronomical facilities and opposition to new observatory projects.  Currently, the most prominent example of this dynamic centers on Mauna Kea in Hawai'i, where the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has encountered strong opposition due to the project's direct environmental, cultural and political impacts, and its inextricable connection to Hawaii's state government, a product of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and the United States' annexation & colonization of the islands.

In this seminar, we will examine the conflict around the Thirty Meter Telescope project through several lenses, to better understand the factors that motivate supporters and opponents of TMT's construction on Mauna Kea.  We will explore the value systems that inform those views, and the structures that amplify or limit communities power and agency to influence decisions and outcomes related to Mauna Kea's use and status.  This conflict will also provide a roadmap for critically examining the past and simmering conflicts related to the construction and operation of other observatories world-wide.  In addition to weekly readings, the class will schedule interviews with Indiginous Hawaiian, Native American, Chilean and Puerto Rican astronomers & community members to gain perspective and context on the history, present, and future of astronomical observatories in those communities. 

Tesla Monson, Anthropology

By contrasting human biology with possibilities arising in other places and other times, we are able to hold a mirror up to our existence and examine the evolution of humanness in new ways. Science-fiction literature offers us the ideal opportunity for this self-reflection. This seminar-style class will explore human biology and evolutionary themes through a discussion of science-fiction literature in the United States. We will read four popular science-fiction novels throughout the quarter, representing a spectrum of 20th and 21st century authors: Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, Octavia Butler’s Imago, Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, and William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Topics of discussion include forces of evolution, speciation and race concepts, gene-culture coevolution, the fallacy of discrete categories and binaries, the future of human evolution, and the effects of technology on natural selection. As a WP2, grading will rely on discussion, presentations, weekly reflection assignments, and a final paper on themes from the course. 

EJ Colen, English

Since the 1960s when George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead appeared on the scene, America has been obsessed with reanimated corpses. From the 1980s on, dozens of zombie films, novels, and comic books were created. But the history of these horrifying beings vastly predates contemporary times. From the ancient West African spiritual practices to ancient Greeks immobilizing the dead in their coffins so they didn’t climb out of the grave to the 17th century Haitian folklore to the rise of zombie mythology in other cultures and actual medical accounts of the undead, we will explore the foundations of this cultural obsession. In this interdisciplinary literature, film, and theory class we will read, respond to, and analyze a wide range of texts. Beginning with a history of the roots of zombie mythology to looking at the prevalence of films and TV shows depicting various zombie apocalypses, we will study short stories and novels from writers like Nalo Hopkinson, Nana Nkweti, Roxane Gay, Carmen Maria Machado and Ling Ma and view films, both classic and contemporary, in an effort to understand from what fears this cultural phenomenon arises. From slavery and colonialism, to queerness and the AIDS crisis, to capitalism and the digital age, from the fear of the other to the fear of becoming the other, we will study the evolution of metaphorical possibilities of zombie narratives and ask the question has it been in us this whole time?   

Spring 2023

Julie Dugger, English/Honors

The distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction is a slippery and shifting one, with genre fiction maybe best defined as everything that gets a separate name and shelf in the bookstore (mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, Western, horror, etc.). Literary fiction is often described as more culturally significant and less formulaic than genre fiction, but this distinction doesn’t always hold up under examination. Literary fiction can be formulaic, genre fiction maintains a massive cultural presence, works considered insignificant in one period may be defined as canonical in another, and literary and genre writers regularly borrow from one another’s material. So why the separate bookshelves and different assessments of quality?   

This class will examine how we establish a body of literature, a readership, or a set of cultural expectations by considering genre fiction: what it is, what it does, and how it compares to literary fiction. We’ll take a close look as a class at the genres of romance (which is often stereotyped as the lowest of low fiction) and fantasy, including fictional, critical, and contextual readings. We’ll then use these as a starting point for discussions about other genres.   

Writing assignments will include two short papers (one a critical analysis and the other either critical analysis or creative fiction) and a revision of one of these papers as a final. 

Thomas Hummel, Honors

Given the ever-accumulating obligations, deadlines, and commitments that plague our creative and academic lives, it’s difficult to see beyond the project at hand. If only to maintain momentum, we chisel and chase whatever we’re working on, then chisel and chase the next. And so it goes, one by one. 

But as it does, something happens. As we make and accumulate these discrete compositions—each with its own form, subject, and concern—our individual pieces create content that they don’t contain. They give glimpses of unwritten ideas and preoccupations. Just by sheer proximity, our stand-alone pieces combine to shape a larger project. They build our bodies of work. 

This class, as both creative writing workshop and literary seminar, will consider the intricacies, pitfalls, and excitements of developing and understanding our bodies of work. Alongside the critique and creation of original compositions, students will undertake a quarter-long dialogue with a specific artist’s body of work, navigating and dissecting its inner workings. The combination of these pursuits will provide opportunities to identify primary concerns and inquires, determine which forms and methods best serve those concerns, and cultivate new modes of critical assessment. And at the end of our ten weeks, armed with a greater understanding of what our work adds up to, we’ll have a clearer sense of where we want it to go next. 

Marion Brodhagen, Biology

Why study chemical communication?  This course focuses on small molecules that plants use to communicate with each other, with insects and other animals, and with microbes (bacteria and fungi) through the air or through the soil.  It also touches on the organisms that are “eavesdropping” on the chemical conversation.  From a practical point of view, understanding this "chemical language" can (and does) allow biotechnology to exploit these signals, in order to control disease-causing microorganisms and insects.  On a more esoteric note, "eavesdropping" on the chemical conversations of our fellow earthlings allows us to understand them a little better - in terms of ecology, evolution, and molecular biology.  In this course, you’ll learn some plant science, some biochemistry, some microbiology, some molecular biology, some entomology, and some of the technical methods for studying chemical language.  You’ll also meet some of the scientists who do this work.  Student-guided discussions in previous classes included topics like the limitations of anthropocentric views of language and intelligence, whether it is ethical to harm other creatures for science, and what trees can teach us about interconnectedness. 

Melanie Bowers, Political Science/ Honors

Despite decades of work to try to end homelessness, it continues to be an issue in virtually every community in the US.  While many people conceptualize homelessness as a personal problem, the reality is that it is a community-level issue, one that both affects and is affected by larger structural dynamics. US cities play a distinct role in this realm, both because they house the bulk of the nation’s homeless population and because their policies and practices simultaneously help ameliorate and amplify the problem. In this class we will explore homelessness through the lens of the city, investigating how policy, social norms and the urban landscape shape and are shaped by those who reside in them without shelter. Though we will briefly cover the personal drivers of homelessness, this class focuses on community-level dynamics like the history of housing provision in the US, structural determinants of homelessness (housing prices, economic inequality, mass incarceration etc), local policy responses, anti-homeless protest and organizing, and the ways that social entrepreneurs are innovating to address some of the most difficult challenges of our time. This is an inherently interdisciplinary topic and we will take an interdisciplinary approach, with insights from public policy, non-profit/charitable service providers, and academic disciplines like history, urban studies and political science.  In doing this we will ask pressing questions like whether housing should be a right, how personal interest intersects with public interest, and what responsibility housed residents have for those who lack shelter. In many cases, the questions we ask do not have a single, clear answer. Because of this, students should focus on engaging fully in the course, challenging and developing their thinking on these topics in ways that critically assess alternative ideas and participating in the learning community rather than focusing strictly on the “right answer. The course is appropriate for students of all majors and does not assume any prior knowledge of the US housing and homelessness issues.    

Susan Haines, Dance

Methods and practices that examine the relationship of movement and movement ecology for healthy human beings and a healthy environment. The emphasis of this class is on current research about the detrimental effects of our consumerist and sedentary culture, the relationship between body and the environment, the negative effects of diet and fitness culture, and systems of practice for implementing more movement into daily living. Students will analyze how connecting to their physicality, natural environment, and community can support wellness and sustainability. 

We will be investigating varied movement to promote cellular health (*NOT* movement for weight loss or to change body size or shape!) and engaging in outdoor movement and writing experiences that foster a connection to a sense of “place”. The intent of the course is to expand the resources and knowledge of students within a safe, involved, and information-packed environment. 


Sarah Zarrow, History

The events we have now come to call the Holocaust ended in 1945, with the surrender of Germany at the end of World War Two. The reverberations of the Holocaust, however, are felt to the present day. This course opens up exploration of the many ways—legal, personal, artistic—that individuals, families, communities, and states reckoned with the Holocaust and its legacy. 

How (and when, and under what circumstances) did humankind grapple with the events of the Holocaust? How did Jews look back on their past while building new lives? How did states reckon with the need to ensure against future genocides? How did those complicit in the Holocaust—and their families—grapple with responsibility? 

This course examines these questions and more. Beginning with the immediate postwar years, we will examine the various ways different communities and states came to grips with—or avoided—the Holocaust, and what meanings they brought to the process of coming to terms. 


Cornelius Partsch, Modern and Classical Languages

Moved by a drawn-out, bloody civil war in Syria, Chancellor Angela Merkel, in 2015, attempted to gather support for Germany absorbing larger numbers of immigrants by asserting “we can do this!”  Germany permitted about one million refugees to enter in the following year, although many were subsequently denied refugee status. Germany attempted to establish a political, as well as a sociocultural framework for “integration” and “welcome,” which is now viewed as an important, if imperfect, model for a European refugee policy. Still to this day, the Mediterranean Sea is among the world's hotly contested, obsessively controlled, and often dangerous borders. Every day, unauthorized migrants and refugees bound for Europe put their lives in the hands of maritime smugglers. 

This course examines the refugee crisis in and around the Mediterranean, southern Europe, as well as the situation in Germany, as a case study for issues that are relevant and urgent in many countries around the world, such as immigration policy, enforcement, the economics of immigration and migrant labor, activism, integration, cultural identity, nativism, and racism. Thus, multiple perspectives, comparisons, and multiple disciplines will inform the work to be done in the course. It has been suggested that today we live in a new nomadic age, an age of global movement and migration. Students in this course will gain an understanding of the three major routes across (and around) the Mediterranean by examining the reasons for undertaking the perilous journey - which are highly varied -, the experience of migration, and the bureaucratic process asylum seekers and immigrants have to navigate after having arrived in Germany. Students will be engaged in assessing the influence of political ideologies, social organization, and cultural perceptions on the issue of immigration and in analyzing and interpreting fictional representations as well as non-fictional discourse. The course will raise and address ethical questions of complicity, in political, narrative, and personal terms. 

Georgianne Connell, Biology

The problems facing our world today demand that we communicate scientific findings in an accessible way to the public. This seminar will explore scientific illustration as an avenue of accessible dissemination. Scientific illustration techniques will be introduced and practiced throughout the 10-week quarter utilizing specimens from Animalia, Plantae, and Protista. Students will learn about the life history of various species and the role they play in world issues. Compound and dissection microscopes will be used as a tool to enhance scale and detail during studio sessions. In addition, the class will evaluate and discuss examples of modern-day scientific illustration. As a culminating project, students will select a scientific topic which will serve as the theme for an art project that they will present to non-science major students at WWU. Course open to major and non-science majors. A background in art is not required, beginners welcome.  

John Harris, Journalism

This seminar will examine iconic visual images — both still and video— and the role they have played in American history. These will include images produced by both citizens and professional journalists. The seminar will take a narrative approach, starting with photos from Civil War battlefields and will culminate with the citizen-produced video of George Floyd’s murder, for which the teenager who made it earned a Special Citation from the Pulitzer Prizes. Along the way we will consider images from politics, conflict, sports, entertainment and more. Students will come away with a better historical context for the imagery they see today, and hence an expanded visual literacy. 

Katherine Anderson, English

Since its beginnings in Gothic literature, the horror genre has been devalued as an art form, dismissed as a source of cheap thrills and creepy voyeurism. Yet to categorize horror as pure (and trashy) entertainment that lacks deep cultural value would be to make a serious error. This class examines the horror genre as an iteration of the Gothic and a valuable signifier of social anxieties and cultural critique, particularly in relation to constructions of embodied selfhood and identity. Analyzing a variety of films from Hollywood’s B-movies and slasher films to global iterations of arthouse cinema (and a few written texts), we’ll interrogate representations of gender and sexualities, race and ethnicity, class, youth culture, religion, immigration, and more, in relation to the ethics of horror creation and consumption. Some of the questions we’ll consider include: Which cultural fears and anxieties does horror engage and why? When, how, and why does horror transgress or uphold cultural norms? How, if at all, does horror change its shape and its cultural fears or preoccupations across space/place and time, and conversely, how has it stayed the same throughout its many forms and cultural histories? What does horror have to do with the body? Why does horror both frighten and fascinate us? Ultimately, what can horror teach us about ourselves?   

Jerry Ek, Anthropology

The goal of this course is to examine the factors that promote and inhibit the long-term sustainability of human societies. This seminar will provide students with an introduction to the interdisciplinary fields of sustainability and resilience science, and examine the reciprocal relationship between social and environmental dynamics.  The course will draw upon a broad range of theories, concepts, and perspectives useful for modelling human-environmental dynamics, including ecology, anthropology, archaeology, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), geography, philosophy, and folklore.   

As defined here Sustainability is the capacity of any system or society to continue basic functions, practices or lifeways indefinitely. Resilience is the ability of a system (social, ecological, etc.) to withstand disturbances and thrive in the face of change. These two concepts represent both academic interests as well as key modern social, economic, and environmental goals: to create societies that enhance, rather than degrade, the world around them, and that in turn that can withstand inevitable instabilities and disjunctions from environmental, social, and technological change. The course will encourage students to adopt a holistic view, as sustainability and resilience thinking requires consideration of entire ‘systems.’ This includes understanding dynamics in complex systems based on quantitative and qualitative data, fact-based decision-making, and the ability to work with and consider the needs of diverse stakeholder groups. This course will adopt a very broad and holistic approach to the topic, ranging from theoretical frameworks to model sustainability and resilience to specific modern, historical, and ancient case studies. 

Bill Lonneman, Nursing

“Bioethical questions often involve overlapping concerns from diverse fields of study including life sciences, biotechnology, public health, medicine, public policy, law, philosophy and theology. They arise in clinical, research, and political arenas, usually in response to advances in biology, health care, and technology, particularly biotechnology.”   -- Johns Hopkins, Berman Institute of Bioethics, 2022 

This course will take a wholistic, interdisciplinary view of bioethics and will include the following topics:  an introduction to ethical concepts from various traditions and reflection on how our individual “ethical codes” are constructed (ethical literacy); a review of history relevant to bioethics from the late 19th century into the present day;  a look at the bioethical principles and various ethical codes and standards of practice that arose in the last 70 years; processes for applying bioethical principles (ethical decision making); current issues as well as what is on the horizon (including such areas as pandemic response, Ethics Committees, Death with Dignity, genetic engineering, equitable access to interventions and therapies, etc.); and consideration of the effects of ethical dilemmas, including conscientious objection and moral distress.   No prior knowledge or courses in ethics or philosophy is required; all are welcome!