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Spark Seminars Spring 2020

Students will be able to enroll in one of these seminars to fulfill the SPARK General Education Requirement. *For first year students beginning Fall 2019. (Updated 12/04/19)

Archaeology in Popular Culture

Taught by: TBD

This course in the field of archaeology interfaces with science, history, and popular culture. The goal is to encourage critical thinking and teach students the social context of the discipline of archaeology. It incorporates components of reading, writing, and basic research and library skills. It will examine how archaeology is presented to the general public, explore the myths about archaeology, and archaeologists, and contrast these popular constructs with archaeological realities. It provides an overview of archaeological epistemologies including basic archaeological history, theories, methods, and practices including the ways in which data are recognized, recovered, analyzed, interpreted, and presented. By taking this approach the course seeks to encourage better consumers of not just archaeological media but of all media by teaching critical thinking skills. Students analyze public representations by evaluating the sender, the media, and the message. The course also encourages an appreciation of historic preservation efforts and hopes to instill in the students a proprietary sense so that they will take a proactive stance in the stewardship of the faint, fragile and irreplaceable archaeological record.

Art of Attention 

Taught by: TBD

To pay attention or not to pay attention: In a digital world, is a machine more attentive or intuitive than we are? To what extent are we doing our own thinking? What do we pay attention to or ignore, and how in control are we of noticing and of the present moment? What happens when data points are created for us? For how long can we pay attention to what? What do we do with our attention? In this seminar, we will examine how the artist -- in a larger, general sense -- examines and enacts art through the everyday "work" of art, in large part noticing as someone who intends to live and invent meaning not yet created. In contrast, we will also examine how the internet and advertising culture, or as one writer on the subject puts it, how "the attention merchants" buy and sell our attention. Throughout this course, we will seek to answer questions on what our attention is, how it is crafted, and how we can become more aware and craft it to be creative thinkers, individuals, and scholars -- or how we can enact the everyday work of art and noticing in our personal and academic lives.

Art as Social Activism 

Taught by: TBD

In this course, you will explore the ways that artists use visual composition to shed light on issues of social inequality. You will develop and refine strategies for understanding text and performance using a variety of research methodologies while improving your ability to communicate through various genres of expression. To accomplish these goals, you will read historical studies of activist art, view documentaries that engage in mixed methods research, survey and analyze works of activist art and music, and research an important figure in the social justice movement, gathering data for qualitative and quantitative analysis. You will also attend gallery and/or performance events and engage in research activities such as taking field notes, writing analytic memos, and compiling field reports. Your research will culminate with written, verbal, and visual components.

Art of Buddhism

Taught by: Karl Ryavec

This seminar examines the main themes in Buddhist art that was created across Asian cultures from its birthplace in South Asia to Southeast and East Asia. The main focus will be on classic depictions of the Buddha and related persons and deities during the Classical to Medieval periods, such as in statues and paintings. Short weekly essays will be required on students’ interpretation of how Buddhist art related to its historical and social context, and the cultural landscapes where it was produced. Class discussions will revolve around the weekly readings. The main goal of the seminar is to introduce freshman to the importance attached to discussing and writing in academia, and to help students develop and improve their own writing styles through feedback on the weekly essays.

Arts of Memory

Taught by: Weisong Gao

The study of remembering and forgetting is a historical, affective, and political project. To remember is to excavate and collect a happening from the running timeline to "keep it in mind," and to forget is to nail an event to its historical moment and never let it rebound to our consciousness. Yet as we try to forget, certain things in the past keep haunting back in forms of trauma, terror, ghost or melancholy. And as we try to remember, their loss renders us in a state of feeling self-doubt, depressed, or failure. In this course, we will study different forms of arts including literature, films, photography, performances that take up central questions of memory and loss, nostalgia and self-discovery, temporality and spatiality, longing and belonging, complicated by issues of gender, sexuality, race, and immigration. We will grapple with questions such as: how does the (in)ability to remember or to forget transform one's lived experience of cultural, intellectual, and emotional undertakings? What roles do remembering and forgetting play in our everyday life and in thinking about a different world?

Belief in Conspiracy Theories

Taught by: Stephen Nicholson

In this seminar, we examine why people believe in conspiracy theories and misinformation. We ask why people hold and/or spread conspiratorial beliefs, who is most likely to hold such beliefs, and why people persist in maintaining these beliefs even when presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Lastly, we ask what, if any, are the consequences of holding conspiratorial beliefs. The seminar will approach these questions drawing on research from political science and psychology.

Big Sugar

Taught by: Stephen Wooding

Sugar consumption is skyrocketing, and no wonder - it tastes great, it feels great, it's convenient, and it's inexpensive. Unfortunately, these pleasures come at a cost. Sugar packed products are displacing healthy foods, overeating is rampant, and obesity rates are soaring. How did we get to this point? What can we do? Big Sugar takes on the challenge using the multidisciplinary tools of public health research. Beginning with an investigation of the origins of the sugar cane plant, its biology, and its use by ancient peoples, we will move toward an understanding of sugar's place in modern life. We will explore the biology of taste perception, the starting point of sugar's pleasure, and taste's surprising roles in our bodies' responses to sugar as we eat. We will probe the nutritional effects of sugar consumption (it isn't always bad) and the impact of its prominence in our daily diets. And we will delve into the social landscape of sugar consumption, including the success of business strategies for promoting it, government strategies for reducing it, and the significance of community structure and home economics to both. Throughout the course we will question assumptions and sugar myths: Is sugar always bad? Can it boost your energy level? Is it responsible for disease? Is natural sugar safer than processed sugar? Together we will find out.

Community Mapping

Taught by: Mary Soltis

A key to understanding the intricacies of any community happens through exploration and interaction. In this seminar, students will have opportunities to interact with community members through Community Mapping, an inquiry-based method of collecting, analyzing, and understanding resources and artifacts within a chosen community. Students will become “mappers” to discover, gather, and analyze a variety of resources in a specific geographic location while developing a new understanding of the cultural practices and those resources that make up the community. Students will learn and use various mapping techniques, and in collaboration with community partners, will develop research questions within their field of study to better understand the challenges that communities experience.

Confronting the Urban Century

Taught by: Tommy Tran

By the middle of this century, the majority of the world's population will be living in urban or urbanizing regions for the first time in world history. Aside from serious environmental fallout, which we are already experiencing in the form of air pollution and water and soil contamination, the demographic shift brings many new uncomfortable realities such as heightened economic inequality and rising social tensions. How are we to prepare ourselves for this new reality and confront the many challenges that will come in the next few decades? How can we develop our own creative solutions to address the failures of urban development? What kind of cities do we want to live in? This introduces students to the various interdisciplinary possibilities for studying and researching cities from traditional archival and library research to more recent applications of historical scholarship, cultural geography, GIS (geographic information systems), and urban studies. This course also invites students of all backgrounds to consider how to best use their own experiences and majors to contribute to the ongoing urban debates.

The Creative Process

Taught by: Christopher Viney 

Technological innovation and artistic creativity are rooted in common ground. We will explore how successful engineers, scientists and artists, from various cultures and at different points throughout history, transformed society by communicating and/or implementing good ideas. We will learn techniques for maximizing inspiration, with a particular focus on the inspiration provided by nature. We will practice essential library and internet skills for collecting and organizing the background information needed to support creative projects. The roles of peer-reviewed publication, copyright, and patents in protecting intellectual property will also be addressed. Assignments will include identifying everyday irritations that might be solved by a simple gadget or a clear message, and then devising solutions that are communicated through discussion, writing and digital photography.

Criminality and the Detective

Taught by: Ryan Page

In this course, students will read and analyze works encompassing the history of the detective fiction genre and its precursors, from the eighteenth century to the present. In examining these texts, we will be exploring the historical development of this generic cultural form, studying the components of this form, and especially considering the target audience or readership for such works. Students will then be asked to contextualize these fictional narratives by researching the historical circumstances surrounding the production of such works, including the development of modern law enforcement agencies, actual criminal cases, and the evolution of sociological theories about crime and criminals. Given the continuing popularity of the detection crime genre in contemporary media, we will obviously be addressing the reasons for the success and durability of these sort of stories, but the particular focus of our work in this course will be on the nature and attributes of the criminal (the detective's nemesis) in the genre. How, in the very particular species of crime fiction called the detective story, is criminality envisioned, in terms of class, gender, ethnicity, and volition? What is the relation of these features of the criminal to the detective? Or to the reader? Or, especially interestingly, to the projection of the author? As G. K. Chesterton once claimed, "the criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic."

Cybersecurity and Data Privacy 

Taught by: Lisa Yeo

This seminar will introduce you to the issues of cybersecurity and data privacy as they relate to individuals, organizations, and society. We will begin with a survey of relevant literature, identify new areas for examining cybersecurity and data privacy, develop individual research projects, and share our findings with each other. You should develop not only an awareness of the role technology plays in our lives, but also develop strategies to make informed decisions about the use of data in organizations.

Discourses of Normalcy 

Taught by: TBD

In this course students will explore the construction and representation of diverse identities, by questioning the cultural, social, political and scientific depictions of difference to establish what is "normal". Through texts and images, including popular films, students will gain a better understanding of the relationships between race, ethnicity, gender and disability as these identities are influenced by labels and standards. In addition, students will consider how these norms may marginalize individuals and groups. Students, by engaging with different disciplinary approaches to the concept of identity, will actively participate in discovering and confronting the problematic nature of their own identities.

Dungeons & Dragons Skills IRL?

Taught by: TBD

In this course, you will learn how to generate research questions related to role-playing games, utilizing Dungeons & Dragons as a focus, practice strategies for understanding texts and rules systems, how role-playing games develop collaboration, how to use composition as a tool for exploring and learning, methods for improving your ability to write successful academic papers on any subject, applications for mental health, and improve oral delivery skills. To accomplish these goals, you will examine Dungeons & Dragons and articles about it, keep up with contemporary news regarding Dungeons & Dragons, be aware of skills developed through Dungeons & Dragons, and use collaborative play and narrative generation as a method for learning. In addition, a consistent and constant concern throughout the class will be the skills that role-playing games develop that can be deployed in academia.

The Dynamic Aesthetic 

Taught by: TBD

How do you take an idea from conception to live performance? How can sensation inspire the genesis of a creative work? How does this work evolve during the incubation stage? In this course, we will investigate the dynamic aesthetic experience by examining a wide range of sources (plays, poems, interviews, live performances, performance art, short films, plastic arts, video archives, diaries, and articles) in order to both produce original creative material (micro-plays and poems), and to subsequently perform these works. There will be a dual focus on theater and poetry, with an emphasis on creative inquiry as praxis. We will also examine various methods of synthesizing research into a creative work. During the semester, we will draw inspiration from primary and secondary sources as well as conduct field research to create original work. In addition, since both playwriting and poetry are forms of oral art, we will explore oral interpretation and phonology to sensitize you to the textures of human language that are more pronounced in the human voice than in the written word.

The Economics of Globalization

Taught by: Jesus Sandoval-Hernandez

Economic Globalization is broadly defined as the interdependence of world economies resulting from the growing scale trade of commodities and services, international capitals flows, and rapid spread of technologies. For more than fifty years, the process of globalization has profoundly changed national economies and international relations. Globalization has enabled many regions of the world to emerge from underdevelopment, as well to boost world production and lower prices. However, recent political developments in several parts of the world suggest a backlash against globalization. The rise of nationalistic movements constitutes a trend towards more protectionism and isolationism. The debate on the economic benefits of this process and on its negative effects has been a constant in the past, but recently has intensified. The course provides with an introduction to key aspects of economic development and basic economic analysis to explain the globalization phenomena. We will review the past waves of economic globalization and their setbacks to understand the current globalization process. Then, we will study these aspects of economic globalization: global trade, international financial integration, foreign direct investment, the role of multinational corporations, regional agreements, and international institutions. Students will examine real-world case studies which illustrate international market integration. Students will also be exposed to Economics methodological tools. This Spark Seminar will challenge students to discover the global chain of economic relationships that affect their everyday lives. What they will find is that their daily milk involves a lot more than just cows and that their Smart Phones are incredibly multicultural. The course will encourage students to critically advance the globalization debate beyond the talking points of “globalists” and nationalists.”

Economics of Innovation

Taught by: Justin Hicks

You will be introduced to fundamental ideas of economic tradeoffs, costs and benefits, and value creation. We will then journey into how entrepreneurs convert ideas into salable actions or products, and how capitalism puts into place real incentives to innovate to try to produce profits. We'll talk about economic measures and the goals that policy makers put into place, and the intended versus unintended consequences. We'll talk about economic growth and how natural resources are viewed and used as a result of prior schools of thought and resulting policies. Finally, we'll delve into why new ideas come into being, and how those new ideas flow around the globe, much like a neural network. This will set the stage to talk about how innovation can be classified, and whether innovation is a fluid phenomenon or rather, a step-wise phenomenon.

Economics Through Sports

Taught by: Jason Lee

Economics is about how individuals and firms make decisions under uncertainty and scarcity. Sports provide a rich variety of examples and data that can be used to test existing economic theories. This Spark Seminar will introduce students to a selection of research topics in economics that use sports as a laboratory and introduce students to the rich data sets available in sports. Some of the topics to be discussed include how player salaries are determined and how they relate to player productivity, a look at wage discrimination in sports based on race and gender, the costs and benefits to cities in building sports stadiums or hosting major sporting events, and examining the value of college athletic programs to both the university and student athletes.

Education and Democracy

Taught by: Toby Napoletano

The philosopher John Dewey argued that the function of an educational system is to reproduce and to improve on the values and culture of a society. This function is particularly important in a democracy, where the citizens play a very direct role in shaping the political landscape of that society. Given this important function of education, what does a good education look like? To what extent do our current educational institutions line up with an ideal education? What should we do differently? This class will explore these questions, critically examining the relationship between education and democracy, and the state of our current educational system. One assignment for this course will have students develop a core curriculum proposal for grade school, high school, or college.

Education and Identity 

Taught by: TBD

This class will explore the intersections between learning and identity formation. Specifically, it will inquire how our desire to learn transforms our sense of self. We will learn how to generate research questions based on our learning experiences at UCM and through considering how cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic background shape these experiences. 
Some questions we will explore to generate research topics are: Who are we in the classroom? Who are we outside the classroom? What, if any, is the gap between these two identities? Which one feels more authentic and why? 
We will read essays, short fiction, theories of the self, and watch short documentaries about people who have been challenged to feel a sense of belonging in higher education as a means to investigate how desire bridges this gap. Desire in this context refers to the human drive to feel “complete.”

Energy Future

Taught by: TBD

The primary objectives are to learn how to formulate questions about energy production and consumption scenarios, how to use simple physics and existing data sources to develop models to answer those questions, how to think and write clearly and logically about energy (or anything else), and how to work cooperatively to achieve important goals. To achieve these, you will read about energy production and consumption and design questions regarding future energy scenarios; work in small teams to develop simple quantitative models to answer those questions and write short reports on the basis, logic, and results of each model; form teams that represent competing interests and debate future energy scenarios; collaborate with the entire class to write a document that uses the results of the models and the debate to assess various scenarios and recommend a plan of action.

Engineering Inspired by Nature

Taught by: Sachin Goyal

If birds didn't exist, would engineers ever conceive of inventing a plane? Nature has evolved over geological time scales to achieve such intriguing mechanisms that engineers strive to learn from even today to develop new technologies. In this seminar course, you will brainstorm and investigate how nature can inspire engineering research. We will explore cutting-edge examples of such research from within UC Merced and beyond. Can we surpass nature in our engineering designs? Do we really understand how nature has solved a specific engineering problem? These are the types of questions that we will debate in the context of those research examples.

Flesh and Bone: Forensic Science

Taught by: Christina Torres-Rouff

This course is an introduction to the broad and varied fields in the forensic sciences with an emphasis on forensic anthropology – the application of the theory and methods of biological anthropology to the legal setting. Students will be introduced to human osteology, the techniques and underlying theory used by anthropologists to recover skeletal remains, reconstruct a biological profile from the skeleton, interpret skeletal trauma, and assist in the identification process as well as developing an introductory understanding of the forensic setting. We will highlight the integration of this osteological evidence with other forensic disciplines related to human identification and death investigation, including crime scene investigation, forensic pathology, odontology, entomology and other lab-based forensic science fields.

Gaming the System

Taught by: Heather Devirck

Games are nearly cultural universals. This course examines the cultural and historical background of games with an emphasis on game development and play in contemporary Western Culture. The course will also introduce students to theories of game play and its importance in the human experience. Students will examine various game genres and styles of game play, such as such as tabletop, role-playing, and video games. Students will also consider how game goals reflect cultural values. The course will require the analysis and deconstruction of games from a variety of critical perspectives. Students will also collaboratively research and design their own game.

Immigrant Lives in Art and Film

Taught by: TBD

This course will use art as a vehicle to explore the debate on US immigration, and examine the crucial role this issue has played in American politics. We will read short selections of immigrant memoirs, look at relevant art pieces, and view select films. The course will examine how personal life stories--as captured in art--can be the vehicle for larger social debate and change. In reading and watching texts from different time periods, students will gain an understanding of the history of American immigration, which can better inform our understanding of the current debate. In the course, we will debate issues of citizenship and the American identity, cultural conflicts and stereotyping, and discuss how race, ethnicity, and gender have factored into this debate.

Implicit Experience 

Taught by: Jason Emory

Humans often live with the assumption that our experiences, attitudes, and behaviors are the result of very explicit conscious thought processes. There is now a vast literature across a variety of fields that suggests much of our understanding of the world is the result of implicit unconscious processes that are outside of our explicit control or awareness. In-class discussions will center around exploring ways in which unconscious thought processes can help foster a deeper appreciation of topics such as art and politics (among others). Weekly readings, as well as multimedia and other in-class demonstrations, will serve to reinforce topics of discussion. Students will complete a research paper over the course of the semester in which they will perform independent research on a topic of interest that can be viewed through the lens of research in implicit thought processes. The course will conclude with an oral presentation to the class detailing the contents of their research paper.

The Machine Learning Age

Taught by: Jeff Yoshimi

Data science and machine learning have become pervasive features of our lives, playing a role in determining what we watch and listen to, how we deliberate, who our friends are, and in many ways, how we think. This seminar aims to empower you to understand these technologies and reason about them using the tools of moral and political philosophy. The first two thirds of the course will be a practical overview: we will get in the lab and start building machine learning models using the computer language Python. No programming ability or mathematical background will be required, but fluency with computers and technology will be extremely helpful. The last third of the course will involve reading theoretical material about data ethics, machine learning ethics, and AI ethics. The course will culminate in a project that will involve creating a machine learning model and data analysis, writing up a description of the model, assessing moral and political implications of models of this kind, and presenting the results in a brief presentation.

Medical Physics

Taught by: TBD

In this course you will learn the the physical details of recent advancements in modern physics, and their impacts on medicine, biology, and public health policy. You will also learn about the fundamental physics mechanisms underlying these breakthroughs, ways in which to quantify and analyze those mechanisms, and techniques and approaches for synthesizing these details to make meaningful quantitative predictions. These new perspectives will encourage you to ask important questions and will help you develop research questions that are important to your career and academic goals. To accomplish this you will read assigned basic physics and science literature from medical physics, biomedical and health journals, and other sources as appropriate, all of which will directly demonstrate the applications of these science advancements to modern medicine. In particular you will explore the new treatment protocols and diagnostic procedures that have resulted from these advancements. You will watch animations and simulations of the applications of important medical physics and biomedical advancements and their impacts in diagnoses and imaging, and longevity of the population. Summarizing through composition, and oral presentations, you will develop and improve your ability for research, scholarly writing, and critical thinking and you will enhance your ability to identify the interdisciplinary nature of science, technology, and applications to modern medicine in particular and modern life in general.

On Meritocracy

Taught by: Toby Napoletano 

It is often assumed that our society is broadly meritocratic--the smartest, most talented, and most hardworking are the ones who are the most successful. It is often assumed, further, that this meritocratic arrangement is a good thing. But are these assumptions true? How well do our economic and educational systems select for merit? What is merit in the first place, and would a true meritocracy even be a good thing? This seminar aims to critically examine these questions, confronting philosophical questions concerning the nature and value of merit, in additional to empirical questions concerning our economic and educational institutions. We will look critically as a group at the meritocratic policies that have directly affected our own lives, and to the extent that luck or structural systems interact with these meritocratic principles. This may involve looking at policy documents for places of work, schools, or other extra-curricular activities we have had involvement in, as well as procedures for determining local positions of political power.

Planet or Plastic?

Taught by: De Ette Silbaugh

National Geographic published an expose in June, 2018, titled " Planet or Plastic?" and since has created podcasts that dive deeper into this argument. We will use these texts as a starting point to look into the plastic explosion that is overtaking our world. We will verify the facts, explore the social consequences, question the economics, research various approaches to resolution, and consider solutions both past and present. All to bring us to the question: Planet or Plastic? Do we have to choose? Note: Natl Geog after publishing this article pledged to wrap their magazine in recycled paper instead of plastic. This eliminated 30 million plastic bags a year. Easy, yes, question, why did it take so long?

Politics of Political Reform

Taught by: Nathan Monroe

Political reform is an important and many times necessary approach to solving inefficiencies of government. However, the consequences of such reforms are not always straight forward. Reforms sometimes fail to meet their objectives and often manifest unintended consequences that can be worse than the original problem the reform was intended to solve. This class is designed to help students engage in understanding political reform from a systematic, analytical evaluation of political reforms.

Unleashing the Power of Teams 

Taught by: Emily Langdon

Leadership trainers and management textbooks often quote Margaret Mead when promoting group work and collaboration: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. However, anyone who has tried to get something done in a group knows there are plenty of doubts about the efficiency and effectiveness of teamwork and groups projects.

The ability to work effectively in groups is a critical skill in the 21st century workforce. “At best, IQ contributes about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces” (Goleman, 1995, p.34). These other forces are sometimes referred to as “soft skills” and include ways to manage people, relationships, teams and groups to positively impact the organization.

This seminar will take a multidisciplinary look at teams and group work, including scholarship from psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science and management to better understand how tasks can be accomplished and change can be created by people working together.

Students will learn basic tenets of qualitative research (participant observation) to ask and answer a research question about the nature of groups. In addition to studying other groups, students will self-assess their teamwork skills and strive to increase their own capacity for teamwork, a highly regarded skill in the world of work.

Pursuit of Happiness

Taught by: Eileen Camfield 

While stated as a fundamental objective in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, happiness remains elusive for many people. This course will examine the interplay between private and public happiness by looking briefly at the history and definitions of our modern concept of happiness, examining recent work in fields ranging from psychology to economics, observing current social trends, and engaging with film and literature. Simultaneous to this reading, students will document various aspects of their own happiness. Through this study, we will explore ways to maximize happiness – through self-knowledge, positive emotions, community, meaningful work, wellness, play, and public life. Students will reflect on and extrapolate from this material to design a specific “happiness plan” for their own lives.

Renewable Energy Facts & Applications

Taught by: Abbas Ghassemi

This course introduces the key concepts of renewable energy technologies focusing on wind, solar, bio-based fuels and geothermal resources. The focus will be on technology, the system and its design, as well as conversion and storage devices for renewable energy sources. This course will assess both current and potential future energy systems. It will cover the quality, availability, use, innovation, extraction and conversion of resources, emphasizing meeting regional and global energy needs for the 21st century in a sustainable manner. The overall educational objective is to demonstrate multi-disciplinary, strategic thinking in a sustainable developmental context considering diverse constraints. You will learn how to conduct research, interact with one another as a team, ask questions, and identify/communicate strategies. Additionally, you will develop a team based quantitative framework to aid in the evaluation and analysis of energy technology systems in the contexts of engineering, political, social, economic, and environmental goals.

Skateboarding (Sub)Culture(s)

Taught by: TBD

Skateboarding has grown into a global cultural phenomenon in the decades since 1950s-era California surfers removed the handlebars from fruit-crate scooters to simulate the action of riding waves on concrete and asphalt. This course examines and interrogates the now-global phenomenon of modern skateboarding through multiple modes of academic disciplinary focus. At once a mode of transportation, a sport, an artform, a lifestyle, a creed, and both a socially acceptable and unacceptable (or even illegal) activity depending on where it takes place, skateboarding nevertheless cannot comfortably be described as any of these things in isolation; it defies easy categorization and explanation. Skateboarding sits at the nexus of several fields of intellectual inquiry -- among them applied mathematics, architecture, art, business, cultural studies, economics, gender studies, materials science, mechanical engineering, medicine, physics, psychology, public administration, public health, sociology, sports science, and urban planning -- and therefore provides a rich field for students in STEAM orientations (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) to study. Students will practice university-level academic research keyed to their own specific disciplinary interests while examining the same general topic from multiple, varied perspectives and angles of focus.

The Value of Music

Taught by: Jayson Beaster-Jones

This course explores the cognitive, social, and psychological values of music for people all over the world. We will engage with musical performance and reception in a variety of local, national, and international contexts. These will include religious and social rituals, multimedia products (such as films, podcasts, and video games), and in social-biological reproduction. Students in this course will come to recognize how music is much more than entertainment: it is a fundamental component of the human experience.

Violence in Spanish Films

Taught by: Ignacio López-Calvo

This course will focus on the representations of violence in film from and about Spain. We will consider the following types of violence: 1) war, including but not limited to the Spanish Civil War; 2) torture and other state-sanctioned violence; 3) children and violence; 4) gender violence; 5) terrorism; 6) violence as spectacle; and civilization as violence. Another primary objective of the course is to introduce students to major directors in the history of Spanish film.

Who's Laughing?

Taught by: TBD

In this course, we will explore humor as a topic of academic inquiry by asking questions like, when is a joke not funny? Who does this joke negatively impact? What beliefs, stereotypes, or practices does a joke perpetuate or aggravate? By examining jokes and comedic performances through critical lenses and contexts, we will learn how to generate research questions about the ethical, racial, cultural, and political implications of certain types of jokes and humor today. We will learn how to rhetorically analyze written and performed comedic pieces, understand and interpret written and visual texts, select and incorporate appropriate information into our own research, prepare and write successful academic papers, and present information orally. By delving into the origins, histories, and contexts of jokes we will not only develop a deeper appreciation for this form of entertainment but also try to determine what kind of humor should be preserved and what kind should be abandoned.

Writing the History of Readings

Taught by: Manuel M. Martin-Rodriguez

In this course, you will learn how to generate research questions related to the topic of reading, practice with different methods of scholarly research, and master presentation delivery strategies (both verbal and written). You will also be exposed to collaborative research practices by working with other classmates on some assignments. To accomplish these goals, you will read and critique published scholarly sources, you will be exposed to several research projects directed by the professor, and you will conduct original research. You will then choose proper written and oral formats to present your results (spreadsheet, essays, powerpoint, roundtable).