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Harrison, Amanda
Manager, Honors and Scholars Programs

Anderson Hall, Room 112

AU Scholars 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 United States

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Spring 2019 Research Courses

Scroll down to learn more about the many options you have for your Spring 2019 research course. After learning more about the course offerings at the Spring Research Fair on Saturday, September 29th, you will receive an email from AU Scholars with a form where you can rank your choices. 


Who, or What, is a Migrant? Some would have them labeled Refugees, others Terrorists. And what is migration? Why do people, sometimes vast numbers of people, suddenly decide to uproot their lives and move to another town, another state, or another country? And how do those places receiving, and losing, population cope with these changes – as opportunities or threats? Importantly, in an increasingly inter-connected world, what are the implications for individual and group identities?

This course will allow students to explore one of the most important intersections of policy and human experience – the migrant, the immigrant, the émigré, and the policies and politics that try to govern the movement of people all over the world. At a time when this issue, always contentious, has burst onto the screens and pages of world news in new, and very old, ways, there is a pressing need for in depth, thoughtful research and analysis of both who these people are and what is driving their movements, and the ways they are being used by politicians as political images of the oppressed, or threats. In the United States we have been preoccupied with immigration – both legal and illegal – for most of our history as a nation. Once referred to as the world’s “Melting Pot” we now have debates about building walls to secure our borders, how to facilitate the necessary movement of itinerant farm works – sometimes referred to as migrant workers. The situation in Europe, the Middle East, parts of Africa and Asia could not be more stark. Men, women, and children are hourly put in jeopardy for their very lives as they try to make their way across land and sea, escaping even harsher conditions at home.

This research course provides students with a unique opportunity to conduct field research on current migrant issues in the United States and the crisis in Europe as both policy and political issues. Students will investigate the cultural, structural and social factors that inform the patterns, lived experiences, and policies towards migrants in both the United States and European contexts. They may also examine how the images of these peoples have been distorted by political forces on all sides of the debate, ad how those distorted images are being used to further other political goals. In addition to qualitative analysis, participants will seek out migrant communities in DC to discuss their lived experiences of migration, and the policies which have affected them. Students will also travel to Brussels, Belgium, and potentially The Hague, Netherlands, the headquarters of the European Union and the International Criminal Court respectively, over Spring Break (March 9-17, 2019) to explore these themes through site visits, lectures, and interviews with policymakers, nonprofit organizations, and scholars. Through this research course, students will learn how to frame a relevant research question, formulate an appropriate research design, carry out a qualitative field research project, and present their findings.

Whether you are interested in US immigration policy, current conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, the economic, social, or security implications of the mass migration in to Europe, or the political corruption of these issues, this course will help to put all of these in to a global and historical context. Background in migration or European studies not required but an open mind is! Approximate program fees: $2,800-$3,000

Spring Break: Week of March 9th – March 17th

Please note, students in this course MUST have a passport that will be valid through October 2019 in order to participate. Belgium and the EU require that your passport be valid for 6 months AFTER your anticipated return date.

The goal of this course is to demonstrate to students the work it takes to actually write record, and produce a hip-hop album. From writing lyrics, beat production, graphic design, and studio recording, students will learn the skills needed to produce an album with the same level of precision and creativity as their favorite artists.

Sitting two blocks from the Capitol building, sits one of the nation’s largest homeless shelters, which houses up to 1300 people a night in a World War II era building that was originally constructed by the federal government as part of an alley dwelling clearance policy. The shelter, as well as the building that houses it, have long and storied histories that are intertwined with national urban renewal and homeless assistance polices. Proposals, however, are calling for the demolition of the building for private redevelopment in 2021. In the Whose Downtown? research project, Students will work with the Humanities Truck, which will park at the shelter. They document the experiences of the residents, share these experiences with other residents, and use the truck space as a workshop to reflect on the past and future of the shelter so that the residents can engage more effectively with the planning processes that will dramatically impact their lives.  

This spring we will investigate where and how food is grown in Costa Rica, comparisons of agroecological practices to industrial- and small-scale conventional farming practices, and the effects of food production on the health of the natural environment including coastal (i.e., reef) and forest (i.e. canopy) ecosystems. Students will work in small research teams to develop and carry out projects that will lead to web-based outcomes (i.e., some combination of videos, photographs, text, reports, or infographics) that tell stories about sustainable farming in Costa Rica. A key feature of this course will be a week-long field research trip to Costa Rica during AU’s spring break. Leading up to the trip, we will meet weekly to examine the recent history of Costa Rica and Costa Rica's natural resources, current environmental concerns and sustainability goals. Students will also acquire relevant tools of research and hear from experts to aid in project development. Upon return, the students will complete their projects for presentation at the AU Scholars Symposium.

The so-called “foreign film” in the United States is often met with disdain: too dour, too serious, too arty, too something. We rarely see foreign language comedies, for example, because humor is often culturally specific; so, too, might romances and horror films. The truth of the matter, however, is that the movies that we see are only a part of the movies that are actually produced: often times, excellent movies are made in a variety of countries, and then never get seen in the United States because producers fear that no one will “get” their movies – and, therefore, these movies are never afforded the one thing that would make them accessible to US audiences: subtitles.

The goal of this course, therefore, is to expose audiences to new movies that might otherwise never have been seen before – and, of course, get people to watch them. As a class, we will learn about subtitles and subtitling, from a theoretical and a practical standpoint. We will examine movies such as Matthieu Kassovitz’s 1995 French film La Haine, which famously proved challenging to translate due to its use of slang, and contemporary fan-based subbing sites on the Internet. The main project from the class, however, will be done in smaller groups, which will:

• Identify a feature-length picture from any period in history (and any part of the world) that lacks formal subtitles in English;

• Research the different cultural elements necessary to understanding the film; • Translate the dialogue and craft subtitles for the full picture; and then,

• Present the film – with accompanying educational and contextualizing material, if necessary, so that audiences will understand – at a series of screenings held on campus…

• …which you will have to convince audiences to come to see in the first place, since part of your grade will also be determined by how many people then actually see these films you originally deemed worthy.

Note: While knowledge of non-English languages is helpful, monolingual students will still thrive in this course.

What role do religious communities play in DC, both as the capital of the US and as a diverse and eclectic city? What does it mean to be a religious minority? These two questions are more closely related than it might seem. This seminar will examine the religious landscape of Washington, DC, with a focus on how different religious communities have established themselves and how they understand their relationship to both the federal government as well as the citizens of the District. Students can expect to explore physical geography, economics, race, ethnicity, class and power, among other factors, as they relate to the religious history of DC. A multi-modal final project will bring these elements together in an effort to understand DC’s religious diversity.