Contact Us

Harrison, Amanda
Manager, Honors and Scholars Programs

Anderson Hall, Room 112

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

Back to top

Fall 2018 Seminars

Look below to explore your Fall 2018 options.

Political and social leaders accuse each other of it, and are accused by a media that itself is then condemned for it. It is tweeted, re-tweeted, articles are written, journals published, and blogs devoted to it – but what is “Corruption”? And how has the mention of it become so pervasive, while there seems to be no set definition or even direction? Has anyone ever asked you for a favor? Have you ever asked for one? How did you thank them for the favor – and when? Before or after they have done what you asked, helped you with an assignment, let you borrow notes, or given you a recommendation for a job? Did you, or they, ask for something in return? Are these simple “favors” or quid pro quos? Were you bartering or bargaining for a service or good? When does a “favor” become “corruption”? There are governments accused of being cleptocracies – governments of organized thieves composed of individuals whose only goal is to legally take as much money and resources from others as possible in order to enrich themselves. This kind of corruption seems easy to define. But what about a payment to a border guard to let you pass? You have the legal right to pass, but a small gift, a token of your appreciation for the job the guard is doing, is expected. And while it might not be legally required, if you don’t tip, then the next time you are going through that crossing it might take a little longer, or your packages receive a little more scrutiny, or maybe the border just isn’t open today – at least not for you. This course will examine values, systems, and institutions across the globe - and down the street.

Professor Omekongo Dibinga

This course will explore one enduring question: Why and how has hip-hop become equally a tool for revolution and capitalist expansion across the world? As hip-hop has attained the interest of corporate America, it has gone from being vilified by many in the mainstream to a source of expansion for American ideals. As hip-hop began to emerge in other countries, it also began to develop its own country-specific narrative. Across the globe, the effects of hip-hop can be felt from politics and education to pop culture and religion, from the Arab Spring to the whitewashing of history books in Japan. This course explores how hip-hop has become a source of revolution and capitalist expansion for some of the world’s most marginalized (and not-so-marginalized) populations.

Professor Dan Kerr

It does not take long traveling across Washington, DC to encounter people experiencing homelessness. As these encounters have become so common, fewer people ask how homelessness has become such an entrenched aspect of life in the city. Why and how do people become homeless? Can anything be done about it? This course will explore the phenomenon of homelessness by drawing upon scholarly work done in history, sociology, anthropology, geography, and public policy. Furthermore, students will meet with advocates for the unhoused, as well as people experiencing homelessness themselves.  Students will read and critically evaluate texts addressing the issue from across these disciplines. They will also draw upon existing government and agency reports as well as oral histories as they explore alternative ways that people have come to understand the issue outside of the university setting. Throughout the course students will produce short reports reflecting upon the debates we encounter and explore potential avenues that they feel might be most effective for resolving this ongoing crisis.

Professor Kiho Kim

The ocean gave rise to life on earth, holds much of its biological diversity, and to this day, sustains it. However, for much of human history, the ocean has been thought of as vast, unmanageable, and its resources inexhaustible. Thus, the ocean has been over-exploited and treated without regard. The consequence is that over the last century, the fundamental nature of the ocean — its physical, chemical, and biological characteristics — has changed, and along with it, its ability to provide humankind with sustenance, livelihoods, and inspiration. In this course, the students will explore the natural history of the ocean, identify threats, and evaluate the range of possible solutions to ensure the long-term sustainability our ocean world.

Professor Jesse Meiller

Air pollution, water pollution, land pollution! In this course, students pursue issues surrounding pollution in the environment including how and why pollution occurs. We will investigate the sources of various air, water, and land pollutants and look at environmental and health effects and potential solutions. Students will participate in and benefit from diverse assignments including case studies, debates/ role-playing, peer-teaching, and facilitated discussions on assigned readings from written texts, documentaries, and topic-specific exhibits.

Professor Amanda Choutka

Do you like volunteering in your community, but wonder about the implications of “helping” a community you do not belong to? Do you want to explore privilege and power, especially between community members and the university, through a community-based learning course? This community-based and service-learning course will partner with Horton’s Kids, an afterschool program that has served children in Wellington Park in Ward 8 for almost 30 years. Students will learn what makes community-based and service-learning different from a traditional academic course while volunteering with Horton’s Kids. Students will research how Horton’s Kids has changed since 1989 to reflect more inclusive practices and resist existing power structures. Students will connect their work in the community to their work in the classroom by learning about what makes a successful reciprocal partnership between community partners and students – and what doesn’t. Service-learning requires critical reflection with a focus on doing better by the community; students will learn how to reimagine service, focusing on reciprocity and equity. Readings will cover a range of perspectives, from service-learning and social justice scholars, community partners, community members, nonprofit professionals, policy makers, contemporary public intellectuals, and cultural critics.

Professor Jeff Middents

This seminar will examine questions of contemporary world cinema from multiple perspectives (for example: What do international films look like? Why do they look that way? Who watches them?) by working back and forth between concepts of examining single, individual texts (what is this particular film trying to tell me?) and broader, globally relevant contexts (what do we learn when we examine many films in a similar manner?). As part of that project, each student will study in detail a single international film of their choice made between 2002 and 2017. In addition to traditional writing and research projects, all students will craft an audiovisual essay – that is, a short 5- to 7-minute film that visually presents their argument concerning their film. No previous editing experience required.

Professor Martyn Oliver

What does it mean to die? How does death happen? And, what happens after death? This course examines the agony of dying, questions about how we measure death, and accounts of a possible life after death, drawing upon philosophical arguments, biological measurements, literary imaginings, and religious visions in order to understand how the experience of death is a core component to our shared human experience. By evaluating the many differing accounts of death and the afterlife, this class will assess how our understanding of these experiences yields insights into our conceptions of justice and ethics, divine reward and righteous punishment. This exploration of dying and a possible second life thus reflects back to us an idea of our common concerns and struggles in attempting to make a life of meaning.

In addition to your Fall seminar, AU Scholars will also take a 1 credit Experiential Learning course designed to enhance your understanding of the topics and issues in your Fall seminar course through excursions into D.C. to explore research topics by visiting museums, NGOs, embassies, national parks and more.