Contact Us

Contact:
Duncan, Richard
Program Manager, University College

Anderson, Room 107 on a map

University College Program 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 United States

Back to top

University College Courses

In UC, students enroll in a Complex Problems seminar chosen specifically for this Living-Learning Community. The seminar satisfies one of your first AU Core requirements, introducing you to university-level inquiry. Students in UC ask and answer tough questions in a friendly and encouraging academic environment.

 

University College Cohorts 

Below are the seminars being offered in Fall 2021, grouped together in cohorts. When you get to AU, you will live on the same floor as the students within your cohort.

Therefore I Am

For many individuals gender and sex mean the same thing. If you are born with male reproductive organs, you are a male and vice versa for females. For others, sex assignment and gender have a complex relationship. Students will be introduced to the biological basis of sex and explore what it means to be male and female. In this class, we will discuss many of the big questions in gender research and policy. How do different societies view sex and gender? Are there historical accounts we can draw from? How are these views changing? What about other species in the animal kingdom? What can they tell us about gender and sex? This course offers students the opportunity to explore this topic from the cellular aspect to the neurological aspect as well as in the context of evolution. We will not only look at the science behind sex and gender, but also consider the societal implications and how this has shaped politics and policy in the modern era. Instructor: Adele Doperalski

From school uniforms to sagged pants to zoot suits to leggings and burka bans, this course explores the central question of to what degree any group or individual should dictate (either by policy or a subtler coercion) the dress of any other group or individual, and to what extent we self-police appearance in order to encourage or enforce conformity. Students will identify and examine the factors (cultural, economic, geographic, political, religious, tribal, familial, and personal) that contribute to daily clothing decisions and communication of identity, examine evidence in contemporary and historic media of pressure to conform, and analyze its contributing factors. The course will require reading, viewing, and engaged discussion participation, and will develop students’ ability to research and present cogent, informed points of view both verbally and in writing. Instructor: Meghan Raham

In this course we will investigate the idea of sexual desire and why it occurs. We will begin with the idea that desire is an evolutionary strategy that promotes successful reproduction and see how that lines up with what we learn about the patterns of modern human sexuality. We will explore ideas such as whether there are two sexes, whether patterns of attraction change through one’s life, and whether there is a predictable relationship between desire and sexual activity. Assignments will include using qualitative and quantitative methods to distil information from interviews, dating site profiles and lectures by “experts” as we discover what we know about sexual desire and how we came to know it. Instructor: Cathy Schaeff

As humans we seek meaningful connections, but does the way we define human contact shape the way we connect with others? In what ways do conversations and visual connection foster human contact? Is physical presence essential for human contact? Thinking critically about our recent personal experiences of quarantine, we will read literature, watch films, and examine theories from philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology that engage the topic of defining human contact. Our semester together will culminate in the creation of an oral history project. By listening to the voices of real individuals very different from yourself, you will have the opportunity to discover your own core convictions about human contact. Instructor: Marianne Noble

Science & Humanity

The issue of climate change is a dividing topic in America, and the demand for action regarding climate is a hotly debated topic in political, economic, and social discussions. However, the effects of climate change are seen worldwide, and dialogue surrounding this issue must take into account perspectives from the global community. Throughout the course, students analyze the impact of climate change on people of developing and industrialized nations, and evaluate the influence of potential mitigation strategies on the economic, political, and social structure of cultures from around the world. Instructor: Valentina Aquila

What is the role of nature in human life? How do our attitudes, understanding and assessment of nature shape our environmental impacts on earth? During the past 10,000 years, humans have become the primary driver of changes to the Earth’s surface, ecosystems, biodiversity and chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans. The Anthropocene describes this new geological epoch of humans and the future of our planet is dependent on the choices we humans make, both individually and collectively. This course will explore the interface between humans and the natural world through an examination of cultural, economic, philosophical and scientific values of the environment and the role that humans continue to play in the alteration of the planet. Instructor: Kathryn Walters-Conte

Research and development efforts in the field of chemistry have significantly enhanced the quality of human life. However, they also pose threats to global security, since highly toxic chemicals can be employed by States and terrorists to develop deadly weapons, including weapons of mass destruction. Crafting successful policies that minimize the threat without hampering the development of peaceful applications is a complex task that requires understanding the science of chemical weapons, knowing their history, and being aware of the current state of the affairs. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of the subject, this course introduces students to scientific concepts from the disciplines of chemistry and biology and gives them the opportunity to analyze and critically discuss: a) historical aspects related to the development and deployment of chemical weapons; b) international frameworks for their control; c) the current discourse on events and issues in the chemical weapons arena in news outlets and social media. Moreover, this course offers an excellent opportunity to introduce students to text mining techniques, which will be applied to the study of the social media discourse on chemical weapons. Instructor: Stefano Costanzi

What is the relationship between science fiction and in genomics in reality? How could recent innovations in genetic engineering alter our modern society over the coming few years? Many science fiction novels and movies have used aspects of genetics as plot devices, including cloning, genetic engineering, species hybridization and the production of better human beings by selective breeding (eugenics) often linked to a genetic accident with disastrous consequences or, the feasibility and desirability of a planned genetic alteration, in same case predicting advances in genetics that have become reality. Through reading, screening of movies, in-class discussions and field trips, we will explore the complex relationship between scientific discoveries, science fiction and reality with particular attention to the progresses in biotechnology and the interactions between science, society, politics, and culture, particularly on the issues of the ownership of genetic information, ethical controversies around selection of embryos with desired genetic makeup (designer babies) and how this information changes views of diseases, medical treatments, and our own image as a species. Instructor: Mauro Tiso

Sound Ideas

From early amorphous blobs of computer generated sounds, to the pulsating beats of contemporary hip hop, we are experiencing electronic music in both conscious and unconscious ways. This course will explore the impact that electronics have had on music since its beginnings in the late 19th century. Special attention, using a variety of genres, will be given to the advent of sound in film as well as to new language/vocabularies in music, new sounds as the result of newly designed instruments and synthesis techniques, digital vs analogue applications and, the computer. This course will offer participants the unique opportunity to observe, analyze, experiment, and even create music with electronics. Problems concerning the enduring question of invention as progress (or not) and wrestling with finding value in the unfamiliar will be at the heart of this course. Determining how these new technologies have shaped listening, musical creativity, responses, expectations and culture, will be examined through multiple lenses and disciplines where the intersection of art, science, technology and society meet at a sometimes surprising but undeniable crossroads. Instructor: Nancy Snider

From William Shakespeare to Beyonce, much of what we consider original art depends on borrowed text, recycled images, and familiar melodies. But where do we draw the line between influence and plagiarism? In this course, we consider questions of creative ownership. Drawing from scholarship by ethicists, cultural critics, and legal scholars, we will analyze case studies in music, film, literature, and visual art. Working in groups, students will be asked to trace intellectual property attitudes within a chosen genre or institution (i.e. Death Metal, Persian Poetry, Pixar Films). For the final project, after meeting working artists in the D.C. area, students will compose a creative work that borrows responsibly. Instructor: Edward Helfers

Have you ever thought about how podcasts influence your knowledge and opinions? Any topic or theme you can imagine has a podcast covering it; they are modern, flexible modes of storytelling. But, the sense of shared experience and bond between listener and host means we are less likely to challenge the purpose, presented information, and analysis. Through listening and analyzing podcasts, we’ll explore how podcasts inform and shape our experiences and our understanding of ourselves and others in complex, compelling ways. Instructor: Stina Oakes

This course covers a range of topics, disciplines, theoretical frameworks, and case studies that question how people create visual art objects that have political and social effects, including how art helps to advance the work of activists and how artists enable activists to think more creatively. Further, what role do academics play in this equation? Social justice movements often use the work of academics and artists to support and further their aims. Students explore how art works, and works on, viewers and how we can work interdependently with others to effect social change. Instructor: Susan McDonic

Imagined Identities

This course examines the emergence, expansion, and erosion of support for the European Union over the course of the twentieth century, and asks: What’s next for Europe? Topics for investigation will include the relationship between nationalism and Europeanism; support for and suspicion of supranational institutions after the First World War; the Third Reich as a new European empire; the relationship between economic growth and peace; the impact of the Iron Curtain on understandings of European geography; the economic and cultural significance of the Euro; and the role of cultural institutions in establishing European identity. The course will combine approaches from anthropology, economics, history, political theory, and political science, and make use of a wide range of secondary and primary sources to address the question of how European leaders and citizens have imagined their relationship to European Union. Instructor: Laura Beers

Great minds of every generation have struggled to explain why bad things happen to good people, why humans are cruel to one another, and, especially for the followers of the Abrahamic faiths, how a world can have evil in it if it’s been created by a god who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. We’ll discuss the religious origins of the classic “problem of evil,” scientific contributions to the discussion, and the legal ramifications of beliefs about evil. This reading-and-discussion heavy course will look for guidance from texts and films nonfiction and fiction (such as philosopher Susan Neiman’s Evil in Modern Thought, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and writings on neuroscience from David Eagleman), along with visits to sites around D.C. (such as the Holocaust Museum). Instuctor: Adam Tamashasky

Central for the three Abrahamic traditions, Jerusalem has been a locus of worship and dispute for over two-thousand years. The course proceeds thematically, beginning with the role of Jerusalem in the mythic imagination of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Students then turn to writings reflecting the history of Jerusalem as a physical place and a source of contention for the Assyrians and Babylonians, the Persians, the Romans, the empires of medieval Europe and the Ottomans, the British, the Arabs and the modern State of Israel. Finally, the course turns to the modern era and examines Jerusalem as a modern city and a proxy for disputes over identity, culture, language, and religion. Students visit different places of worship in DC and invite guest speakers representing a diversity of cultures to class. Instructor: Martyn Oliver

What is real, how do we know, and what does it mean? These simple sounding questions, as old as humankind, have no simple answers. The questions, however, have become only more interesting as science, and particularly physics, continues to reveal an underlying reality that is startlingly different from what most of us believe based on our everyday experiences. Our current theories of physics suggest we live in a quantum universe in which objects exist in a multitude of simultaneous locations and states, where time and space and causality may be an illusion, and where irreducible randomness is fundamental to nature. As radical as these ideas sound, the science behind them is driving the development of revolutionary new quantum technologies. Google, IBM, and other companies are investing in building quantum computers that may be able to perform tasks impossible for any ordinary (non-quantum) technology. Other researchers are developing secure communication systems based on quantum teleportation and related ideas. Recent observations of distant supernovas suggest that we are surrounded everywhere by an invisible dark energy that governs the fate of the universe. There are serious scientific papers that discuss (and have proposed experiments to test!) if we live a multiverse of infinite parallel realities. The new field quantum information science is inspiring some scientists to see the universe as a vast quantum computer: the computer and the information it processes one and the same and reality as we know it a simulation. There are even hints from physics for how something (perhaps even the universe itself?) could emerge spontaneously from nothing. How persuasive is the evidence and arguments supporting these radical new ideas about the nature of reality? This course will ask and grapple with far more questions than it answers. What do these discoveries say about age-old philosophical questions about the nature of reality, and what we can hope to learn about it? Is there any room left for free-will and causality, and how do we find meaning in our lives, if the most radical ideas about a quantum universe are true? How will these ideas, and possible technologies associated with them, impact human society? And what does it mean for the future of humanity and how we view the nature of our very existences, if science continues down a path of revealing a reality that is so fundamentally different from what we see and feel with our senses? We will explore these questions through readings, discussion, active lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on activities and experiments. Instructor: Phil Johnson

Ethical Explorations

The nature of the human-animal relationship is complex, pervasive, and paradoxical. Over the course of human history, we have domesticated, exploited, and protected species — we love dogs, eat pigs, and despise rats. In dissecting this relationship, we will examine environmental issues, race, culture, sexuality, gender, and concepts of selfhood. By the end of the term, our inquiries will have entered the humanities, the natural and social sciences, health, business and economics, politics, and philosophy. There will be at least one class trip to an animal shelter, farm animal sanctuary, or wildlife rehabilitation center. Course guests may include a veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, and an anthrozoologist. Instrcutor: Lydia Fettig

In the first decades of the 21st century, fantastical stories have seen an explosion of popularity, attributable to – or perhaps in spite of – the many challenges our world faces. Why are we so drawn to stories of the unreal? This cultural moment is a starting point to investigate the role of the fantastic in our lives: how fantastical fictions reflect and refract lived realities, how humanity’s fantastical storytelling changes over time, how and why writers use fantasy and other forms of speculation to explore political, social, and ethical issues. Through readings, discussions, and assorted projects, we will explore how imagination is a vital tool not only for entertainment, but also for making meaning. Instructor: Chuck Cox

Sequencing the entire human genome has advanced from a 13 year, multi-institutional project, completed in 2001, to a simple automated procedure taking less than 24 hours to complete. Over the past 15 years, costs of sequencing the human genome have dropped from a $3 billion-dollar budget for the original human genome project to $99 for an individual using an Ancestry.com kit. With the large decrease in cost and time necessary to complete the sequencing, it is no surprise that having your entire genome sequenced is a rising trend in the Western world, particularly in a melting pot like America. Currently, genomic sequencing is used for personalized medical treatment, prenatal testing, and personal curiosity (ancestry/ethnicity testing). In the future, full genome sequencing may also become a standard for hospitals with newborn babies as well as in the field of forensic science. What information is contained in your genome? What can you learn about yourself by having your genome sequenced? What private information can other people learn from obtaining your genomic sequence? This course will initially focus on answering scientific questions, like what is DNA? How is it inherited? What information does it contain? The latter part of the course will discuss implications of having whole genome sequencing readily available to most the population. For what purposes can DNA sequencing be used? What does this mean for the field of forensics? What other aspects of life could be affected by whole genome sequencing? What does this mean for the level of privacy granted to individuals? Can genomic sequencing open the door for a new form of discrimination? With the rapid rise of technology, will privacy protections and regulations be able to keep up in the digital age? Instructor: Jenny Axe

Digital citizenship broadly describes what it means to live in our networked world. The Internet fundamentally improves the economic and social life of those who gains access, but every click also leaves a trace of our digital footsteps. This course looks at what this means to us as individuals, as a community, and as a global society, as well as those less fortunate who do not experience the power of the Internet and how to engage these individuals. The course raises more questions than it answers, but heightens students' understanding of the evolving challenges and opportunities on our digital planet. Instructor: Jill Klein

Critical Surroundings

The turmoil and traumas of modernity have transformed urban spaces into architectural and commemorative battlegrounds. This seminar introduces theories of memory and nationalism alongside controversies over architecture and planning with special case examples from twentieth-century European urban transformations. The dynamic environment of the US capital also informs the course. Intense discussion of weekly readings, short response essays, and a project assessing the intersection between urban change and the politics of memory encourage critical thinking, reading and writing. Instructor: Andrew Demshuk

For a problem of intriguing complexity, look no further than the contemporary city. Home to two-thirds of the world’s population, modern cities -- gloriously diverse cultural, innovation, and artistic hubs, and often refuges for those who seek opportunity or escape from restrictive worlds -- are nonetheless contested, even violent, grounds, spatially embodying social, political, and economic exclusion. This class considers and then employs an emerging “Right to the City” challenge to the status quo of urban power dynamics: tactical urbanism. Citizen-led, and in some cases arising out of urban social movements, these interventions are sometimes transgressive, sometimes sanctioned and respectful, demonstrations of the transformative power of the temporary construction. Tactical urban interventions are of many types and disciplines, from the creation of temporary public squares to street art and graffiti to recurring demonstrations and other performances. Through the collaborative design and documentation of our own tactical urbanistic intervention in Washington, DC, we will seek to understand the possibilities and limits of this approach in moving the world towards more just and inclusive global cities. For background, we will draw on case studies and a rich assortment of historical and contemporary sources, from examples of urban film, music, philosophy, and literature to theories and case studies of urban planning and form. Instructor: Victoria Kiechel

This course helps students understand and apply a powerful new approach to solving complex problems through human-centered thinking. Design thinking is a problem-solving framework that is transforming fields from entertainment to international development. Students will learn critical thinking, empathy, how to question assumptions, how to clearly define a problem and other core tools of reasoning. Student teams apply each step of the design thinking process - from research through observation of real people with real problems to brainstorming, prototyping, testing and finally identifying how to implement the solution. The work is creative, collaborative and experiential. You may be making an observation video in one class, filling a wall with sticky notes the next and designing a prototype in the university maker space the next. Instructor: Bill Bellows

Is matter really all that matters? Can identity, culture, music, mathematics, information, mind, soul, body, and everything that humanity encompasses all be reduced to atoms? The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus said “By convention sweet is sweet, bitter is bitter, hot is hot, cold is cold, color is color; but in truth there are only atoms and the void.” In this seminar, we will investigate these ideas and questions using the tools of science, technology, economics, philosophy and humanism to analyze case studies of how humans have shaped the material world and how they have been shaped by it. Instructor: Nathan Harshman

Seeking Value

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. Instructor: Shawn Bates

How do we, as individuals and societies, determine the value of things, services, and experiences? Questions like the value of a national park, a child well-educated, or a life prematurely lost are central to both government policy and individual commitments. Through careful reading, critical discussion, short integrative essays, and interactions with local organizations involved in making valuations, students will consider alternative methods of determining “value” and apply these to current social issues. The course will include one or more off-campus visits to relevant local organizations. Instructor: Mieke Meurs

As a part of this course, students will actively serve with a nonprofit agency or school in the DC area to apply their course knowledge. This course examines the conversation on poverty in Washington, DC through scholarship, research, and community-based service-learning with an afterschool program. Horton's Kids is a local nonprofit that serves families in Ward 8's Wellington Park neighborhood, where the average household income is below $10,000 a year. Students discover how Horton's Kids has evolved since 1989 using a comprehensive service model to address the cyclical needs of the community and adopting more inclusive practices. Students connect their work in the community to their work in the classroom by researching, writing, and reflecting on poverty in this neighborhood. Students learn how to reimagine service, focusing on reciprocity and equity. Readings cover a range of perspectives, from historians, sociologists, psychologists, public health scholars and professionals, service-learning and social justice scholars, community partners, community members, nonprofit professionals, policy makers, contemporary public intellectuals, and cultural critics. Instructor: Amanda Choutka

This course provides students with an opportunity to develop their existing critical thinking skills through a specific focus on the concept and empirical phenomenon of competitive advantage in business ((i.e., superior stakeholder value creation). The course addresses a variety of sources of competitive advantage and the interactions between them (including macroenvironmental and industry forces, corporate, business and functional strategies), as well as issues associated with the history and role of business in society, stakeholder engagement, and performance measurement. Readings and assignments will focus on critically analyzing current media coverage of competitive advantage in business, as well as cases. Instructor: Heather Elms

AU Cornerstone

Societies expect students to shape the future by initiating change and transforming the world. But educators and policymakers relegate students to schools that structure inequalities and restrict learning opportunities. Students struggle to assert agency under social constructs that influence their daily school lives. Today's students bear the burdens of achievement gaps, bullying, college-prep pressures, evolving identities and many other dynamics rooted in today's social conditions. Our course seeks to understand how American students both reproduce and challenge social, cultural, political, and educational realities of today. We will seek to understand how students from different marginalized communities experience school, including racial groups (white and minoritized communities), LGBTQ students, students with special needs, and language minorities in rural, urban, and suburban settings. Beginning with an exploration of today‰s American students and their schooling realities, this course will consider the structures, beliefs, and traditions that influence how elementary and secondary students experience schooling. Unlike other courses in the School of Education that consider the role of schools in society, or best practices for teachers and leaders, this course will explore how students experience schools today. Recognizing that the overwhelming number of AU freshman and new transfer students have prior experiences in elementary and secondary education ‹ this course will enable us to draw on our collective experiences in school as background knowledge. Primary sources will be used to amplify diverse voices of American students across school contexts. Additional course content will be presented from materials spanning multiple disciplines, including education research, literature, digital media, news, and scholarly papers. The instructor will guide the identification of issues that elementary and secondary students are currently facing in schools, these will comprise the foundation of the course, emphasizing issues that resonate both in scholarly literature and popular discourse. Instructor: Amaarah DeCuir

How do we learn about sex? It’s a complicated question with unique answers based on our families, friends, schools, and identities. It’s also a question that continually plagues students, parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers. And despite these enduring disputes, U.S. institutions still have no consistent answers even for whether we ought to include sexual education in our curricula, much less what such courses should entail. This class will explore these conversations by examining perspectives on sex education from media, history, scholars, and a variety of professionals currently working in the field. Ultimately, we’ll be interested in when, how, and what we learn about sex from both state-sanctioned and “unapproved” sources. Instructor: Marnie Twigg

 This interdisciplinary course focuses on economic inequality in the United States and its relationship to social and political inequality. Readings will be drawn primarily from the fields of political science, sociology, and economics. Readings will describe socioeconomic inequality, explore the interrelated factors that cause and reinforce it, examine the publics beliefs about economic inequality, and, finally, evaluate public and private efforts and proposals to reduce inequality. It is the perspective of this course that the phenomenon of economic inequality in the United States cannot be understood in full without taking into account systematic and interpersonal racial prejudice, particularly that experienced by Black Americans. Given the instructor's disciplinary expertise, the course will also spend considerable time examining how economic inequality begets political inequality, and vice versa. Class activities & assignments. The course will be primarily discussion based. Informal, creative in-class activities will be incorporated to engage students and encourage active learning. With respect to formal assignments, students will complete short papers approximately every three weeks (timed to coincide with distinct course themes) that integrate knowledge gained through readings and discussion. Each student will complete a final paper that analyzes a specific topic (of her or his choice) that falls under the economic inequality umbrella. Students may build on a previously completed short paper and will be expected to incorporate several outside readings to supplement their analysis. Students will also take part in a group project (with one or two other students) that involves creating and pitching a concrete plan that would reduce economic inequality in the U.S. and/or ameliorate its negative effects. Instructor: Liz Suhay

As a part of this course, students will actively serve with a nonprofit agency or school in the DC area to apply their course knowledge.

This course examines the conversation on poverty in Washington, DC through scholarship, research, and community-based service-learning with an afterschool program. Horton’s Kids is a local nonprofit that serves families in Ward 8’s Wellington Park neighborhood, where the average household income is below $10,000 a year. Students discover how Horton’s Kids has evolved since 1989 using a comprehensive service model to address the cyclical needs of the community and adopting more inclusive practices. Students connect their work in the community to their work in the classroom by researching, writing, and reflecting on poverty in this neighborhood. Students learn how to reimagine service, focusing on reciprocity and equity. Readings cover a range of perspectives, from historians, sociologists, psychologists, public health scholars and professionals, service-learning and social justice scholars, community partners, community members, nonprofit professionals, policy makers, contemporary public intellectuals, and cultural critics. Instructor: Amanda Choutka

Conflict & Consequence

This course provides an overview of the history and modern issues of peace and war with an emphasis on the institutions in Washington, D.C. (ie. Pentagon, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Amnesty International, State Department, CIA). Through reading ethnographic and historical case studies, as well as theoretical, journalistic, and polemical works, the course explores why and how the United States has engaged in and continues to engages in war while the course simultaneously seeks to help students understand the policy and activist communities at work trying to stop interventions and actions abroad. At its core, the debate over war and peace revolves around key perspectives on the relationships among governance, power, politics and economics. The course plans to examine media coverage of war as it also engages in fictional representations of heroes, patriotism and the debate about war in society. Instructor: Bill Gentile

 The Arab/Persian Gulf region — home to vast oil/gas resources and situated at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Europe — is an area of vital importance to the global economy. Over the past several decades, however, the region has experienced a series of revolutions, wars, insurgencies, and other violent upheavals. This course, which explores the military and non-military sources, manifestations, and responses to “insecurity” in the Arab/Persian Gulf, is organized around two central questions: 1) Whose security is at risk — that of the ruling establishment, segments of society, the entire country, the region as a whole — and in which ways? and 2) Have the actions taken to address this insecurity ameliorated or worsened it? Instructor: John Calabrese

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 65 million displaced people in the world, a significant portion of who are classified as refugees. Who are these people? Where are they coming from? What are the driving forces of today's global displacement? Why is the international community responsible for the global refugee crisis and what does such responsibility involve? This first year course introduces students to the complex and ever growing world of forced displacement and to many of the ethical, legal, moral and political questions surrounding the current refugee crisis in the face of rising populist movements in the west, security concerns, and the overall shift toward criminalization and securitization of migration. The course has a special focus on children and youth and intersectionalities of gender, identity and race.  It will explore the challenges facing the world's displaced and the innovation and resilience that defines the refugee experience. Instructor: Tazreena Sajjad

The United States leads the Western world in the use of harsh punishments: life sentences, death sentences, and extended solitary confinement. Each of these punishments is a type of death penalty: life sentence prisoners are sentenced to die in prison, death sentence prisoners are sentenced to be killed in prison, and prisoners sentenced to extended terms in solitary confinement (often in notorious "Supermax" prisons) are sentenced to what has been described as a living death. As a general matter, conditions in American prisons are uniquely painful and degrading, and have been described by researchers as "dehumanizing," "hellish", and ultimately "unsurvivable" in the face of widespread violations of human dignity. This course considers harsh sanctions and the prison experience in general, from different points of view, drawing on the arts (primarily poetry) and the social sciences (primarily criminology). Instructor: Robert Johnson