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General Education "Wildcards"

Periodically, faculty teach experimental courses (Wildcards) that students may use to satisfy Gen Ed requirements. These courses provide faculty with an opportunity to explore new pedagogies, subject matters, or delivery modes before determining that the courses should become a regular part of the curriculum.

First-Year Seminars

Complex Problems courses are specially-designed for first-year students, enrolling no more than 19 students per section. As an introduction to the academy, the primary goal of the course is to acquaint students with the process of university-level inquiry through the analysis of one or more complex problems. Over the course of the semester, Complex Problems courses demonstrate the value of approaching problems or enduring questions from diverse (but often complementary) perspectives. Courses incorporate multiple points of view, voices and ways of thinking from across personal and political spectrums.

GNED 110-003 Act Like a Man (3) Karl Kippola

This course examines the search for and performance of ideal models of American manhood on theatrical, political, and social stages. Through investigating gender theory and masculinity studies, reading and analyzing plays, viewing theatrical productions and films, unpacking political posturing, and scrutinizing human behavior, students explore, demystify, and question the ways in which public masculine figures manipulate, challenge, and reflect lives of American males. From the first American play to Hamilton, from the Founding Fathers to Donald Trump, the course investigates the ways in which American men learn to behave and misbehave.

GNED 110-012 Visual Identities (3) Andrea Pearson

Drawing on museum collections in D.C., "Visual Identities" explores how visual images constructed, claimed, and sometimes contested identities across the geohistorical spectrum. How do images convey identities tied to cultural conceptions about politics, religions, race, gender, disability, and sexuality? What can such works teach us about visual strategies for conveying identity, past and present? In what ways are these strategies culturally distinctive or analogous? To answer these questions, images will be 13 analyzed comparatively, in a case-study approach across specific cultures. Individual and group projects will develop critical thinking, writing, and presentation skills.

GNED 110-013 Inventing Queer Lives (3) Dustin Friedman

What lives have queers imagined living? How did dominant understandings of LGBT identity come into being in the Western world at the turn of the twentieth century? What alternative paradigms for sexual and gender difference have been offered by racial minorities, transgender communities, and non-Western cultures? Though we will find some answers in literary texts, we will also examine films, historical documents, and perspectives from sociology and anthropology. We will tackle various formal and informal writing assignments and class presentations, and we will also explore the DC area's queer cultural resources, including (potentially) archives, performances, cinema, and art exhibits.

GNED 110-014 Homo Addictus (3) Tom Ratekin 

Homo Addictus will investigate important questions that tie addiction to fundamental human experiences. For example, in what ways do addictions to such varied things as alcohol, drugs, the internet, video 6 games, pornography, sex, and shopping address and treat a universal pain that is central to humanity? What are the pleasures of potentially addictive behaviors and how do they draw people away from ordinary life? How is addiction connected to other difficulties such as trauma, stress, mental illness, social anxiety, and sexuality? Students will read fiction, memoir, and social science texts. Addiction is an extremely common human experience--an experience that highlights the particular joys and pains of being alive.

GNED 120-021 Envisioning an Inclusive Future (3) Lauren Wells

This course seeks to: (1) dismantle the ideologies which reproduce social inequality and prevent inclusiveness in our schools and society; (2) develop a collective vision for an inclusive future; and (3) identify the role schools and other social institutions must play in an inclusive society. Among other activities, we will consider texts, social and cultural institutions, social movements, and personal histories to investigate and analyze the roots of diversity in America, and reimagine the contemporary landscape of our diverse society.

GNED 120-022 Living and Dying in DC (3) Jessica Young

Why are some infants born in the capital of the world's wealthiest nation dying at rates higher than some developing countries? Why does the Metro stop people live near predict how long they are likely to live or if one will die from HIV/AIDS, cancer, asthma, or old age? This course will introduce students to health inequities and will use political, economic, historical, and sociological analyses of differences in power and privilege as it relates to quality of life, disease burden, and mortality in Washington, DC. Through local texts, site visits, discussions, and reflections, students will explore how DC residents, communities, health care providers, public health practitioners, and policymakers have shaped the social forces that influence health, and how they have worked together to ensure that all DC residents have the opportunity to live healthy and long lives.

GNED 120-023 America At Work (3) James Quirk

From farm to factory to fiber optics, the meaning of "work" has been central to the American experience. Shifting to industrial and then to post-industrial eras raises questions not just about business and economics, but about forces transforming society and the individual's place in it. This course approaches America at work from a range of perspectives. Students use scholarly work as well as excerpts from film, theatre, and literature, and even from HBO's The Wire. Assignments include some usual written approaches, as well as more personal assignments like an interview and a photo essay, and living-learning community projects.
American Culture; and observe or participate in a protest action in Washington, DC.

GNED 120-024 Normalizing Bodies (3) Perry Zurn

This course will examine the distinction between "normal" and "abnormal" bodies and investigate the complex ways in which abnormal bodies become "problems" for medicine. Looking at historical examples, e.g. pathologization of slaves' desires to flee captivity, nineteenth century diagnosis and treatment of "hysteria," medical treatment of height (tallness in girls, short stature in boys) and atypical sex anatomies (intersex bodies), we will ask what normality means, and explore the effects of meanings we may too often take for granted. We anticipate a visit to the Smithsonian Museum of American History to speak with the curator and specialist of disability, and guest lectures on normalizing surgical interventions for children.


GNED 130-003 Are You A Digital Citizen (3) Jill Klein

Digital Citizenship broadly describes what it means to live in our networked world. The Internet fundamentally improves the economic and social life of anyone who gains access. But every click leaves a trace of our digital footsteps. What does this mean to us as individuals, as a community and as a global society? And what about those less fortunate, who may never experience the power of the Internet? How should we seek to engage these individuals? Our class will raise more questions than it answers but will heighten our understanding for the evolving challenges and opportunities on our digital planet.  

GNED 130-006 Construction of Self & Other through Technology (3) Zoe Charlton

Understanding Constructions of the Self and Other through Contemporary Technology (3) Establishing one's identitie(s) is both real and invented. How one reads other's projected identitie(s) in a multi-platform culture is complicated, not only by how people adorn themselves, but by our media choices. From avatars on social media (Instagram, YouTube, Tinder) to online simulation platforms (Open Simulator and SecondLife), and from fan conventions (Otakon, Comic Con) to festivals (Afropunk), notions of the constructed self destabilizes conventional models of the singular identity. Using an interdisciplinary and inter-media approach, this course introduces the ways people shape their identities across a variety of cultural perspectives. Readings and class discussions are central to the experience of this course.  

GNED 140-013 The Highs and Lows of Drugs (3) Maria Gomez

Every week we hear another story about how the heroin epidemic is ravaging communities across America. Drugs remain a complex problem, despite the investment of billions of dollars and many years into potential solutions. This class critically analyzes the varying approaches (e.g., scientific, public policy, law enforcement) that have been applied to the drug problem. After over 50 years of scientific research, we have extensive knowledge of how drugs work on the brain, but little progress has been made in reducing rates of drug addiction. Why? Are the right scientific questions being asked? Are we using the best legal approach?

GNED 140-018 Balancing Legal Interests (3) Michael Mass

The law is a device for balancing societal and personal interests. Although it might seem that we should look to the law to provide rules for our personal and business conduct that are definitive and clear, in reality the law is more often balancing complex interests that involve many shades of gray. This course will examine a series of legal problems concerning the role of the law in our personal lives as well as in the economic life of our country as part of a community of nations. 1) What should be the role of the legal system as a device to resolve disputes between parties?, 2) What U.S. and international laws should govern trade between businesses across international borders?, 3) When should the law award compensation when bad things happen to people?, and 4) When should the law limit the rights of parties to make deals with each other or impose duties upon private parties to serve the public good? Although the course will view these problems through a legal lens, it will be brazenly interdisciplinary: including economic, business, political and international relations perspectives. Most importantly, it will grapple with questions that have no single answer, but where students will have to learn enough about an area of law to develop their own solutions as well as an understanding of the opposing position. Course materials may include book chapters, articles, cases, statutory material, blogs and movies.

GNED 140-027 A Kid's Day in Court (3) - Claire Griggs

Juvenile delinquency poses difficult and interesting problems for youth policy and criminal justice policy. This course looks at the misconduct of youths that brings them within the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts, and focuses on the complex problem of whether a youth will stay in the juvenile delinquency system or be waived and transferred to the adult criminal justice system. Students look specifically at the legal, social, and policy determinations and implications of that decision. The course explores the intersection between legal and mental culpability that is critical to understanding the issue of waiver.  

GNED 140-028 Food Justice Matters (3) Anastasia Snelling

Should food marketing to children be restricted? Should agricultural subsidies be eliminated? How are stakeholders incorporating healthful eating practices into health policies? These are some of the questions we will explore as we critically think about food justice issues in the 21st century. Using local farms, local non-profit agencies, the department of health, and other related organizations, we will explore what DC and other states are doing to address food justice in their communities.

GNED 250-005 Obesity: A Complex Problem (3) John Bracht

Obesity is a public health emergency: a majority of Americans are currently overweight and a significant fraction are likely to suffer adverse health impacts including diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and even cancer. In this course we investigate the ways lifestyle, culture, socioeconomic factors, and the food industry all interface with biology to impact body weight. We also will discuss mounting scientific evidence that obesity is, to a significant degree, inherited from our parents, and the impact this knowledge should have on our approach to the problem. We will survey both popular and scientific works relevant to the causes of the obesity epidemic, drawing connections while promoting critical analysis and discussion. This class will emphasize the multifactorial causes of obesity, through engagement with both popular and scientific literature, reinforced through student writing and feedback. Reading materials in the course will 9 include the book "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser and "A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic--and How We Can End It" by Deborah Cohen. Additional reading assignments will be drawn from the (nonspecialist-appropriate) scientific literature and the popular media. This course will incorporate two guest lectures: one from Dr. DeCicco-Skinner (Biology), focused on the obesity-cancer link, and one by Dr. Terry Davidson (Psychology) focused on his findings linking high-fat diets with cognitive defects. Two 'living-learning community' film viewings will provide supplemental engagement with the topic: "Supersize Me" and "Food, Inc.". These films both discuss ways in which the food industry drives unhealthy eating dynamics. An overall focus of the course will be to present multiple viewpoints and levels of discourse, and to highlight the lively and engaging state of this topic in society.

GNED 250-006 The Food Water Energy Nexus (3) Douglas Fox

Food, energy, and water resources are interconnected, so addressing one resource will cause scarcities in others. This complex problem requires innovative, cooperative, and interdisciplinary solutions utilizing the skills from multiple disciplines. Our next generation must be equipped with sustainability and resilience strategies for the Food Energy Water Nexus, requiring interdisciplinary approaches. Natural scientists, engineers, social scientists, economists, policy makers, and diplomats must work together to form an international collaboration for addressing these resource scarcities simultaneously.

GNED 250-007 Preventing Pollution (3) Jesse Meiller

Today, contaminants enter our water, air, and land through many routes. This course will be broken into these three sections (water, air, and land) as we pursue issues surrounding pollution in our environment including how and why pollution occurs. We will investigate the sources of various pollutants and the environmental and health effects of exposure to these contaminants. We will investigate potential solutions to pollution including prevention and mitigation. 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.

GNED 250-009 The Material World (3) Nate Harshman

This course will explore the matter that has mattered to humans, from stone and bronze through semiconductors and nanostructures. Cultures, economies, and nation‐states flourish and decline based in part on the material resources and technology which they can access and control. This course is half about material science, investigating the atom-stuff that we and our world are made of, and half a critical investigation of materialist theories of culture, history, economics, and politics. The primary student assessment is a portfolio demonstrating an integrated understanding of scientific and technical material (pun intended) into social, historical, artistic, economic, philosophical and political contexts.

GNED 250-010 Underrepresentation in STEM (3) Meg Bentley

Will your science professor be black? Many argue that underrepresentation in STEM fields is a problem that needs addressing, lest we face consequences in technological innovation. We will begin the course with an introduction to the professional STEM pipeline, and its unique characteristics. Then, students will find evidence as to whether the problem of underrepresentation truly exists and whether it has tangible consequences. We will expand our net to consider minorities, people with mental and physical disabilities, LGBTQ populations, and women. We will examine strategies to correct underrepresentation in the sciences and other fields and ask whether STEM is different from other professions. Readings will include scholarly and popular press articles from multiple disciplines including the natural sciences, social sciences, law and policy.

Propose a Wildcard

To propose a Wildcard, complete the form available on the Office of the Registrar's website. Once the form has been signed by the Department Chair and Associate Dean, email the completed proposal to

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