Fall 2018 Drew Seminar Course Options

The Drew Seminar (DSEM) revolves around an engaging intellectual area of exploration, designed by the faculty member. These seminars are engaging explorations of a significant question, mode of inquiry, or topic. The goal is to help students develop academic skills and habits of mind that are central to higher education; faculty are invited to share their intellectual passions and welcome students into the collaborative culture of the liberal arts college.

Core skills developed in the DREW Seminar

The seminar will help students develop the following skills and habits of mind:

  • Critical thinking – the ability to analyze a situation or text and make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis, through discussion, writing, reading, and research.
  • Writing Skills – the ability to plan, draft, and revise texts for both form and content.
  • Rhetorical knowledge – the ability to articulate how audience, purpose, and context shape a text, and to apply that knowledge appropriately when writing across a range of academic and nonacademic genres.
  • Oral Communication – the ability to listen to, explore, and share ideas in discussion and informal presentations.

All First Year students (except Civic Scholars) must rank their top five Drew Seminar (DSEM) courses of interest on their Summer Orientation Registration form. Civic Scholars will be placed in a Drew Seminar Course specific to that scholarship program.

Below is the full list of Drew Seminar (DSEM) courses offered for the Fall 2018 semester.

DSEM Title Instructor Course Description
The American Politician Phil Mundo American politicians are much maligned by the news media and public alike.  The term “politician: usually connotes negative images– greedy, selfish, duplicitous, superficial, insincere.  In recent years, politicians have become more ideological and less inclined to compromise. Whatever one thinks of politicians, government would not run without them, and the American public continues to flock to its political champions.  The central questions in this course are what type of person becomes a politician and what difference does this make for American politics? To answer these questions, the course examines politicians of remarkably different stripes. What motivates these people?  What sort of person would take on such a visible job? How have changes in American politics affected the sort of people who run for office? The underlying assumption of the course rejects the views that politicians are inherently noble or evil; rather, the course begins with the notion that politicians are extraordinarily atypical individuals who crave the public light and can stand the public heat.
Latinos/as in Hollywood Raul Rosales From West Side Story to Jennifer Lopez, from I Love Lucy to Jane the Virgin, from the Latin Lover to Sofia Vergara… This Drew seminar examines U.S. Latino/a images and representations in film and television from the silent era to the present day, along with their historical and sociopolitical frameworks. We explore the construction and perpetuation of Latino/a stereotypes in mainstream media productions, and also consider how film and television have been used as political tools to subvert some depictions and promote others. In examining the history of U.S. Latinos/as both behind and in front of the camera, the seminar analyzes the interconnections between Latino/a representations on the big and small screen and the shifting discourses on class, gender, ethnicity and multiculturalism in the United States. 
Shock: The Theatre of The Grand-guignol & Its Legacy Andy Elliott The Grand-Guignol was once regarded as one of the foremost Parisian attractions, equal to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Frequently referred to as the Theatre of Horror, the Grand-Guignol was world renowned for its gruesome productions and disturbing forays into the lower class application of bourgeois morality. This seminar examines the Theatre of The Grand-Guignol and its impact on modern literature, art, and the cinema. Attention is given to the artistic forerunners of the Grand-Guignol, such as naturalism, symbolism, melodrama, and Jacobean theatre. Coursework includes collaborative performance and art projects, in addition to the requirements of the seminar.
Hogwarts, Houses, and Horcruxes: The Psychology of Harry Potter Jill Cermele J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has become a cultural phenomenon, moving beyond the literary canon into other popular culture media, including film, theatre, music, and sport.  However, the Harry Potter series has also engendered serious and important multidisciplinary scholarship, as scholars from a variety of fields have used Harry Potter as a way to talk about important issues:  race, gender and class; typical and pathological human behavior; education and learning; nature and nurture; good and evil; reality and knowledge. In this class, we will use the Harry Potter canon as the basis for considering these and other psychological, social, and cultural issues.  It is expected that students enrolled in the course will have good prior knowledge of the Harry Potter series.

2 Sections:

Personal Responsibility, Civic Duty, Social Need: The Complexities of Civic Engagement

Section 1: Sandra Jamison

Section 2: Amy Koritz

Why do we volunteer our time or resources to help others? What do we hope to accomplish? How can we maximize our impact? When might our volunteer efforts have the potential to do harm? Does everyone agree that volunteering is always the best way to address social needs and inequalities? And when should individual choice take priority over responsibility to the larger community? Do we have a responsibility to be involved with civil society through local service or political organizations, or through engaging with elected government?  Civic engagement confronts us with so many questions! In this seminar, we will explore these and other questions through the lens of current issues we face in our communities and as individuals. Topics may include immigration, use of and conduct on social media, the environment, education, violence prevention, income inequality, healthcare, and/or drug and alcohol abuse.
Searching for Hamlet: On the Page, Stage, and Screen Dan LaPenta Hamlet … theatre artists feel compelled to wrestle with it, and scholars and critics find it a bottomless source of study in pursuit of its secrets and meanings.  In this Drew Seminar, we will focus our entire semester on this incredible play, engaging in our own intensive and extensive exploration of the text—through in-class discussions, a series of writing projects, creative engagement, and other means of interacting with the play—with a special focus on the questions: How do we translate what we learn about the play through textual analysis into the language of performance?  What specific interpretational choices do we face on stage, and what are the ramifications of our decisions? In working towards possible answers, we will look at Shakespeare’s dramatic techniques and how what he writes helps define character and intention for the actor. We will study several film performances and the choices that these productions have made in bringing the Prince of Denmark to life.
Four Out of Five Drew Students Recommend this Seminar: Evaluating Survey Resarch Sarah Abramowitz Newspapers, news reports, journals, and other sources of information contain many conclusions based on “quantitative data” obtained from surveys. In this seminar, we look critically at the basis for some of these conclusions and discuss their validity. We look at the design, implementation, and analysis of surveys including the sampling, the questions asked, other sources of bias, the data analysis and interpretation, the description and presentation of data, and the conclusions drawn. We design, implement, and interpret our own survey during the semester. We discuss a wide variety of related topics including whether the results of internet surveys are meaningful, what happened with the polling in George W. Bush’s second presidential election, how the S&P 500 may be thought of as a survey of the stock market, whether the methods used by US News and World Report to evaluate colleges are appropriate, and why you have not heard of President Landon.
Are We Alone? Contact, Communication and Consequences of Extraterrestrial Life Alan Rosan  Are we alone? Is the universe a biological as well as a physical construct?  When and how did life arise on Earth? Is the emergence of life inevitable and is there other life – or other intelligent life –  elsewhere (or else when) in the universe? What are the implications of the discovery of life beyond the Earth? How might we observe, contact and communicate with other sentience?  What might be the consequences of contact with alien intelligence beyond the Earth? To explore these – and other – questions, this course will pursue what we presently know and what we do not yet know about the origins, nature and future of life on Earth and the extent to which this knowledge might provide insight about conditions found on extra solar planets and moons.  We will learn about the emerging interdisciplinary field of astrobiology and the implications this work has for understanding our place, role and fate in the universe. This course will include science fact, science fiction and informed science speculation. We may hold joint sessions with the other DSEM seminars as appropriate for guest talks, film viewing and discussion of topics of mutual interest such as the big bang, history of Earth and Solar System, origin of life, evolution of hominids, origin of consciousness, the rise and fall of civilizations, climate continuity, artificial/synthetic intelligence, inorganic/techno life and others.
The Evolution of the Hero John Muccigrosso The heroes of the ancient Greeks kept themselves busy fighting minotaurs, stealing cattle, and going on absurdly difficult quests. The title “hero” has come a long way since then, and today you can hear about “heroes” regularly on the nightly news, with nary a monster is sight. This course will explore the origins and evolution of the term. We will consider how the Greeks first conceived of the word “hero,” what the Romans did to the term, and then how it subsequently evolved, including the understanding of the hero in contemporary American culture.
American Inequality Jason Jordan The United States is a nation of both enormous wealth and staggering inequalities.  Over the past 50 years, the United States has transformed from a remarkably egalitarian society into one of the most unequal democracies in the world.  In America today, the top 10% of income earners control 73% of all the wealth, compared to less than 4% for the bottom 60%. By examining data from the United States and around the globe, this course explores the political and economic causes and consequences of rising inequality.  The class is designed to provide an in-depth analysis of one of today’s most important political and economic issues without requiring any prior knowledge of economics or political science.
Film and the City Muriel Placet-Kouassi Location, Location, Location! Action!
In this seminar, we will see how the famous real estate agents’ mantra applies to film while examining the relationship between the most popular cultural form today –film- and the most important form of social organization, i.e. the city. In this course, students will explore the interpenetration of culture, society and economics through a selection of international films (mostly Francophone movies) in which a city is either the main character of that film (the story could not take place elsewhere) or a generic backdrop due to the ever-growing globalization of our contemporary world. Class discussion and writing assignments will compare and contrast filmic representations of urban environments and attempt to determine to what extent films “reflect” or “effect” globalization as well as the “reality” of the cities themselves. Paris and New York City are the main “characters” and “locations” of the films selected for this class.
Magic Bullets: The Role and Limitations of Science in Medicine Adam Cassano Spending on prescription drugs in the United States exceeded $300 billion in 2015. Drug development often follows the paradigm of the “Magic Bullet,” where the medicine attacks an invading pathogen without affecting the person who is ill. This course will examine both the scientific strategies behind developing these Magic Bullets, and the limitations of the paradigm. How can we find the targets for our magic bullets? Once a target is identified, how is a drug developed, and what are the costs? What side effects are acceptable? Why can we find effective treatments for some diseases, but not others? Why can’t we eradicate diseases even when we have effective treatments? We will explore these questions and many others as we delve into the science behind the development of modern medicines.  The DSEM is part of the STEM and Health Sciences Living Learning Community, where students will live together in one of the residence halls and participate in common programming with students with similar interests.
#Democracy & Digital Citizenship Elias Ortega-Aponte Have you thought about the ways in which your thumbs are tools for democratic participation? From our takes on the latest movies or music to our #tagging others in trending social issue our presence in digital spaces let others know about our likes, what enjoy doing, and our takes. Social media and digital technologies are reconfiguring the scope of democratic living and opening new spaces for citizens engagement with policies, ideas, and public life. With the ability to enter into an amplified and accelerated public sphere for deliberation mediated by technology,  democratic citizenship requires developing digital fluency and information literacy skills. In this seminar, we will analyze examples from social media, tv shows, news media, graphic novels, and comics, to understand how digital technologies are reshaping the contours our democratic lives. We will also work on developing written and oral presentation skills necessary for successful communication in online and interpersonal environments.
Forty Studies That Changed Psychology Patrick Dolan Is our behavior a reflection of our biology or our environment?  Are the choices we make grounded in our free will, or do we conform to authority and situations?  Psychology, as the sciences of mental processes and behaviors, helps us answer these questions.  This seminar will explore some of the most influential studies in psychology — topics that include the influence of nature versus nurture, conformity, sexuality, and false memories. In the process of discussing the methods and results of the particular studies, we will address the controversies, ethical dilemmas, and long-term implications of the findings on understanding what makes us tick.
HIV/AIDS: Biology in a Global Context Brianne Barker AIDS was first recognized in the early 1980s and led to widespread fear, controversy, and misinformation. Since that time, scientists have identified the virus (HIV) that causes this disease, determined the origin of this virus, and generated antiviral therapies that have greatly improved the lives of some of those infected. These studies have revolutionized our understanding of the immune system and the emergence of infectious diseases, making HIV/AIDS a fascinating subject from a scientific perspective. However, an estimated 36 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV/AIDS. This pandemic continues not only because of gaps in our scientific knowledge, but also due to cultural factors and public health policies that have affected the spread of this virus. Thus, preventing further transmission will require an understanding of this pandemic from many angles. This course will explore our current biological understanding of AIDS and how scientists have obtained this knowledge, approaches to HIV therapy and prevention, and the role of cultural factors and governmental responses to this global health crisis.
Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping Chris Andrews Given that the American economy relies heavily on consumer spending, it should perhaps be no surprise that advertising, shopping, and consumer culture is a prominent feature of American society. However, advertisements, products, and retail stores do not naturally emerge but are socially constructed, infused with meaning, intentionally designed, and meant to promote the purchase of a particular good or service. Drawing upon an eclectic mix of the social sciences, this course will explore the “science of shopping” and how the design of retail environments influences consumer behavior.
Reproduction in the 21st Century Tina McKittrick Reduced to its simplest elements, sexual reproduction involves the fusion of male gametes (sperm) and female gametes (ova or eggs) to form a genetically unique individual. However, an increased understanding of reproductive biology has been accompanied by advances in technology that have created many more options for creating life; with these technologies, come complex questions not only about what we can do, but also what we should do. As we explore the interface between science and society, this seminar will introduce students to such technologies as in vitro fertilization, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, gene editing, cloning, and embryonic stem cell research, and will ask them to consider the ethical questions that these technologies have raised.
Weapons of Math Destruction: Living with Algorithms Minjoon Kouh How much of our lives are influenced, dictated, or enhanced by algorithms? For example, we use the recommendations from an algorithm to pick out a movie to watch or an item to shop. We are guided by a navigation algorithm to avoid traffic jams and arrive at our destinations quickly. Algorithms can influence even our personal relationships (dating algorithm) and career trajectories (resume-screening and job-matching algorithms). A well-designed algorithm can help its users to solve a problem or accomplish a task efficiently. However, an over-reliance on algorithms may prohibit the users from seeing the “big picture” and developing alternative solutions to a problem. In this seminar, we will explore the benefits and potential pitfalls of living with algorithms.  The DSEM is part of the STEM and Health Sciences Living Learning Community, where students will live together in one of the residence halls and participate in common programming with students with similar interests. 
Global Peacebuilding and Interfaith Leadership Jonathan Golden

This seminar provides students with a vital set of skills that will be prepare you for leadership roles in the ‘real word’, no matter what your chosen path. Our primary focus is on encounters and interactions between people of different heritage, ethnicity, and faith, all of which are happening more frequently than ever.  This brings many opportunities, as well as challenges. Accordingly, we need to prepare the next generation of leaders in the ways of peacebuilding, cooperation and co-existence. How can college students step up as interfaith-intercultural leaders committed to shifting the discourse from conflict to cooperation? What skills and knowledge do we need to make interfaith-intercultural cooperation a reality on campus and beyond?  One place to start is by building our appreciation of and knowledge about each other’s experiences, practices and traditions: what we call interfaith and intercultural literacy.

In this seminar, we will explore the concept of interfaith-intercultural literacy as an essential characteristic of leadership in an increasingly diverse world.  Aspiring to train a cohort of campus leaders, we will engage in a series of exercises that teach team-building, group facilitation and the skill set needed for leadership.  Our seminar will employ a case study approach, where we examine religiously and ethnically driven conflicts both here in the US and around the world. We will study the roots of conflict, the impact and effects of conflict, and various strategies that can be used to manage and resolve conflict, while promoting pluralism and respect.  

Music and Meaning Trevor Weston

Without music, there can be no perfect knowledgeIsidore of Seville (560-636)

What is music and why do we need it? Many people attend music concerts and some even perform in music events. Sometimes we use music as a background soundtrack to our lives. Driving or walking from place to place with music playing in our ears or through the car stereo is commonplace. But why do we do this? Does music improve these experiences?  Is music aiding us in completing the task or distracting us in these situations? Will fast music make us walk or drive faster? Everyone experiences music differently, and for millennia, humans have tried to make sense of music, good and bad, from many different perspectives: Scientific, philosophical, emotional, behavioral, and numerical. Given the almost ubiquitous presence of music in our lives, it might seem surprising that humans continue to debate music’s value and nature. The historical debates on the nature of music point to the important role music plays in the human existence, and the continued debate reveals music’s vast complexity. This course will address these questions and investigate the complexity of music’s function and power in our lives, and demonstrate how far-reaching a definition of music can be, and how music can exist for some as more than mere entertainment.   The course will encourage discussion and debate on the nature of music through readings that span over one thousand years, and students will contribute to this ongoing debate and quest to understand what music is and why humans make it.

Strangers at the Shore: Politics of Immigration Sangay Mishra Cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have become hubs for global capital, finance, commerce, arts and culture, and technological innovations. These cities are equally known for waves of immigration that have created layers of history shaped by the newcomers. The economy, culture, politics, and food of these cities are deeply shaped by immigrant populations who also get transformed in the process.  This seminar is focused on the ways in which American cities have been shaped by immigration over many decades, and will look at both historical and contemporary examples to understand how global cities are deeply impacted by generations of immigrant populations. We will analyze the dynamic impact of immigrant population on politics, culture, and social lives of the cities through readings and films that underline the vibrant tapestry created by immigrants as well as anxieties triggered by religious, racial, and cultural differences brought by these communities, and examine the current controversies, such as the debates around the idea of ‘sanctuary city’, that many of the major urban centers have decided to follow.
Sacred Wisdom Chris Taylor Through proverbs, maxims, aphorisms, epigrams, parables and short stories, what are known as “wisdom literature,” this Drew Seminar will explore the rich treasuries of sacred thought from five of the world’s great religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism for their insights into some of the deepest and most perplexing questions of human existence. Among the topics we will consider are: the nature of ultimate reality, the meaning of life, suffering, pain, evil, virtue and what defines the “good life.” We will look for both comparisons and differences in the ways these five traditions consider some of the most ancient and enduring questions of human existence.
You Are What You Eat: U.S. Food Cultures Angie Kirby-Calder What is “American food?”  Food means different things to different people, at different times, because all food knowledge is cultural and must be learned.  This course will explore: the symbolic value and meanings of food, with attention to different identities; food meanings at the sites of production, preparation, marketing and consumption; and different approaches to the study of foodways, such as its cultural production and transmission, its relationship to the environment and issues of social justice, and its relationship to aspects of American history.  Key questions are: How is food knowledge generated and maintained? How and why does it change over time? What is the relationship between food and identity, at a personal and group level? How can food both foster solidarity and divisiveness? How is food political?