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John D. Simon

John D. Simon
Executive Vice President & Provost

Contact Us

P.O. Box 400226
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4226

Phone:
434-982-2362
Fax:
434-924-1497
Email:
jwt5z@virginia.edu

 

 

University Seminars: Fall 2009

University Seminars (USEMS) are designed to give first-year students the opportunity to develop critical-thinking skills and explore new ideas in an environment that encourages interactive learning and intensive discussion. The seminars are based on ideas that have changed the way we think about our relation to the world around us. The seminars are given by prominent faculty in departments and schools across the University, carry two or three hours of credit, and are restricted to 18 first-year students during the initial course enrollment. If space is remaining, second-, third-, and fourth-year students may enroll using a Course Action Form.

Refer to the Student Information System (click U for USEMS) for a list of specific offerings each semester

Two 3 Credit Courses are being offered this fall in addition to our traditional 2 credit courses. Note: College of Arts & Sciences' student only: USEM 170s count as credit and 171s count as elective credit inside the College of Arts & Sciences in the course website before enrolling.

Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union

3 Credit Course
Monday
9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Mary Munford House
Yuri Urbanovich, Lecturer
Fall 2009

This course is about Russia and the Soviet Union. It is designed to explore some of this country’s major political themes of the twentieth century through an understanding of Russia’s history, culture, and politics.

Resilient Cities

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
2:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Pavilion VIII, 108
Timothy Beatley, Professor
Fall 2009

We are on the verge of a major and dramatic period of re-thinking cities; their form, function, ability to adapt and respond to future conditions of limited natural resources, diminishing supplies of oil (as well as water, food, etc.), and global economic shocks and downturns. Cities around the world will also have to adapt to the many and extensive physical and ecological impacts associated with climate change, even if it becomes possible to avoid the most catastrophic climate change scenarios (which seems increasingly unlikely). Many in the planning and design community now advocate a new approach—one increasingly talks of the need for resilient cities. This proposed USEM will explore why we need resilient cities, how resilience can be incorporated into our design and planning, what a resilient city looks like and functions, and what new planning ideas, technologies, or governance structures will be needed to advance this new model of cities.

Energy: Past and Future

2 Credit Course
Thursday
2:30 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.
Pavilion VIII, 103
John Brown, Professor
Fall 2009

In the near term Americans must change our energy habits (broadly understood) in the face of three threatening trends: the depletion of the world oil reserves, the effects of energy resources on international political relations (geopolitics), and global warming. While our energy future is uncertain, the present status and future directions of energy supplies and use largely reflect deep-seated economic trends, longstanding instruments of social power, and fundamental cultural beliefs. Put directly, history provides highly useful frameworks for a critical understanding of the place of energy in society today. This course will explore the cultural, environmental, technological, economic, and regulatory contexts that all influence our society’s ability to evolve toward an improved energy future.

Economics: Environmentalism and Sonic Art

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
2:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Old Cabell Hall B011
Matthew Burtner, Associate Professor
Fall 2009

Ecoacoustics: Environmentalism and Sonic Art allows students to engage with one of the critical issues of our time, environmentalism, through the lens of art and music. Students learn new technologies of recording engineering and audio production while they simultaneously explore critical listening theory and music history. The course begins with students recording and analyzing outdoor sounds. The class will record a variety of sites including the Shenandoah National Park, UVa Grounds, and underwater sounds. Through these recording activities we will develop a methodology of hearing that we use to address broader cultural and political issues of our time. We expand the recording / analysis process into a study of environmentalism and human-nature dialectics, cultural preservation and environmentalism. Through sound we learn to understand broader issues of society in counterpoint with nature. We gain critical and practical insights while also enjoying a diversity of exciting music by some of the most compelling composers of our time. Students will leave the seminar with a broader knowledge of contemporary music, with recording engineering technical skills, and with a deeper understanding of how we impact the world through our actions.

Games and Economic Behavior

2 Credit Course
Friday
9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
New Cabell 242
Edwin Burton, Visiting Professor
Fall 2009

An informal introduction to game theory and behavioral finance.

The Origin of the Universe

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
2:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Physics 218
Vittorio Celli, Professor Emeritus
Fall 2009

Has the universe always existed or was it created from nothing? Is it finite or infinite in extent? Until the 1920’s, scientists by and large left these questions to religion and philosophy. Then Hubble found that the universe is expanding, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. Now we have plenty of evidence that, as far in the sky as our instruments can see, it all started about 14 billion years ago with a Big Bang. But was there something before the Bang, and how did it come about? We will discuss what is known, what is still uncertain or speculative, and what appear to be the ultimate limits of human ability to know, with readings from Hawking’s “Brief History of Time”, web sites, and current articles in this rapidly evolving field.

Collapse of Ecosystems and Societies

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
Clark Hall 054
Paolo D’Odorico, Professor
Fall 2009

This seminar course will focus on interactions between environmental processes and societies in a changing world. The seminar topics include: major ongoing environmental changes around the world. Interactions between societies and the environment: equilibrium, stability and resilience. Continuous/discontinuous state changes. Catastrophic shifts in coupled societal-environmental systems. Reversibility, irreversibility, and feedback loops. Tropical Deforestation: impacts on climate, soils, and societies. Desertification: do humans create the deserts? Collapse of ecosystems and societies at the desert margins. The water crisis: changes in the water cycle; sustainable water use; water-limited societies; globalization of water; water footprints. Biological invasions. Species extinction: the advantage of having a bio-diverse environment and diverse societies. Learning from history: unsustainable use of resources and collapse of past societies: The case of Easter Island, the Anasazi, the Mayans, the Vikings, the guano rush and collapse of guano islands, agriculture and the erosion of cibilizations. Sustainable and unsustainable use of natural resources: weak and strong sustainability, the concept of natural capital and ecological footprints. Sustaining ecosystems and societies in a changing world. The course will include a number of discussion sessions, which will provide a forum for the critical discussion of the assigned readings.

Course Righting Unrightable Wrongs

2 Credit Course
Friday
3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
Pavilion VIII, 103
Franklin Dukes, Lecturer
Fall 2009

From Native Americans pursuing a return of lands and sovereignty, to Japanese-Americans drawing attention to the shame of internment, to African-Americans seeking redress for slavery and its aftermath of segregation and discrimination, many groups have sought to right past harms and ongoing injustices. Can individuals, communities and nations ever make right what appear to be irreparable wrongs? This course examines that question for problems ranging from genocide and slavery to racial discrimination and environmental contamination. The literature of reparations and restorative justice will be enhanced by examining specific cases within the instructor’s experience. These include a site affected by severe environmental contamination and Japanese-American internment during World War II (Bainbridge Island, WA); a city coming to terms with killings of labor organizers and civil rights workers through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Greensboro, NC); and Native American communities in Virginia seeking redress for degradation of traditional cultural properties. The unifying theme of the class will be the question of the legacy of slavery and segregation at the University of Virginia and its impact on the surrounding community of Charlottesville-Albemarle.

Science fiction and Environmental Literacy

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
2:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Cauthen House 134
Theodore Homyk, Lecturer
Fall 2009

The course combines the study of fictional and non-fictional materials to increase awareness and understanding of the seriousness of impending environmental crises, including global warming, species depletion, development of the ozone hole, chemical pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, water depletion, resource depletion, and over population, that are placing unnatural and unsustainable stresses on the environment. Fictional novels capture the reader’s attention and stimulate their imagination with identifiable characters, who themselves discuss, experience, solve, or succumb to environmental problems. Non-fictional materials, including lecturers, articles, and short documentary films on environmental topics reinforce the legitimacy, implied by the novelists, who put the problems in the context of living characters to emphasize and clarify the consequences of environmental problems. Class discussions center around analysis of the facts and the interrelatedness of all the environmental issues at hand, the likelihood of the consequences proposed in fictional and non-fictional materials, if solutions to these problems are not universally validated, not unlikely since the quest for solutions often lie outside traditional thinking and stand at odds with much of our cultural indoctrination. Speculation is made regarding the threat imposed by the problems to our culture, our way of life, and even the survival of our species.

Art of Rock Concert Lighting

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
2:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Drama Room 217
R. Lee Kennedy, Associate Professor
Fall 2009

An exploration of the history of concert lighting design and technology from its roots in ‘60s counter-culture to the contemporary corporate rock technological spectacle. Through structured discussion and research into video, print, and web sources, students will investigate the elements of concert visual imagery and its influence on other media such as Broadway musical theatre, television, film, and themed restaurant and retail environments. In hands-on projects in the lighting studio students will explore the artistic and perceptual relationship between music and light and gain an understanding of the sophisticated technology behind the dynamic imagery so prevalent in popular entertainment.

Gender, Violence and Culture

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
Claude Moore Nursing Educ 1110
Kathryn Laughon, Assistant Professor
Fall 2009

Popular discussions about violence against girls and women grossly exaggerate some forms of violence and seriously minimize others. In this course, we will explore how we define violence, theories of why violence exists, and will contrast what the data tell us about how girls and women experience violence across their lifespan with how female-directed violence is depicted in newspapers, magazine and entertainment media. We will examine how risk of violence varies according to the type of violence, the type of perpetrator, and the victims’ age, race, and class. Students will critically examine how and why images of violence are presented and distorted in the news, songs, movies, and other media. Course materials include academic journal articles, newspaper articles, fiction, websites, and movies. Students will have the opportunity to observe court cases and meet with a prosecutor, victim advocates, survivors of violence, and sexual assault nurse examiners.

Modern Africa through African Film

2 Credit Course
Thursday
2:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Bryan Hall 330
Adria LaViolette, Associate Professor
Fall 2009

An ethnographic exploration into modern Africa lives and societies through the medium of feature films made by African filmmakers on the continent, supplemented with readings.

Diversity in the US Workplace

2 Credit Course
Tuesday
2:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Rouss Hall 403
Rebecca Leonard, Lecturer
Fall 2009

Diversity is a competitive business strategy, which U.S. firms in today’s global marketplace must embrace to remain successful. Workforce trends show that a majority of new entrants to the US Workforce in the coming decade will represent non-white, minority groups. Understanding differences and creating inclusive work environments is a key skill for managers today. The objective of this course is to increase students understanding and awareness of issues related to differences and the impact of differences on: individual behavior in organizations, team development and effectiveness, organizational change and effectiveness and organizational success. This course will examine, define and create a greater understanding of diversity as a business imperative as well as challenge students to examine their own biases and stereotypes and how they can create positive changes for a more inclusive environment at U.Va. and in their future workplaces.

The Neural Basis of Addiction

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
McLeod Hall 2005
William Levy, Professor

Great process is being made in understanding the neurobiology of drug addiction. Addictive drugs push brain and behavior to the limits of pleasure and pain and are therefore a useful tool in understanding normal brain function itself. There is now strong scientific understanding of the brain circuits that mediate pleasure and pain. In addition to the basal ganglia, which mediate important aspects of pleasure and reward, other brain regions, such as the prefrontal cortex and limbic system, weigh the benefits and costs of making any decision, such as taking a drug. Class is a combination of lectures and discussions. In this seminar, we will read two recently-published journal articles each week. Students are responsible for two presentations each semester and a final paper consisting of about 12 pages. Preparation for each class and participation in discussions is expected.

Introduction to Global Women’s Health

2 Credit Course
Monday
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
McLeod 5044
Breyette Lorntz, Assistant Professor
Fall 2009

What is women’s health? What defines and influences women’s health around the world? In this course students will explore concepts central to 1) supporting personal health and well-being and 2) understanding global health problems and solutions women face around the world. Students will also work to describe active linkages between global women’s health and their intended majors. Community and academic leaders, from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, who address global women’s health issues at UVa and in our area, will be invited to share their experiences with students and to lead hands-on workshops. Emphasis will be placed on creating a learning environment for active discussion and critical thinking.

The Politics of Now

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Miller Center of Public Affairs
Paul Martin, Assistant Professor
Fall 2009

This class engages contemporary politics in the United States and the world around us. Class is designed around a series of contemporary discussions about politics stimulated by current policy makers, political journalists, public affairs writers, and activists.

Quiet Mind Smart Mind

2 Credit Course
Tuesday
9:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
Mary Munford
Marga Odahowski, Director of Studies
Fall 2009

In our fast changing world, our economic leaders suggest the future belongs to the creative’s. Daniel Pink, author of the book, A Whole New Mind state’s “the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different mind-creative’s and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers.” The ability to negotiate change and innovation without losing one’s own rhythms and goals is important in today’s complex world. Being able to take global issues to the individual and local level requires understanding connections and relationships and the ability collaborate.

Falling From Infinity

2 Credit Course
Tuesday
3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
New Cabell 320
Michael Palmer, Assistant Professor
Fall 2009

This thing we call infinity fills our dreams and sparks our imaginations, yet it lies just beyond our reach, lurking in the shadows, evading our questions. Our curiosity compels us to ask: what is infinity? Whether it is something innumerable, something vast or eternal, it shapes our philosophies and religions, influences our arts and literatures, and drives our mathematics and sciences. William Blake sees infinity in a grain of sand; Vincent van Gogh glimpses it in starry nights; Gregor Cantor proposes infinities within infinities; and Stephen Hawking finds it in the dark corners of our Universe. In this class, we will explore the infinite and the infinitesimal by looking through the eyes of these and other great thinkers.

Rhetorical Thinking & Speaking

2 Credit Course
Tuesday
4:00 p.m. – 5:50 p.m.
Robertson 227
Rob Patterson, Assistant Professor
Fall 2009

The course will begin by exploring the rhetorical ideas and foundational works of the classicists such as Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle. We will explore the multiple meanings of rhetoric and how to think rhetorically. Moreover, the theoretical grounding of this course is built upon common ground between these thinkers, which is that effective rhetorical education is rooted in three essential elements: natural ability; knowledge, and practice. The idea is that students will: 1) explore, embrace, and work within their natural abilities, 2) acquire knowledge on how to structure ideas for public speeches and model good delivery through discussion and by viewing and critiquing Great Speeches, and 3) practice their craft by rehearsing and delivering speeches. Some student speeches will be taped and reviewed together by the student and instructor. Our time will be divided between theoretical explorations of rhetoric and the academic/lifelong knowledge and skill of giving public speeches. Three extemporaneous speeches (the informative, the ceremonial, and the persuasive) will be delivered. In addition, students will deliver two impromptu speeches. Our goals, through theoretical exploration and practice of the fundamentals or organization, content, delivery, will be to hone listening, presentational, and evaluation habits – the habits needed to become engaged critics and competent speakers of thoughtful message here at UVA and beyond.

Argumentation

2 Credit Course
Monday and Wednesday
3:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
New Cabell B029
David Rubin, Professor Emeritus
Fall 2009
Satisfies Second Writing Requirement

This interactive, methodological USEM introduces a widely accepted model of presumptive reasoning and provides ample practice in the analysis, appraisal, and construction of arguments. While mastering the model, participants will discuss then write about recent op-ed columns on problems in higher education. Then - after brief glances at critical pluralism as well as reasoning in law and ethics - focus will shift to major positions in the controversy over academic freedom (i.e., freedom to teach and freedom to learn). Former participants report that the USEM prepared them for seminars and eventual research in the humanities and the social sciences, as well as the analytical reasoning section on graduate and professional school aptitude tests.

Ethics and Conquest of America

2 Credit Course
Monday
2:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Pavilion VIII, 108
Jorge Secada, Associate Professor
Fall 2009

A study of ethical and philosophical issues arising from the 16th Century Spanish conquest of the Americas. Topics to be examined include legitimacy of states, just war, foundations of international law, genocide and terrorism, moral significance of cultural identity, democracy and cultural plurality. Texts include classical historical sources as well as contemporary readings.

Science with no Borders

2 Credit Course
Monday
3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
Chemistry 305
Sandra Seidel, Associate Professor
Fall 2009

This is an integrated science class with an interdisciplinary emphasis designed particularly for both potential science and non-science majors. The course investigates a few major ideas in the natural sciences, emphasizing the process of science through hands-on and minds-on activities and discussions. The content illustrates the connections between fundamental scientific ideas across traditional disciplinary borders.

Dying, Death and Grief or I’d rather be in Philadelphia

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
4:00 p.m. – 5:50 p.m.
Claude Moore Nursing Education Building 3020
Richard Steeves, Professor
Fall 2009

The title refers to what the comic W.C. Fields was reported to have written on his gravestone, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” This course is an exploration of thinking about dying, death, and bereavement. Although western culture and American culture in particular has a reputation for being death denying, we do in fact confront images of and talk about death on almost a daily basis. This course will not be a study about death and dying in the news and popular media, rather it will be about those who have thought about our mortality seriously and extensively. The course will be divided into three foci: (a) writers and poets, (b) death professionals such as hospice workers, funeral directors and grief counselors, (c) social scientists who study homicide, suicide, bereavement and related topics. The goal is to explore different ways of thinking about what may truly be beyond our understanding, death.

Australia

2 Credit Course
Tuesday
4:00 p.m. – 5:50 p.m.
Pavilion VIII, 108
Mark Thomas, Professor
Fall 2009

The course will look at the history and society of the land ‘down under.’ Australia is a land of opportunity and paradox. It began as a penal colony and became the richest country in the world within a hundred years. It is a country that has been independent of Britain for a century, yet still has the Queen as head of state. It is a vast continent of only 15 million inhabitants, yet has remarkable regional diversity. It has long been among the most urbanized of global societies, yet its cultural identity is largely shaped by rural idealism. To understand contemporary Australia, one must understand its past, both as myth and reality. This course will look closely at some of the major events in Australian history, form the voyages of Captain Cook and the landing of the First Fleet at Botany Bay, through the excitements of the Gold Rush and Ned Kelly, the traumas of Gallipoli and the Great Depression, to the economic, political and social problems faced in the uncertain world of the new millennium. We will use both traditional and non-traditional means to understand these events, applying the realist perspective of the historian, the subjective perceptions of the diarist and novelist, and the powerful imagery of the artist and the film-maker.

Journeys through Hell

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
4:00 p.m. – 5:50 p.m.
Cabell 325
Dariusz Tolczyk, Associate Professor
Fall 2009

Extreme experiences of evil and oppression -- concentration camps, prisons, mass terror, and other forms of victimization -- have often been presented as opportunities for unusual personal growth and spiritual ascent. From archaic initiation rites of diverse cultures through ancient Greet, Roman, and Biblical s wisdom, as well as many literary traditions, the pint has been stressed repeatedly that being exposed to suffering and oppression not only can make us better, stronger, and more enlightened human beings but, in fact, tends to be a necessary condition of such profound ennoblement. Is it true? Survivors of extreme experiences of the twentieth century, including the Holocaust, the Soviet Gulag, Communist prisons of Eastern Europe, and Chinese mind-reform camps ask this question while describing their own ordeals. What can we learn from them about humanity, both in general and our own? In this seminar, we will explore and discuss cultural, religious and intellectual roots of the conviction that extreme oppression can ennoble us. We will confront these traditions with survivors’ writings about Nazi and Communist oppression. In our explorations, we will ask some profound questions: What motivates human beings under extreme conditions? Are human beings good by nature? How does mass-scale evil originate in history? How do diverse cultural backgrounds affect ways in which people react to these assaults against their humanity? Our discussions will allow us to explore human experiences not directly accessible for most of us, and confront our own assumptions with discoveries of those who lived through extreme experiences. Readings include short excerpts from the Bible, Plato, Juvenal and some more recent thinkers, as well as prison/camp memoirs by Elie Wiesel, Aleksandr Solzhenistyn, Zhang Xialniang, Eugenia Ginzburg, Varlam Shalamov, Gustaw Herling, Tadeusz Borowski. Films “The Pianist” (by Roman Polanski), “Life is Beautiful” (by Roberto Benigni), and “Interrogation” (by Ryszard Bugajski) will be viewed outside of class and discussed in class.

Photography and Advocacy

2 Credit Course
Wednesday
3:30 p.m. – 5:20 p.m.
Cabell 224
Carl Trindle, Professor
Fall 2009

The photographic image has been an instrument of persuasion since its beginning. We describe how photographs can convey political and moral positions, by examples including overt political and moral positions, by examples including overt political propaganda [Soviet and Nazi images], appeals to social responsibility [Jacob Riis, Walker Evans, and Dorothea Lange], and evocations of the landscape ethic [Ansel Adams, Richard Misrach, Robert Adams]. Special attention will be given to the issue of image manipulation in photojournalism.

Clones & Genomes: The New Biology

2 Credit Course
Tuesday and Thursday
3:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Chemistry 303
Michael Wormington
Fall 2009

Cloning humans, the creation of genetically identical individuals from differentiated adult cells, and once the exclusive domain of science fiction, has moved to the front pages of reputable newspapers and prestigious scientific journals. In 1997, the first scientifically substantiated report of a cloned mammal, Dolly the ewe, fomented considerable debate and discussion, and evoked vigorous responses from politicians, pundits, professors, theologians, and entrepreneurs alike. In vigorous responses from politicians, pundits, professors, theologians, and entrepreneurs alike. In the past decade, Dolly has been joined by a plethora of cloned mammals. A comparable method of gene transfer used to propagate these cloned animals has been successfully used to treat female infertility in humans. The generation and exploitation of human stem cells and “therapeutic options. This course will address the fundamental importance of cloning organisms to developmental and reproductive biology; the enormity of the impact of the human genome sequence on human biology; and the ethical, political and societal ramifications of both. Students will gain an appreciation for the intellectual and methodological challenges posed by these questions and the experimental approaches employed to answer them. The applications of these technologies and their moral, ethical, and legal ramifications will be considered and discussed in a variety of contexts. Topics and assigned readings will be derived from the scientific literature, books, magazines, newspapers and resources available online.

Energy and the Environment

2 Credit Course
Tuesday
3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
Wilsdorf Hall 101
Giovanni Zangari, Professor
Fall 2009

The current discourse on the energy crisis, the environmental impact of harvesting and transporting energy, and climate charge is often politically charged. Opinions exposed in the media are rarely supported by facts. This University seminar aims to provide the technical instruments necessary to understand contemporary energy issues, such that the students may develop informed opinions on this important topic. This course will discuss the concept of energy, the abundance and availability of energy sources on the earth and in space, how energy is harvested and delivered, and what are the environmental consequences of these actions. Finally, it will explore possible global energy policy scenarios and the role of technology in assessing their feasibility. The course will include a number of discussion sessions, which will provide a forum of the critical discussion of the assigned readings.