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John D. Simon

John D. Simon
Executive Vice President & Provost

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




University Seminars: Fall 2013

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 Course Catalog for a list of specific offerings each semester.

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 Course Catalog for a list of specific offerings each semester.

America through Russian Eyes
3 Credit Course
Tuesday 3:30-6:00pm
Clemons Library 322A
Yuri Urbanovich, Lecturer

This course explores American-Russian relations in their historical and contemporary perspective. We will employ the skills to tools of the historian, political scientist, geographer, psychologist, and student of culture, including literature and film, to analyze factors that have shaped mutual perceptions and misperceptions.

2 Credit Course
Monday 4:00-5:50pm
Pavilion VIII 103
Mark Thomas, Professor

This course will look at the history, culture 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, from 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.

Construction of Self as Art Practice
2 Credit Course
Monday 10:00am-11:50am
Ruffin Hall, Room 102
Michelle Wampler, Lecturer

This Seminar will explore the act of constructing a self, a necessary creative process, and will examine its potential as an art practice. We will concentrate on reading closely a select group of relevant philosophy, critical theory, performance theory, poetry and visual studies texts while looking at artists and art works (film, installation work, performance art, fashion design, dance, stand-up comedy, animation, internet-based video…) and discuss the performative nature of an invented disembodied self or art object that stands apart from its creator verses the performance of a live person or event.

Contemporary Perspectives on Social Justice Movements, Action & Change
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 2:00-3:50pm
Cauthen House 112
Lisa Speidel, Lecturer

The purpose of this course is to engage students in critical thought and discussion about social justice movements, both well known and more obscure, which represent community and citizen-based responses to injustice and inequality.  This course uses feminist theory to focus on the concept of agency and resilience and the ways in which seemingly divergent populations of people have utilized various strategies for achieving recognition and change.  The course will incorporate several themes; exploring the role of identify and difference at personal and relational levels, the historical context of these concepts, and theoretical frameworks considered from local and global perspectives.  The aim of the course is to compel students to explore a sense of purpose and plan of action grounded in engaged scholarship and social responsibility.  The structure of the course includes lecture, readings, interactive exercises, films, discussion, guest speakers, critical written evaluation, blog discussion and personal written reflection of the weekly topics.

Dams and the Environment
2 Credit Course
Monday 3:00-4:45pm
Pavilion 8, Room B002
Janet Herman, Professor

Complex and difficult societal decisions must be made in the management of water resources that support human life.  An environmental legacy from past decisions to build dams to provide water supplies for drinking, irrigation, and power generation as well as for flood protection can be examined for the consequences for sustainable water supply, species survival, economic costs and benefits, and the protection of environmental quality.

Dying, Death and Grief
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 2:00-3:50pm
Brooks Hall 103
Richard Steeves, Professor Emeritus

I have taught this course since fall of 2006.  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 and playwrights, (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.

Gender, Violence and Culture
2 Credit Course
Monday 3:00 – 5:20pm
Cauthen House  112
Kathryn Laughon, Associate Professor

Popular discussions about violence against girls and women grossly exaggerate some forms of violence and seriously minimize others.  In this case, we will explore how we define violence, theories and why violence exists, and will contrast what the data tell us about how girls and women experience violence across their lifespan and 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 journals 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.

Hidden Physics in SuperBowl Ads
2 Credit Course
Thursday 2:00-3:50pm
Cauthen House 116
Bellave Shivaram, Associate Professor

What is a SuperBowl Ad worth?  A half-minute slot will set you back more than three million dollars!  While wondering whether these Ads are indeed worth that much – the instructor of this course set out to unearth the value in these Ads by looking for the hidden physics in them.  The result was a gold mine of material both instructive and entertaining at the same.  We will examine roughly four decades of stellar super bowl Ads, apply fundamental physics concepts to dissect the content in the Ads, and analyze the results in the spirit of the TV show “myth busters.”  Practical exercises and assignments and group based activities, demonstrating basic physics principles while at the same time relating to the content in the Ads will be carried out in class.

The Intersections of Art and Science
2 Credit Course
Monday 5:00-6:50pm
Cabell 111
Worthy Martin, Associate Professor
Matthew Eisler, Lecturer

What is science?  What is art?  Are they two separate worlds?  Or two cultures in the same world?  Do they divide up this world?  Is there anything outside of these two comprehensive realms?  To get a grasp on these issues, we will read and write about four themes:  Representing Nature in Art and Science, Ethics in Art and Science, Bodies in Art and Science, and Legal Issues in Art and Science.  By taking on specific case studies, including sonification of astronomical research, contrasting models from the 19th century to contemporary three dimensional modeling techniques, NASA images, design noir, and tactical media, this course will challenge the idea that objects and people can be easily sorted into the categories of art/artist or science/scientist.  By focusing on the objects and people that appear to occupy spaces in both art and science or which seem to move between these two worlds over time, we will unpack the categories of art and science.  Guest speakers from the UVA community and beyond, as well as opportunities for hands-on engagement, will be integral to this interdisciplinary course.

Journeys Through Hell
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 6:00-7:50pm
Nau 242
Dariusz Tolczyk, Associate Professor

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 Greek, Roman, and Biblical wisdom, as well as many literary traditions, the point 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 this 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 be 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, AleksandrSolzhenistyn, Zhang Eialniang, Eugenia Ginzburg, VarlamShalamov, GustawHerling, TadeuszBorowski.  Films “Korczak” (by WndrzejWajda), “Life is Beautiful” (by Roberto Benigni), and “Interrogation” (by RyszardBugajski) will be viewed outside of class and discussed in class.

Managing Global Diversity
2 Credit Course
Robertson Hall 227
Rebecca Leonard, Associate Dean for Student Services

Diversity is a competitive business strategy, which all organizations in today’s global economy must understand and successfully navigate to remain successful.  Understanding differences and creating inclusive work environments is a key skill for today’s global managers.  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 of 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 UVA and in their future global workplaces.

The Origin of the Universe
2 Credit Course
Wednesday 3:00-4:50pm
Physics Building 218
Vittorio Celli, Professor of Emeritus

Has the universe always existed or was it created from nothing?  Is it finite or infinite in extend?  Until the 1920’s scientist by and large left these questions to religion and philosophy.  Then Hubble found that the universe is expanding, as predicted by Eisenstein’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 13.7 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 the rapidly evolving field.

Reading/Writing A Life
2 Credit Course
Monday 2:00-3:50pm
Pavilion VIII 103
Virginia Moran, Associate Director, Women’s Center

This university seminar will closely examine the literature that is or purports to be autobiography and extend through the production of the students’ own autobiography.

Religion and Race in Black America
2 Credit Course
Wednesday 3:00–5:00pm
Pavilion 8, Room B002
Mark Hadley, Associate Professor

An exploration of how constructs of race and religion intersect with ideals of American nationhood through the reading of classic texts by African-American authors such as Frederick Douglass, W.E. B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin and others.

Researching History
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 2:00-3:50pm
Brooks, 103
Petrina Jackson, Library Head of Construction and Outreach

The course will open the landscape of academic research to students and show them how to identify, analyze, and document primary source materials.  Students will work hands-on in a learning lab setting with rare books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, artifacts, and born digital materials that represent a cross section of themes and collections, such as early exploration in the Americas, history of the book, the Civil War, World War I, scientific history, U.S. and Virginia politics, the antebellum South, slavery, segregation, eugenics, American literature, U.Va. history, artist books, and much more.  The course will culminate in an outreach program and reception for the U.Va. community, featuring students; findings in the form of mini-exhibits, digital stories, and poster presentations.  At the end of the course, students will have an introductory understanding of unfamiliar handwriting, contextualizing historical documents, reading photographs, properly handling fragile and rare materials, and communicating this understanding of primary source research to their peers.  The structure of this course includes learning laboratories, readings, guest speakers, interviews of expert researchers, field trips, written evaluations, group discussion, peer-to-peer learning, and personal written reflections.  All sessions will draw upon the extensive collections of primary resources in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union
3 Credit Course
Monday 3:30-6:00pm
Celmons Library 322A
Yuri Urbanovich, Lecturer

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.

Systems Thinking and Sustainable Business
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 6:00-7:50pm
Robertson Hall 227
Mark White, Associate Professor

Sometimes we think we’re making the right decision, but that decision has unforeseen and unintended consequences.  Sometimes the collective action of rational individuals leads to irrational outcomes.  Sometimes our experiences blind us to alternative, better solutions.  Systems thinking – a disciplined approach to wholistic problem-solving – offers promise for resolving these and other challenges.  As businesspersons in both the developed and developing worlds seek to incorporate sustainability concepts into their planning and operations, an understanding of “the big picture” will be critical.  This course introduces students to the fundamental concepts (mental models, casual loop diagrams, systems analysis) of systems thinking and provides practice in their application to real-world sustainability applications in business.

What is Architecture?
2 Credit Course
Monday 3:00-5:20pm
Fayerweather Hall 215
Lisa Reilly, Associate Professor

This seminar will explore the history of the build environment and its role in our daily life.  Seminar meetings will focus on a discussion of selected examples of architecture’s “greatest hits”, such as the Parthenon, the TajMahal and Falling Water as well as site visits to local buildings and meetings with design professionals.