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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: Spring 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 Course Offering Directory for a list of specific offerings each semester

Six 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 180s count as elective credit inside the College of Arts & Sciences in the course website before enrolling.

Energy: Past and Future

3 Credit Course
Thursday 1430-1700
Pavilion VIII, 108
John Brown, Associate Professor
Spring 2009

In the near term Americans must change our energy habits (broadly understood) in the face of three threatening trends: the depletion of world oil reserves, the effect 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.

Genocide and Mass Killing

3 Credit Course
Tuesday 1530 – 1800
Wilson Hall 140
Jeffrey Rossman, Associate Professor
Spring 2009

One of the defining features of the twentieth century was the repeated use of genocide and other types of one-sided mass killing by states against internal and external populations. In this seminar, we will explore these phenomena from a theoretical and historical point of view, with particular attention to ethnic and racial genocides (e.g. Armenia, the Holocaust, Yugoslavia, Rwanda) and the mass killings that have taken place under Communist regimes (e.g., Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia). While the experience of victims will be of central concern, we will also examine the experience and motivations of perpetrators, the explicit goals of the terrorizing/genocidal state, and the response -- or lack of response -- by the international community. Requirements include reading of about 250 pages per week, active participation in class discussions, two 5-page analytical book reviews, and a 15-page historiographical review essay. The course meets the Second Writing Requirement.

Argumentation

3 Credit Course
Monday and Wednesday 1500-1615
Wilson 140
David Rubin, Professor Emeritus
Spring 2009

How do scholars and other professionals reason? This highly interactive, 3-hour USEM which satisfies the second writing requirement introduces a widely accepted model of informal logic and provides ample practice in the construction, analysis, appraisal, and countering of arguments. While mastering the model, participants will write about and discuss recent op-ed columns from leading periodicals. Then after a brief survey of reasoning in law and ethics the focus will shift to major positions in the controversy over academic freedom. This course is primarily intended for entering students exempt from the first writing requirement; through current and past ENWR 110 registrants are welcome.

Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union

3 Credit Course
Monday 900-1130
Clemons Library 322A
Yuri Urbanovich, Lecturer
Spring 2009

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

Global Sustainability

3 Credit Course
Tuesday 1530 – 1720
Robertson 254
Section 1 / Thursdays 9:30 – 11:20 AM, Rouss Hall 410, Mark White, Associate Professor
Section 2 / Thursdays 15:30 - 1720, Paxton Marshall, Professor
Section 3 / Friday 9:30 – 11:20 AM, Campbell Hall 425, Phoebe Crisman, Associate Professor
Spring 2009

This interdisciplinary course prepares students for a world of greater environmental, economic and social challenges brought about by increased population, decreased resources and poor technological choices.

LGBTQ in Virginia: Past and Future

2 Credit Course
Tuesday 1500-1730
Mechanical Engineering Building
Ellen Bass, Assistant Professor
Spring 2009

At the nation level, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans suffer discrimination and have fewer civil rights solely based on the virtue of being LGBTQ. In Virginia, LGBTQ citizens have even fewer rights than those in other states. The University Seminar will survey the past and current status of LGBTQ civil rights at the national and state level. It will provide students with a basic understanding of the following issues affecting LGBTQ Virginians: transgender issues, hate crimes, the impact of faith traditions, health related concerns, marriage/family/parenting issues, issues specific to LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ people of color, and the issues surrounding LGBTQs in the military.

Keeping a Personal Journal

2 Credit Course
Thursday 1230-1420
Ruffner Hall 173
John Bunch, Associate Professor
Spring 2009

Our writing/discussion group will explore the various ways one can use the journal keeping process for personal insights academic understandings and self-expression. We will include making sketches and photographs as tools that are closely related to the journal writing process (for personal use--not "art."). The examples we will read about and discuss include journal keeping as problem-solving, process meditation, dialogue, scientific investigation, social research, and thought clarification as a prelude to writing and other forms of expression. Specific journal assignments will include Lists, Portraits, Maps, Snapshots, Tear-sheets, Sketches, Dialogues, Guided Imagery, Points of View and Unsent Letters; we will read selections from the disciplines such as science, history, anthropology and the arts and from among the genres of the diary/journal such as Chroniclers, Travelers, Creators, Apologists, Confessors and Prisoners. Course requirements will be to keep a personal journal, to read assigned selections on journal keeping, to submit journal entries on specific topics and themes, and to submit a narrative discussion of a person’s diary or journal.

The Origin of the Universe

2 Credit Course
Wednesday 1400-1550
Physics Building 218
Vittorio Celli, Professor Emeritus
Spring 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.

Be the Spider Not the Fly: Evaluating Health Care Resources on the Internet

2 Credit Course
Wednesday 1530-1720
Claude Moore Nursing 1120
Sarah Farrell, Associate Dean
Spring 2009

Won't you come into my parlor said the spider to the fly? The objective of this course is to help students evaluate and use health care resources on the Internet. Students will gain an understanding of the history, political/legal, economic, social and technological nature of health resources on the Internet. The way into my parlor is up a winding stair, and there are many pretty things to show you when you are there! The students will gain experience in evaluating and using health care resources as well as develop their own web page full of content and critique on a health care topic of their choice.

Science Fiction and Environmental Literacy

2 Credit Course
Wednesday 1400-1550
Cauthen House 134
Theodore Homyk, Jr., Lecturer
Spring 2009

The course will incorporate readings of fiction and non-fictional materials, viewing of documentary videos, and lectures to increase awareness and understanding of environmental issues that become more pressing each day. Students will be educated to make their own decisions on pressing issues such as global warming, the ozone hole, chemical pollution, overpopulation, and ecosystem encroachment and collapse that place unnatural and unsustainable stresses on the environment and threaten the planet with mass extinctions – possibly including our own. Class discussions will entail consideration and analysis of the facts, as they stand, and the validity of possible consequences, presented in the academic literature and in fiction, of our growing environmental problems are not intelligently addressed.

Being Female in a Violent World

2 Credit Course
Monday 1400-1550
McLeod Hall 2007
Kathryn Laughon, Assistant Professor
Spring 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.

Introduction to Global Women’s Health

2 Credit Course
Thursday 9:30-11:30
Cauthen 116
Breyette Lorntz, Assistant Professor
Spring 2009

What is women’s health? What defines and influences women’s health around the world? This undergraduate seminar provides an engaging and insightful introduction to the multi-disciplinary field of global women’s health. Emphasis will be placed on creating a learning environment for active discussion and critical thinking. Students will be encouraged to explore ties to global women's health from within their proposed areas of study. Course activities will support and challenge students from diverse interests and backgrounds.

Go Slow: Mindfulness & Social Change

2 Credit Course
Thursday 1500-1650
Mary Munford
Marga Odahowski, Director of Studies
Spring 2009

SLOW is the new Fast. In our fast paced culture it seems counter intuitive to slow down in order to get more accomplished. Yet, research has demonstrated the benefits of training the mind as an effective means to handle the complexity of today’s world. When we have a quite mind we have the capacity to focus, engage fully, and enjoy each moment. Cultivating compassionate awareness through a practice is key to enhancing emotional intelligence, optimism and creativity.

In this case we will experiment with the power of SLOW by creating opportunities for quieting the mind, reflection, and connection in our daily lives to create a work life balance that enhances creativity. In class we will gain an understanding of interconnectedness of our world through exploring the ecoliteracy of slow food. Integrating the spiritual, biological. Cognitive and social dimensions of life, the reading will explore both the personal and societal systematic approach to sustainable living.

Falling From Infinity

2 Credit Course
Thursday 1500 – 1650
Cocke 101
Michael Palmer, Assistant Professor
Spring 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.

A Survey of Language Learning

2 Credit Course
Monday 1400-1550
Ruffner Hall 281
Stephen Plaskon, Associate Professor
Spring 2009

This seminar class will be devoted to a discussion of the basic aspects of language acquisition and development. Selected aspects of the development of syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and phonology; primary caretaker influences, and the role of the environment in language development will be the principle areas of discussion. All participants will have an opportunity to share their observations of a child or the results of an investigation into a topic of their choosing. Readings will be assigned from the required text as well as from select journals and the popular press. Video and audio presentations will be used to supplement discussions and presentations.

I’d Rather be in Philadelphia

2 Credit Course
Wednesday 1530-1720
McLeod Hall 2007
Richard Steeves, Professor
Spring 2009

The title refers to what the comic W.C. Fields was reported to have wanted 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 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 professionalism 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 to thinking about what may truly be beyond our understanding, death.

Digital Humanities

2 Credit Course
Tuesday 1400-1550
Wilson 215
Kurtis Schaeffer, Associate Professor
Spring 2009

A 2-credit seminar on role of computers, digital technology, and electronic media in the humanities, in which we will explore traditional views on the aims and scope of the humanities, the potential of digital technology to fulfill or transform those aims, and the possible applications of digital humanities to contemporary public intellectual life.

Psychology of Information and Persuasion

2 Credit Course
Tuesday 1400-1600
Cauthen 112
Barbara Spellman, Professor
Spring 2009

Everyday we are bombarded with information from people who are trying to sell us something or persuade us of something. They muster facts and arguments and hurl statistics and graphs. But why should you believe them? In this class, we will look closely at the sorts of arguments made by salesman, charlatans, and even scientists in their attempts to influence our thinking. Should we believe in ESP or astrology? Should we believe that “no other medicine has been proven to be more effective…”? What about that eggs are good for us and alcohol is bad for us – or is it the opposite this year? We will examine why people often do believe strange and demonstrably false things. And we will “tune up” out thinking so that we ourselves will be less easily duped.

We will read from books such as: Why do People Believe Weird Things, How to Lie With Statistics, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper and Freakonomics. And we will scrutinize newspapers, magazines, television, and films (and our other classes!) for exactly those arguments that we shouldn’t believe.

Australia

2 Credit Course
Tuesday 1600-1750
Pavilion VIII, 108
Mark Thomas, Professor
Spring 2009

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 within a hundred years. It is a country that has been independent 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. The 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, on 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.

Women and Education

2 Credit Course
Thursday 1230-1420
Ruffner Hall 173
Eleanor Wilson, Associate Professor
Spring 2009

This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of issues arising from women's involvement in the field of education. The course will examine the roles women have played and continue to play as students, scholars, and leaders in American educational institutions.