First-Year Seminar Program

89S Series Seminars: First-Year Students Only

First Year Seminars all bear the 89S number (e.g., History 89S). Taught by our leading faculty, these signature classes enroll no more than 18 first-year students per section, allowing our students to engage closely with faculty, with each other, and with ideas at the heart of the seminars.

80S Series Seminars: All Undergraduates

In addition to the 89S seminars available only to enrolled first-year students, several departments offer seminars bearing a number in the 80s that are introductory courses appropriate for first-year students but also open to enrollment to upper-division students.

Faculty interested in teaching a first-year seminar should review the Guidelines for Teaching First-Year Seminars and contact Program Director Denise Comer for more information.

Current First-Year Seminars

Fall 2021

First-Year Seminars Connected to the "What Now?" Network of First-Year Seminars

This first grouping of seminars are part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars. What Now? courses contain a shared “wellness lab,” offering opportunities to engage with faculty and students in other participating seminars. Register for this .5-credit component of the program by adding Ethics 189 to your schedule. Scroll down for the full range of first-year seminars offered during Fall 2021.

What Now? Natural History of Civilization (NS, EI)

Natural History of Civilization follows the example of “Guns Germs and Steel” in applying a natural science perspective to the study of human history. To understand human nature it may be important to recognize those elements of our cultures that are imposed on us by the principles of ecology and our interactions with the natural world. Mark Bertness has famously added cooperation and self-assembly to join the processes of competition and predation in shaping our civilization. Examples include the domestication of olives in regions where humans are lactose intolerant, and cooperation enforced by the once universal practice of public executions. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Clifford Cunningham
Cliff Cunningham, Ph.D. (Yale University), is a Full Professor of Biology, one of the pioneers of using DNA to discover the “Family Tree” of animals. His interests include the “Trans-Arctic Invasion” of Pacific marine animals into the North Atlantic after the first opening of the Bering Strait. He likes to promote scientific synthesis and sing 70’s style folk music. 


What Now? Education as Liberation: Ethics, Organizing, and Equity (EI, STS, CZ)

How do communities, schools, and neighborhoods organize for social change? How do individuals organize their own commitments and energies to change themselves and the world around them? This course examines education as a component of collective liberation in the contemporary United States through themes of ethics, community organizing, and educational equity. It will introduce central philosophical and practical approaches to political organizing, help students develop skills in understanding and critiquing school segregation and resegregation in the US, and enable students to locate their own commitments, callings, and aptitudes within a variety of liberative accounts of social change. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Adam Hollowell
Adam Hollowell, Ph.D. (University of Edinburgh) serves as Senior Research Associate at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and Faculty Director of the Benjamin N. Duke Memorial Scholarship Program. His teaching and research focus broadly on ethics, religion, race, and public policy. 


What Now? Parents, Children, Rebels: Laws Of Love And Obedience (ALP, CCI, EI)

How should a person be? Why, how, and for whom should we live? What do we owe our parents, and should such a sense of debt influence whether to become a parent oneself? How does one make the decision to have children, and are there situations when such an idea might not be morally defensible? In this seminar, we will read and discuss novels, memoirs, poems and art that “come out of one’s own burning” – as Friedrich Nietzsche might say – that is, from one’s own life experiences and the precious little wisdom they yield. These are books about parents, children, and the bonds that connect them; about the difficulties of responsible love and the intimate tug-of-war between what we owe ourselves and what we might owe others; about the fraught choice of staying true to oneself, the awkwardness of familial conversations, the fears and doubts acknowledged candidly or passed over in silence. Why is becoming a parent so intimately tied to vulnerability and the awareness of finitude? Can time, or perhaps art, redeem loss? The texts on our reading list include meditations on motherhood, family, adoption, the entanglements of home, race, gender, and class; navigating social environments in the transition between childhood, adolescence and adulthood; love in its simple and complicated forms. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Corina Stan
Corina Stan, Ph.D. (Duke University), is Associate Professor of English. Her research and teaching interests include the intersection of literature and the arts, continental philosophy, and the sociology of intellectuals.


What Now? "Singing the Same Song": A Global Perspective on the Experience of Illness (CZ, CCI, EI)

When I go to see my diabetes doctor, I feel that he and I are singing the same song.” This comment from a South African man battling chronic illness underlines the wonderful potential of the patient-provider relationship. We will be using the doctor-patient relationship and experience as a lens to understand place of illness and empathy in the human. We will explore concepts of culture and global health. How does culture affect all of us? What is global health, and how do our beliefs affect this entire discipline? Along the way, we will all be learning about ourselves, how it feels to express and receive empathy, and how the simple act of being curious make us better people. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Neil Prose
Neil Prose, M.D. (New York University) is Professor of Dermatology, Pediatrics and Global Health, and a Research Professor of Global Health. His research and teaching interests include pediatric dermatology, care for skin disease in developing countries, and provider-patient communication.


What Now? Long, Strange Trips: The Grateful Dead & American Cultural Change (CZ, EI)

“We're like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.” Jerry Garcia. Few musical acts have ever reached the level of cultural awareness and impact as the Grateful Dead, and perhaps none has enjoyed such ardent devotion for so long. The story of the Grateful Dead offers a lens through which to view not only the tumult of the 1960s counterculture movement but also to understand broader political and historical forces in the United States.  In other words, the Grateful Dead and their history and music will form the backbone for the class, but this will be used to shed light on social upheaval, identity and shared experience, how ideas endure, and the sometimes-murky search for collective meaning. Using a mix of scholarly and biographical accounts, this course will offer students a multidimensional and interdisciplinary examination of how ideas form, inspire, intimidate, and ultimately stand the test of time. We will also explore the significance of how ideas can go from the margins to the mainstream through notions of authenticity and cooptation. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor Eric Mlyn
Eric Mlyn, Ph.D. (University of Minnesota), is a Lecturer in the Sanford School of Public Policy and Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the Kenan Institute for Ethics. His research and teaching interests include civic engagement and social change.


What Now? Serious Play (CZ, EI)

The core disciplines in universities have historically devoted themselves to the study of ‘serious’ things: the origins and nature of the physical universe, the structure of the human mind and the explanation of behavior, the history of civilizations and the foundations of law, the regulation of the economy, the question of the existence of deities, and myriad questions about, literally, life and death. Even when scholars enquired about leisure activities, they tended to focus on the serious ones: drama not humor, ballet not sports, classical music not folk or improvised music, harmony not rhythm, games for childhood development not for fun. In short, until very recently, serious enquiry has almost always looked down on anything involving play or playfulness. This course, in contrast, will be a serious enquiry into the nature and value of play, playfulness, games, sports, humor, magic, and the things that make popular culture pop. As a serious enquiry, the course will also serve as an introduction to philosophical analysis, logical argumentation, critical reasoning, and scientific method. Readings will range from the works of Greek and Chinese philosophers in the 4th and 5th centuries BCE, to Netflix stand-up comedy specials, and the latest theories of neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, and video-game designers. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Wayne John Norman
Wayne Norman, Ph.D. (University of London/United Kingdom) is the Mike and Ruth Mackowski Professor of Ethics in the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Department of Philosophy at Duke University. He specializes in business ethics and political philosophy: his work in business ethics includes critical evaluations of stakeholder theory, corporate citizenship, corporate social responsibility, the so-called “triple bottom line”, and conflicts of interest; and his work in political philosophy includes nationalism, citizenship, constitutionalism, federalism, secession, and multiculturalism.


What Now? Privacy and Its Meanings for a Connected Life Well-lived (CZ, EI, STS)

Privacy matters in our everyday lives – whether we are online, using social media, at home or out in public; when we are communicating, protesting, working, learning, dealing with a pandemic, and interacting with others in a spectrum of social and political contexts. In this class, we will explore various dimensions of privacy – control over personal information, confidentiality, dignity and respect, autonomy, practical obscurity, anonymity, secrecy, solitude, trust, the right to be let alone, intimacy, intellectual privacy, and freedom from surveillance. We will study privacy as an individual interest and as a social value. Privacy matters – even if you think you have nothing to hide. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Jolynn Dellinger
Jolynn Dellinger, J.D. (Duke Law School) is the Stephen and Janet Bear Visiting Lecturer and a Kenan Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Her research and teaching interests include privacy, ethics, and ethical tech. 


What Now? Introduction to Critical Animal Studies (CZ, SS, EI)

Some scientists contend that the Earth has entered a new geological age in which human actions and effects are the dominant force shaping the planet, a so-called "anthropocene." Such a planet offers diminishing possibilities for other creatures to live beyond the influence of Homo sapiens. How do animals fit into human societies when human society is now so inescapable? Do animals still exert agency and shape how we live? And how can humans maintain ethical relationships to nonhuman critters? Can we share landscapes and ecosystems, much less an entire planet? This course explores these questions, surveying different approaches to the critical study of animals from the humanities as well as the natural, environmental, and social sciences. We will pursue these questions through scientific papers, philosophical essays, literature, films, and experiential learning activities. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Gabriel Rosenberg
Gabriel N. Rosenberg, Ph.D. (Brown University) is Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and History. His research and teaching interests include the historical and contemporary linkages among gender, sexuality, and the global food system and spaces of agricultural production as important sites for the constitution and governance of intimacy – intimacy both between and among humans, animals, and plants. 


What Now? Complicated Selves: Exploring Unconventional Identities (ALP, CCI, EI)

We hear a great deal, especially in educational contexts, about the need to become or to act like our “best selves.” But what does this turn of phrase actually imply? Are there really multiple versions of ourselves, from which we can be trained to choose? Are we always irreducibly multiple even when we are at our best and most true? And what might we learn, instead, by examining our other, worse selves? From the dictum “know thyself”—inscribed at the entrance to the oracle of Delphi, and hence also, at the origins of western thought—to the dictum “go on with your bad self”—appropriated into colloquial English from its roots in 20th century Black culture—the conundrum of selfhood has remained at the forefront of all attempts to imagine a better world. It is still alive and well today, in philosophy as in biology, in psychology as in AI. This course will investigate a broad swath of historical and contemporary forays into the realm of malfunctioning, multiple, mad, ecstatic, discontinuous, hybrid, or otherwise unself-like selves, from literature and film to philosophy and computer science, in an effort to probe the limits of what we can know, and learn, about ourselves. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Sarah Pourciau
Sarah Pourciau, Ph.D. (Princeton University) is Assistant Professor of German Studies. Her research and teaching interests include the intersections of philosophy and literature, with an emphasis on 19th and 20th century German and Austrian culture, the history of theology, literary theory and aesthetics, gender theory, opera, and the history of science and math.


What Now? Drawing Community (ALP, CCI, EI) 

How can drawing help us see, engage with, and even create community? This seminar requires no drawing experience; rather, it offers drawing as a way of thinking, something many of us lose after deciding “can’t draw.” We explore how graphic novelists, nature artists, mapmakers, and researchers use drawing to understand the lives of others, make sense of place and history, explore identities, and envision a better world: new relations between us and what we draw. Responding to works from around the globe, we draw in the classroom and beyond. The final project asks you to engage with Durham and show what “drawing community” means to you. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Adam Rosenblatt
Adam Rosenblatt, Ph.D. (Stanford University) is Associate Professor of the Practice in International Comparative Studies. His teaching and research interests explore care ethics, neurodiversity/disability, and nonhuman animals, and how lost, neglected, and marginalized spaces of the dead foster the creation of communities of care and resistance among the living. He has worked at Physicians for Human Rights, the Human Rights Center of the University of Chile, and at the U.S.-Mexico Border.


What Now? Bad Behavior (CZ, SS, EI, STS)

What does it mean to behave badly? On what bases do we distinguish proper behavior from misconduct? This course will introduce students to the interrelated themes of deviance and propriety. We will consider this dichotomy not only from the standpoint of moral philosophy but also through the lenses of social theory, history of medicine, and political thought. Of particular importance for the course will be to understand how often misconduct involves the disruption of unspoken social norms rather than the explicit violation of laws or moral codes. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Nima Bassiri
Nima Bassiri, Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley) is Assistant Professor of Literature. His research and teaching interests include critical theory, the history of human sciences, and the social and political theories of selfhood and subjectivity after the eighteenth century, in light of developments in behavioral medicine.


What Now? Game Theory and Democracy (QS, STS)

What is democracy? Using preferential ballots in elections is a natural idea since it allows voters to express a 1st choice, a 2nd choice, a 3rd choice, etc. on each ballot, thereby collecting more information from each voter and creating the potential for an outcome which better represents the voters. However, there are many ways to determine the winner of a preferential ballot election, and each “preferential ballot vote counting method” has its own game theory, both for the candidates and the voters, some better and some worse, and often very different from the game theory of the single vote ballot. In this course, we’ll use game theory and mathematics to study these questions. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Hubert Bray
Hubert L. Bray, Ph.D. (Stanford University) is a Professor of Mathematics and Physics. His teaching and research interests include geometric analysis, general relativity, and theoretical astrophysics. His interests include black holes, dark matter, and the curvature of spacetime.


The seminars listed above are part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars. What Now? courses contain a shared “wellness lab,” offering opportunities to engage with faculty and students in other participating seminars. Register for this .5-credit component of the program by adding Ethics 189 to your schedule. Scroll down for the full range of first-year seminars offered Fall 2021. 



Body Size in Biology: Size Matters (NS)

The body size of an organism, be it microbe or mammoth, affects every aspect of its life:  its body form, where it lives, how it moves and makes a living, and how (through evolutionary history) it came to be the way it is.  Why can’t ants be gigantic?  Will anyone ever see a mammal the size of a pea? What can we predict about the life of an organism simply from knowing how big it is?  Through readings, discussion, and small projects, we will examine case studies that illuminate general principles about the role of size in biology.

Professor: V. Louise Roth
V. Louise Roth, Ph.D. (Yale University) is a Professor of Biology with a secondary appointment in Evolutionary Anthropology. Her most recent courses have focused on the biology of mammals, biology of bone, and macroevolution. Her research has focused on evolutionary morphology and phylogeny in mammals, and on the functional and ecological implications of evolutionary changes in growth and body size.


Troy: Excavating an Epic (CCI, W, ALP, CZ)

Troy is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world—but to paraphrase the Roman poet Lucan, already by the first century CE, ‘even the ruins were ruined’. The site, and the legends that grew up around it, nonetheless played a starring role in the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, in the imagination of 19th-century Europeans who pioneered ‘modern’ archaeology, and even in contemporary American culture, with retellings of Homer’s Iliad set in war zones like Iraq. In this course, we will work to disentangle the afterlife of Troy and the Trojan War in myth-building exercises, ancient and modern, from the very real life of the city over the millennia. Archaeologists reconstruct nine Troys, built one on top of the other on the hill of Hisarlık (literally “place of fortresses”) in modern Turkey. Which one was Homer’s Troy? When did the ‘real’ Trojan war take place, if ever, and who fought in it? Most of all, why should we, or do we still, care?

Professor: Kathryn R. Morgan
Kathryn R. Morgan, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania)is Assistant Professor of Classical Studies. She is an archaeologist of the ancient Mediterranean who leads excavations in modern Turkey. Her research and teaching interests include political organization, group identity formation, cross-cultural communication, feasting, craft production, ritual performance, and the intersection of material and textual histories.


Gulf Disasters and Recovery (NS, STS)

The Gulf of Mexico is bounded by five coastal states with economic interests in tourism, sport and commercial fishing, and recreation. Explores negative impacts of Deep Horizon oil spill (DHOS) on water resources, migratory fishes and marine mammals; habitats and fauna of coastal states. Examines restoration efforts initiated in 2013. Compares ecosystem recovery efforts related to DHOS and impact of hurricane Harvey. Questions addressed through governance (federal and state) and state of coastal ecosystems prior to event. Using discussions, debates, and focused literature reviews, determine if effective monitoring is in place to provide critical baseline data prior to future events.

Professor: David Hinton
David Hinton, Ph.D. (University of Mississippi), is Nicholas Professor of Environmental Quality in the Nicholas School of the Environment. His research and teaching interests include mechanistic toxicity in all life stages of small, aquarium model fish and in selected species with particular environmental relevance (freshwater and marine).


Asian American Feminisms (ALP, CCI, W)

This seminar will investigate the theoretical and political interventions of Asian American feminist thought, activism, and culture. Through interdisciplinary examinations of imperialism and racial justice, the study of 20th and 21st century Asian America has gained new significance; in particular, feminist scholars offer context as we navigate sexual violence, antiblackness, and transformative justice, issues at the crux of today’s movements. Our readings, discussions, and written assignments bring together the fields of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies & Asian American and Diaspora Studies. In addition to providing an historical overview of Asian, Pacific, and diasporic feminisms, the seminar will prepare students for further studies on Asian/America and gender/sexuality, including their resonances with literature, history, sociology, and media. We begin by establishing a foundation in Asian American feminism, examining its history as well as the contributions of leaders like Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama. We proceed by interrogating the present-day concerns of Asian American feminists. Here, we consider the impact of migration, disability, indigeneity, policing, and anti-Asian violence, among others. We conclude with poetry and performance art that spotlights queer and trans voices, multiracial solidarity, and climate justice. In doing so, we end with an archive that informs new alliances, directions, and possibilities towards a feminist Asian America.

Professor: Anna Storti
Anna Storti, Ph.D. (University of Maryland, College Park) is Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies. Her research and teaching interests include violence of racial fetishization, queer of color critique, women of color feminisms, and the colonial present.

U.S. History in Fact and Fiction (CZ, SS, EI, R)

Through works of history, fiction, film, and memoir, this course will explore themes—family, displacement, violence, and memory that cut across US history and human experience more broadly. We will try to tease out the various strands of culture, class, geography, and identity that shape US history. Even more, we will analyze how writers—historians and otherwise—draw on the entangled past to make sense of the world. As a final assignment, students will produce their own piece of historical writing, rooted in original research.

Professor: Adriane Lentz-Smith
Adriane Lentz-Smith, Ph.D. (Yale University), is an Associate Professor of History. Her research and teaching interests lie in African American history, twentieth-century United States History, and the history of the US & the World. She is also interested in how African Americans engaged the world in the age of Cold War civil rights, and how their participation in the project of US state and empire set the horizons of their freedom struggles.


Judaism, Religion, and Law: From the Roman Empire to Modern Israel (CZ, CCI, EI)

Have you ever heard Judaism described as “legalistic,” or wondered why the New Testament distinguishes “the letter of the law” from “the spirit of the law”? In this course, we will investigate the concept of “Jewish law” from the ancient Roman empire to the modern state of Israel. What makes a Jewish text "legal," and how did Judaism become indelibly associated with law? What role does law play in determining religious identity in diverse historical and cultural contexts—including a “secular" state that is also a Jewish homeland?
To answer these and other questions, we will examine a range of primary sources both Jewish and non-Jewish — not only sacred writings but also legal treatises, judicial records, court disputes, and other cultural products — to understand how they reveal meaningful insights into durable legal philosophies and daily life. Students will develop their own critical analyses of these sources and learn to apply them to other contexts, as well, and come to understand the relationship between religion, law, and history more broadly.

Professor: Pratima Gopalakrishnan
Pratima Gopalakrishnan, Ph.D. (Yale University, forthcoming) is the Perilman Post-Doctoral Associate in the Center for Jewish Studies. Her research and teaching interests include the history of Near Eastern Jewish communities in the first millennium CE, with particular interests in topics that include free and unfree labor, sexuality, and economic history. 


Composers of Influence (ALP, CCI)

In the history of the arts, certain individuals exert an enormous influence on the trajectory of their art form and other art forms as well. In music, specific composers during different style periods have been profoundly influential on their art and culture. This course examines the influence of Bach, Beethoven, Wagner and Stravinsky on their own time periods and subsequent generations of musicians and artists.

Professor: Harry Davidson
Harry Davidson, M.Mus. (Pacific Lutheran University), is a Professor of the Practice of Music and Director of the Duke Symphony Orchestra. He made his major orchestra debut conducting the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He has guest conducted numerous professional and conservatory ensembles, including the Charlotte Symphony, the Akron Symphony, and the Cleveland Institute of Music and Oberlin College Conservatory orchestras. His teaching and research interests include orchestral conducting, opera conducting, and music history.


Hot Topics in Health

Overview of the components of health and wellness (e.g., nutrition, exercise, sexual health, etc.), with more specific topics/current trends or issues being explored within each component.  Emphasis will be on information, resources, and skills to help students achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, as well as an understanding of the broader health issues facing our current society.

Professor: Janis Hampton
Janis Hampton, M.A. (UNC–Greensboro), is Assistant Professor in the Practice of Health, Wellness and Physical Education. Her fields of teaching and research interest center on developing awareness of health and fitness issues for the general population as well as young adults.


The Challenge of Understanding How Nervous Systems Produce Behavior (NS)

One of the great unsolved scientific problems is understanding how nervous systems produce the diverse, flexible, and precise behaviors that enable animals to survive and reproduce in an often unpredictable and hostile world. This course will discuss several aspects of why this problem is challenging, especially from a physics point of view. First, what does it even mean to understand any complicated physical system like a nervous system that consists of many different parts, whose parts keep changing, and whose properties have consequences (here behavior) that are difficult to measure and to characterize?  Second, are the properties of nervous systems that make them hard to understand unique or are some of these properties similar to other systems studied by biologists, physicists, computer scientists, and engineers?  Third, what kinds of experimental and theoretical advances will help to advance our current understanding of how nervous systems produce behavior? Finally, will a complete understanding ever be possible?  Students will read and discuss chapters from a book draft that the instructor is writing, read and discuss journal articles of recent advances in neuroscience, solve problems in groups, give class presentations, and do homework problems that will involve writing essays, reasoning scientifically, and carrying out mathematical explorations via simulation. Prerequisites: AP calculus or equivalent; or current enrollment in a calculus course.

Professor: Henry Greenside
Henry Greenside, Ph.D. (Princeton University) is a theoretical physicist who is a Professor of Physics and Neurobiology. His research and teaching has broadly concerned understanding how complex patterns arise and change in Nature, with applications to neuroscience such as understanding how songbirds learn to sing their song.


Beyond Reason: Empathy and Identity (SS, NS, R, W)

Leadership in the knowledge-based economy and globally interconnected world of the 21st century requires that students develop their abilities to constructively engage ethnic, religious, and political differences and generate and apply knowledge in the service of society. The premise is that developing the capacity for critical reasoning is necessary but not sufficient. It is also necessary to develop a personal epistemology that is, beliefs about knowledge and its justification, and the capacities of empathy that is, the ability to understand and share the feelings, perspectives, intentions, and mental states of another person, and identity, the integrated experience of oneself as a unique individual that includes one's goals, values, and commitments. This seminar takes a developmental science approach to synthesizing and applying the knowledge and understandings generated across the biological and social sciences and humanities about the nature, development, and enhancement of personal epistemology, empathy, and identity. Seminar discussions focus on selected readings and Ted Talks. Students continue the discussion and dialogue between sessions through postings to the seminar discussion board. As a writing course, the focus is on both learning-to-write and writing-to-learn through feedback and revision.  Students write three, 3-8 page, synthesis/reflection papers based on the assigned readings and a 15-20 page research review paper on a topic of their choice. In individual meetings with the instructor, feedback is provided on the rough drafts of each paper and students submit revised papers as their final product. Grade is based on the quality of papers and participation in class discussion. Each synthesis/reflection paper accounts for 15% of the grade, the research paper accounts for 40%; and class participation accounts for 15%.

Professor: Robert J. Thompson, Jr.
Robert J. Thompson, Jr., Ph.D. (University of North Dakota), is Emeritus Professor of Psychology. His research interests include how biological and psychosocial processes act together in human development; the adaptation of children and their families to developmental problems and chronic illnesses, including sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis; and the assessment of teaching and learning in higher education.


Public Art: Monuments, Murals, Graffiti and More (ALP, CCI)

Monuments, murals, posters, sculptures, and graffiti. Street performances, gardens, and new media platforms. These artistic expressions happen outside museums and galleries. This course invites students to explore the shared history of public art across the Americas. How and why do artists venture out of the safe spaces of art institutions? Who funds that art? Who permits or censors it? Students explore the role of public art in political and grassroots movements, and in the stories told about our past. They evaluate radically different responses to public art, from uproar and scandal to its disappearance into the background of everyday life. What communities invite art into their shared spaces? What kind of communities might it produce? In addition to landmark works from North, Central, and South America, we look at those nearby: on campus and in Durham. Local murals and monuments give texture to these big ideas, and area leaders in the arts offer hands-on experience. Finally, we will explore the online environment developed during the global pandemic as a virtual space for public art. Assignments include short analytical essays, and individual and group presentations. The final project is a research-based proposal for a public artwork in the medium and site of your choice. This course is an excellent gateway to courses in Art, Art History and Visual Media Studies; Spanish, Latin American, and Latinx Studies; public policy and curatorial studies.

Professor: Esther Gabara
Esther Gabara, Ph.D. (Stanford University) is Associate Professor of Romance Studies. Her teaching and research interests include art, literature, and visual culture from modern and contemporary Latin America, especially the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, theories and practices of non-mainstream modernisms, and representations of race and gender.


Information Literacy in the 21st C: Putting College Library Guides to the Test (R)

Events of recent years have taught us that information literacy—the ability to evaluate the relevance and trustworthiness of media and information—is a key skill of our age that many people have failed to learn. Which sources are most trustworthy? Which are clearly bogus? And what about everything in between? Whether we want to know what type of masks effectively protect against COVID transmission or which groups actually led the attack on the U.S. Capitol building, we need to make careful decisions on where to get our information. For the past decade, college libraries have developed materials to teach students the skills of information literacy. But, however well intended, do these materials actually help students make sophisticated choices of sources, or do they promote a superficial, box-checking mentality? Are these tools practical, or is the time required to use them greater than the time students can or will allot for assignments that require library research? In short, do these guides work?

In this first-year seminar, students will collaborate with Dr. Moskovitz in conducting a real research project of our own. We’ll explore how some of the most widely circulated guides to evaluating sources came to be, subject them to real-world testing, and write a paper presenting our findings and recommendations. At the end of the semester, students will be invited to be formal coauthors on a publication to be submitted to a library sciences scholarly journal. If you’d like to (a) pit your skeptical, critical thinking faculties against library dogma, (b) develop sophisticated skills for evaluating sources, (c) be part of a real research team, and (d) maybe become a published author before you finish your first year of college, join us in our important educational experiment. As Joe Biden tweeted, “It’s going to be wild!” (Or was it Biden? How would you really know?)

Professor: Cary Moskovitz
Cary Moskovitz, Ph.D. (North Carolina State University) is Professor of the Practice in the Thompson Writing Program. His research and teaching interests include Text recycling (aka "self-plagiarism") and higher education writing pedagogy, especially approaches to teaching writing that help students move beyond seeing writing as something one does to complete a school assignment to understanding writing as an intellectual and rhetorical activity.