Sample Seminars

Once Upon a Time... : Magic Tales and their Meanings

Maria Beissinger, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures


In "Once Upon a Time," Maria Beissinger guides students as they re-encounter fairy tales, teaching them to unpack those stories as texts and performances, and helping them explore how to understand the genre as a window onto culture. "Everything in this class was just perfect," a recent student explained, "The assignments gave us intellectual liberty, a visit from a professional storyteller gave our readings and classes a whole new dimension, and the visit to the Cotsen Children's Library was mesmerizing."

Ethics in Finance

J.C. de Swaan, Department of Economics


"I believe I now approach the world a little differently," a student from J.C. de Swaan's "Ethics in Finance" opined as a recent term came to a close.  "I don't know if I can point to a pool of knowledge and say 'that's what I learned,' but I think I approach decisions differently."  These kinds of intellectual alterations derive from they ways that "Ethics in Finance" asks students to think about financial markets as spaces of human interaction, and therefore as sites where systemic and individual choices can be evaluated using moral and political philosophy.

What is a Great Experiment?

Shirley Tilghman, Department of Molecular Biology


This elegantly simple question drives the series of case studies that Shirley Tilghman deploys over the term.  Each is designed both to illuminate fundamental aspects of scientific exploration and to explicate the ways scientific knowledge is produced.  The experience "made me change my intended major from Neuroscience to Molecular Biology," one student revealed, noting its allure beyond those already interested in STEM classes.  Meeting with the thinkers they were studying only heightens students' enjoyment, making the course "a remarkable and incredible experience" that many never forget.

Mother Tongues: Language and National Identity

Mariana Bono, Department of Spanish and Portuguese


"Mother Tongues" teaches students to unpack languages, as systems and as institutions, so as to uncover the dynamics of ideology, identity, and power that stream through them.  Guided by Mariana Bono, students are not only introduced to linguistics as a field of study (they often go on to take more), they also emerge from the course with a heightened sense of the produced nature of various elements of human society.  "I gained a wonderful understanding of how language shapes society, culture, and nations," one student explained, a feature others described as "eye-opening."

The Science and Art of Mapping the World

Catherine Riihimaki, Council on Science & Technology


In Catherine Riihimaki's "The Science and Art of Mapping the World" students encounter maps—ancient and modern, paper and digital—as products of human creation, and therefore as revelatory of the constraints and agendas of their makers.  In addition to practical skills that they subsequently can use across a variety of fields, students are trained to look for subjectivity in tools that, unexamined, may seem objective.  "I was exposed to something I had never heard of before," one student remarked.  Others reflected on the "special opportunity" of using Lewis Library's GIS Lab in combination with the various holdings of the Art Museum.