2020 Major Archive

2021 Majors list and descriptions will be available in the spring.

“Whaaaaaaaat, that’s not music!”

Taught by: Austin McWilliams

Or is it? This major aims to explore just what music is. We’ll start at the physical origins of sound and dig through music theory and compositional techniques of the great classical composers until we hit the twentieth century and musical chaos erupts. Then WE will become the musicians as we dare to perform and analyze some of the great experimental works of the last century. Finally, we’ll create and perform our own Contemporary musical works using digital audio editing software, found sounds, traditional instruments, and whatever else we’ve come to know as music. Having the ability to read music is recommended but not necessary in order to enjoy this course. Bring your instrument(s) with you to MSA!

Bae-ography: The Story of a Life

Taught by: Chris Holmes

Scholars will learn basic elements of memoir and biography writing, beginning with how to find a person’s “story” and culminating with the publishing of an actual biography (well, a mini one). Delve into who you are – and why you are – through narrative non-fiction, and take your observation skills to an entirely new level as you learn so much about fellow scholars that you could write a book about them. Then we’ll write a book about them, weaving together in-depth interviews, analyses and images to publish skillfully crafted portraits of each other that are surprising, enlightening and endearing. Expect to produce your best writing, painting pictures so vivid, so poignant that they create intimate and eternal connections with your readers.

Beautiful Mathematics

Taught by: Melissa Mease

Mathematics appears in art, culture, and the everyday mundane things around us. Mathematics is what makes those things beautiful. We will start this course making paper and pencil constructions to see the interaction of angle, line, and curve. We will explore the beauty in the world around us, as it relates to mathematics, including naturally occurring phenomena like the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence. We will look at computer programs that allow us to create art from mathematical equations, and how computer mathematics help create animations. Be ready to be amazed by some Beautiful Mathematics!

Bright Ideas!

Taught by: Joe Milliano

Why is the sky blue? How do rainbows form and why is red always on top? How do our eyes receive images from the outside world? Why can I actually see myself in the mirror? What’s going on with the album cover for The Dark Side of the Moon? What is color, anyways? Equipped with lenses, mirrors, prisms, lasers, and a host of light sources, we will carefully develop three models of light to help explain these phenomena and more. By the end of the course, you will have a detailed understanding of what light is and how it makes the world remarkable. You will never see the world in the same light again.

Canoes, Cabs, and the french railroad

Taught by: Steven Senger

This is a math course, but you won’t need much background knowledge. We’ll study questions simple enough for a child to understand, but as yet unanswered by our species. There will be more emphasis on diagrams than equations.

Finding Your Voice: Explorations in Writing

Taught by: Jordan Henson

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language / And next year’s words await another voice.” These lines, famously penned by T.S. Eliot, speak to our ever-shifting understanding of literature. T. S. Eliot, William Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, E. E. Cummings, J. K. Rowling, and countless other writers have expressed their voice through the written word. In doing so, they have created literature that is equal parts timeless, enchanting, and transformative. No author is born with the skill to publish. Through diligent practice and dozens of worn out pens and keyboards, they honed their craft and refined their voice to become the legends we know them as today. Students in this major will make will spend three weeks doing just that, exploring the traits and styles of great authorial voices as we attempt to discover our own. Whether you are a regular participant in National Writing Month or spend more time writing Tweets than essays, all writers are welcome to join us as we scribble out stories the world can’t possibly ignore.

Introduction to Philosophy: Great Thoughts Worth Thinking

Taught by: Nicholas Kirschman

Utilizing sections of The Republic, the class will explore questions of ethics, epistemology, religion, government and economics and finally aesthetics.  Learn why Socrates claimed that knowledge of the self is paramount, why Plato distrusted democracy and why Aristotle believed them that excellence is a habit, like riding a bike.  Different schools of philosophy and philosophers will be discussed in dialogue with Plato’s ideas and see why it is important to question everything.

It’s the End of the World (As We Know It)

Taught by: Brian Stuhlman

It’s not easy being green, and it’s definitely not easy living in a world of varied tastes, mixed opinions, and random ideas. Using the arts and philosophies of the last century or so, we will research the past and use it to find out where we are today, artistically and philosophically speaking. With explorations ranging from cubism to impressionism to theatre of the absurd, to modern and contemporary arts, and MUCH more, we will try to work with and understand the philosophies underlying cultural change, and we’ll create some groovy art . . . all in the trek to figure out where we are, why we are, and where we are going. No arts experience required! You need only to possess a creative spirit and an open mind to enjoy, to learn from and to emulate the written, visual and performance arts that include all sorts… Picasso to Calvin and Hobbes, Steve Martin to the Muppets, Albert Einstein to Pablo Picasso, expressionism to memes, jazz to rap, Godot to Seuss, communism to symbolism, collage to splatter art…the list of literature and artists and philosophies goes on and on!

Japanese Language, Customs, Culture, and International Relations

Taught by: Ake Takahashi

Understanding this as a background, this course will have a major emphasis on Japanese language (Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana; incidentally Japanese kanji are the same as Chinese characters), scholars are also provided with a broad exposure to culture, customs, religions, arts, and the educational system of Japan. We will study Shodo, Anime, Kirigami, Bonsai, Ukiyoe, some Japanese films, a brief history of Japan.

Msan: missouri scholars action news

Taught by: Jon Gunasingham

BREAKING NEWS: Missouri Scholars Academy has its very own news network! In this course, students will develop journalistic and production skills in order to show their friends that MSA isn’t just another nerd camp. Students will be in charge of running their very own news network and the tasks that entail, from publishing online written, audio, and visual content, to conducting interviews with faculty and students. Along the way students will acquire basic video and sound editing skills that they can use when starting their own Youtube channel and/or podcast.

O Critics, where art thou? finding greatness in paragraphs, pages, and plasma screens

Taught by: Ben Batzer

Have you ever wondered how we determine a work’s merit? What does it mean to say a movie is a classic or a book is canonical? Why is it that we read Homer, Shakespeare, and Twain in class? Is it possible to look at art objectively? In answering questions like these, this class will help you think like English teachers, movie critics, poets, playwrights, and filmmakers. Although you’ll learn a range of approaches that professionals use to analyze, critique, and evaluate literature and film, you’ll also leave better prepared to analyze other art forms: photography, painting, song. This class requires no prior knowledge, but it asks that you bring an open mind, an eagerness to participate in lively discussion, and the courage to see the world around you in new ways.

race, place and identity in missouri

Taught by: Stephanie Hasty

Who are we? Why are we here? What can we do to change the world? These are the questions that we are going to tackle and answer while exploring the voices and experiences of those around us. Through civil discourse, we will address texts through a critically literate lens to see what experiences are being left out. We will talk about privilege, social justice and listen and read about how confronting these issues helps us identify who we are and helps us plan for a future where all voices are heard and represented. We will look at and explore our own culture and share that with others. In the end we will ask ourselves about what we’ve learned and find ways to take that knowledge back to our schools and communities. We will read works by others spanning the 60s-present day, listen to podcasts centered on these topics and explore diversity through looking at our communities.

Reading Landscapes

Taught by: Kristina Casagrand

Does being outdoors gets your brain buzzing? Get ready. We’re going to run our fingers through flowers on the prairie, splash in Missouri River tributaries, hike under the forest canopy, peek into a cave and learn what’s wild even in between buildings, concrete and our own skin. We’ll start to understand basic and broad ecological concepts and discuss how climate change usurps what we’ve expected from our systems. To make sense of what nature can teach us about our interior and social lives, we’ll dive in to classic and contemporary essays, literary environmental journalism, poetry, art and more. Come prepared to ask lots of questions, read and listen to many perspectives, interact with nature every day, and become still enough to reflect on it through journaling and sketching.

the art of programming: programming art

Taught by: Joel Jeffries

An artist uses a paint brush and a writer uses a pen. Throughout history, artistic exploration has taken many forms. Today, technology allows us to express ourselves in new ways. This course will aim to build skills to be able to bring the ideas in our minds into (virtual) reality. The course will begin with the basics of coding (no prerequisite skills necessary), explore the use of graphics to create works of art, delve into the use of computers to run simulations that imitate life, and culminate in original creative projects.

The Witching Hour

Taught by: Dani Eschweiler

The Salem Witch Trials are more ubiquitous today than you might realize: they have been referenced in seemingly countless pieces of media, from plays to comic books to video games. However, the popularization of these trials has resulted in confusion regarding the definition of a witch-hunt. Additionally, there are a nontrivial number of misconceptions about what actually occurred in 1692. Together, we will utilize social and literary theory to examine how and why the Salem Witch Trials occurred; we will also read, watch, and create modern renditions of the trials, making sure to dispel – and possibly laugh at – any factual inaccuracies along the way. What conditions had to be met in order for friends, spouses, and siblings to effectively sentence each other to death? How was such a fearful environment facilitated? What do the trials have to teach us, if anything, about the U.S. today? Let’s spell it out.

To Infinity and Beyond

Taught by: Frank Corley

We’ll start at zero, and we won’t stop until we get there. The concept of infinity pervades so much of mathematics that we will have plenty to do in this course. What happens when a process is repeated over and over again, changing only a single parameter each time? Does infinity come in different levels, or is it one size fits all? Is infinity a number or is it something else? How can we prove a statement about all the numbers without proving it individually for every number? Can infinity be arrived at or can we even get close to it? Will these questions never end? Take the course and find out.

Understanding the Modern Middle East

Taught by: Shadi Peterman

Conflict and crisis in the Middle East have been regular events on the nightly news in recent decades. This course will consider the origins and continuing aspects of major events in several areas of the Middle East, including the rise of ISIS, the Syrian Civil War and refugee crisis, and the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Students will consider many factors that contribute to the conflicts, including political, economic, and religious issues. Students will also be challenged to propose ways to address each situation, considering what role the United States and/or international organizations and coalitions can and should play.

What Are You Going to Do About It?

Taught by: Stephanie Harman

This course explores the intersection of modern issues facing the world from a combined science and social studies perspective. Scholars will examine scientific, historical, geographical, cultural, civic and economic dimensions of a diverse collection of local, national, global issues. As they examine issues of food security, genetic technology, epigenetics, water and energy, chronic and infectious disease, and climate change, they will hone their reading, writing, and interdisciplinary thinking skills. Scholars will look at how individual and societal responses have made things both better and worse and look for possible future solutions as they try to answer the question, “What are you going to do about it?”

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way: Shakespeare Today

Taught by: Mike Kersulov

What’s the big deal with Shakespeare? The language can be confusing. He’s been dead for years. But for some reason he is still important in today’s world. This course will look at how Shakespeare still impacts our lives and entertainment through film, television, and even comic books. Have you read all the different types of Shakespearean plays? Do you like romance, murder, mystery, shipwrecks, and fantasy? They are all there calling out to us. Romeo, Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Iago, and Bottom. We will meet them all, act the parts, and find how they work themselves into our lives. But we won’t stop there. While we lose ourselves in the magic of drama and theater, we will find a way to become more acquainted with Shakespeare and his works and determine how each and every one of us has a little bit of Shakespeare inside.

With Friends like These, Who Needs Hegemonies? Employing the Sociological Imagination

Taught by: Doug Valentine

What makes you who you are? Are we just a collection of free-floating individuals? Do our histories and experiences matter? What’s all this “privilege” business about? Using a sociological perspective, we will examine the categories of race, gender, class, and much more. We will discuss important local, national, and global news while exploring topics such as inequality, social construction, universal human rights, and cultural relativism. We will investigate how the social institutions of education, the family, government, religion, and media contribute to our socialization, police “deviant” behavior, and engage in social control. It’s a big world with diverse perspectives. Let’s explore a few. When we use the sociological imagination, things get real.