2022 Majors

Want to see who is teaching at the Academy this year? Read our faculty bios!

“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat, 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! 

Baeography: 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. 

Cy Ince’s Brain 
Taught by: Ericca Thornhill 

Why would anyone say that Climate Change isn’t caused by industrialization, that evolution isn’t how life changes over time, that vaccines don’t work, or that birds don’t exist? Learn about the difference between science reasoning and motivated reasoning, while tackling science denier’s tough tricks. Once you’ve figured it out, develop a plan of action for how to debunk pseudoscience without destroying relationships. 

Energy: From Theory to Practice 
Taught by: Megan Lilien 

Energy is everywhere: underground, in the sky, and in our bodies. But what really is energy, and how do we harness it? In this hands-on course, we will explore energy through several branches of science – biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science. Investigating topics from photosynthesis to fossil fuels to nuclear energy, students will build their knowledge and develop models of energy through experiments, field trips, and debates. Students will also apply engineering design concepts to create a prototype to solve a real-world energy problem. If you have a passion for science, engineering, and making a difference in the world, then this is the class for you! 

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 today. Students in this major 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. 

Intro to Philosophy: Great Thoughts Worth Thinking 
Taught by: Nicholas Kirschman 

What are great thoughts? Why are they worth thinking? Should you think about them? What are meta- physics, epistemology and aesthetics? Philosophy attempts to answer these questions — mainly by providing more questions. Come and question everything you have ever been told. Discussions, seminars, meditations, plays and journals will be used to reflect on questions we, as human beings, face. We will also attempt to apply these grand thoughts to everyday problems through ethics. We will delve into various thinkers, from Aristotle to Kwame Appiah, Ayn Rand to Wallace Shawn. Come and see why it is important to question everything!!! 

It’s the End of the World (As We Know It): An Exploration of -ISMS 
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 and Culture 
Taught by: Akehiko 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. 

Kings, Knights and Knaves in Medieval England 
Taught by: Brian Matz 

The legendary accounts of King Arthur and his “knights of the round table” fascinated the storytellers in the Middle Ages. They continue to fascinate us in video games, movies, comics, and books. It’s little wonder why. They are stories of romance, of quests, of duels, of daring adventures, of surviving against all odds. We’ll digest some of these stories, we’ll examine historical documents from the time that fill in some important details, and we’ll watch some films that tell these same stories today. We’ll also craft an illuminated medieval manuscript with an adventure story of our own. 

Lightning Bugs or Lightning: Write Words for the Natural World 
Taught by: Tina Casagrand 

Can stories set in a common landscape and time spread compassion for that region’s human and more-than-human world? What language shall we use for our experience here, amid Missouri’s geology, ecology, and complicated human history on this land? We’ll get outside to learn first-hand how to love and appreciate the nature around us, and in the classroom we will engage with readings, discussion, and artistic expression to enhance our understanding of the ways science and art intersect. 

Making Beautiful Mathematics 
Taught by: Melissa Mease 

Mathematics is a language commonly associated with form and function, but did you know it is also the language spoken by artists, designers, and mother nature herself? In this course we will look at art created in many different forms with math as the common language. We will explore the connection between homeless shelters and solar arrays. We will pursue curves, follow triangles, and build several pieces based on mathematical principles. Come prepared to start solving some world problems using origami, and most importantly, be ready to Make some Beautiful Mathematics! 

MSAN: Missouri Scholars Action News 
Taught by: Jonathan Gunasingham 

Missouri Scholars Academy has its very own news network! In this course, scholars will develop journalistic and production skills in order to show their friends that MSA isn’t just another nerd camp. Scholars 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 scholars. Along the way scholars 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: Benjamin 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 through guest presentations, local exploration and, of course, conversation. 

The Nature of Creativity 
Taught by: Lara Dieckmann 

What do creative works–and the people who make them–share in common? This course combines research and me-search; by finding out about others’ creativity, we will refine our own. Through readings, documentaries, guest speakers, exercises, and activities, we will dive deeply into myriad creative concepts, such as “flow” and “combinatory play.” Students will select a case study to analyze, asking how certain elements of creativity ‘manifest’ and ‘behave’ in various contexts. Central to this exploration is the embrace of risk, imagination, and play. In particular, we will experiment with various ‘oblique strategies’ meant to incite creative sparks. For our culminating project in the course, we will take inspiration from Patrick Kavanagh: “See over there/ A created splendour/ Made by one individual/ From things residual.” Given class time, a small budget, access to various spots in Columbia, and a camera, what representation of your learning can you build, craft, make, or design? This hands-on challenge will stretch our thinking about creativity as we ask this essential question: what are the limits of creativity and how can we train our brains to be more creative in everyday life? 

Think Like a Programmer: Introduction to Problem Solving & Programming using Python 
Taught by: Kristofferson Culmer 

In this course, students will learn the systematic approach that programmers use to develop logical solutions to solve problems, and how to implement those solutions using the Python programming language through interactive, engaging activities, hands-on activities. The course will cover a range of topics from basic programming concepts such as algorithm design, variables, decision structures, data structures, and repetition structures; to more advanced concepts such as object oriented programming, and game logic. Students will also learn some of the tools that programmers use and will develop programs that connect to external APIs. 

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. 

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way: Shakespeare Today 
Taught by: Michael 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.