2020 Minors Archive

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


Taught by: Alek Willsey

We will examine several ethical problems concerning healthcare, scientific research, and medical technology. Such problems are bioethical problems. In particular, we shall consider the bioethical problems of access to healthcare resources, euthanasia, cognitive enhancement, abortion, and more. After an introduction to ethical theory, we shall charitably interpret and evaluate philosophical solutions to these bioethical problems. We shall then work on developing solutions of our own.

Comics, Culture, and You

Taught by: Michael Kersulov

Superheroes, cartoons, and talking mice. The face of literature is changing, and we are finding new ways to write: comic books! But what makes comics so popular today? How has it affected our culture? This course will explore the possibilities of storytelling with comic books, how they have influenced our thinking, and how they have changed other forms as well: movies, TV, memoir, essays, and more. We will cover the basic elements of comics art and the key factors that allow the combination of visual and verbal texts to work. The course will include some of the most highly praised works within the medium, providing an opportunity to study a medium that is currently being defined, interrogated, and created in the world in which we actually live.

Don’t Lick the Spoon!

Taught by: Stephanie Harman

This course will allow scholars to delve into the history of some of the most interesting elements and compounds known. Modeling our efforts after books such as “Napoleon’s Buttons” and “The Disappearing Spoon,” scholars in this course will choose a substance that has had an impact on history, research the chemical attributes that made the substance so important, and present their findings in the form of a chapter to be included in our version of the book. Through developing an understanding of the historical context of their substance and its impacts, scholars will have the opportunity to acquire a rich understanding of why the most important rule in chemistry is “Don’t lick the spoon!”

Drugs, politics, religion, and smut! CENSORSHIP in american poetry

Taught by: Ben Batzer

According to the American Library Association, 354 books were challenged or banned in 2017. These numbers point to our national wariness about what literature says about religion, sex, politics, and authority. Censorship of any kind challenges the ideals of free expression and open access to information. At the same time, censorship gives more attention and notoriety to the very texts that would be suppressed, which calls into question the whole project of censorship. This class will explore the censorship and surveillance of literature by focusing on poets whose work has been challenged. We will read a variety of controversial poetry, interrogating censorship and anti-censorship efforts. In doing so, we will confront thorny questions about free speech and public ethics. This course will interest scholars who want to learn more about literature, power, ethics, and American culture.

Energy: The Currency of Change

Taught by: Joe Milliano

Energy is the nonstuff that lets stuff do stuff. Just as money in the bank allows people to purchase video games, trips to Florida, and tacos; energy in the grid allows people to light up light bulbs, move cars, and heat buildings. We will research the ways that energy is currently transferred into electric energy in the US, study some of the historical, sociopolitical, and scientific reasons for these choices, and then begin to think forward about how we want to supply electric energy in the future.

Historian’s Rhapsody

Taught by: Melissa Mease

Stories have been handed down through time in a variety of formats.  My favorite stories are told through music! We will examine tribal chants through modern music, culminating by re-writing our own history in a song never to be forgotten!  Although this is not a class strictly about making music, we will explore the songs that lay the foundation for history as we know it.

how u know dat: using claim, evidence, and reasoning to become a better arguer

Taught by: Jon Gunasingham

Are vaccines actually dangerous? Is the world really round? And if climate change/global warming exists why did a bunch of us have school canceled because it was too cold outside? More and more the nature of truth is being challenged by alarmingly uninformed scientific positions in our modern world. When addressing skepticism towards scientific facts, today’s student needs to equipped to dissect any claim they may encounter. This class will expose students to the Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning framework which they will employ in many lab-based activities. They will then use this framework to address some of the craziest claims we’ve encountered in our present day.

introduction to philosophy: great thoughts worth thinking

Taught by: Nicholas Kirschman

An abridged version of the major with the same title, this minor will introduce scholars to why it is important to question everything. What are great thoughts? Why are they worth thinking? Should you think about them? What are metaphysics, 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.

James bond in literature and film

Taught by: Stephanie Hasty

During this course students will explore the world (myth and lore) of James Bond both through the novels and films to learn about 20th/21st century history and modern day literature. The class will be discussion based and your participation through discussion questions is vital as we explore the movies, parodies, books and articles analyzing and interpreting James Bond and his relation to topics covered in class.

Math Imitates Art

Taught by: Frank Corley

Or does art imitate math? We see in an area such as architecture that there is important interplay between these two seemingly separate disciplines. But are there really ”two cultures”? Or can poetry, music and visual art speak to mathematics? Can the fine arts be approached in a mathematical way? Bring both your left brain and your right brain to class every day, because you never know which you’ll need, probably both!

Mathematical Mazes for the Mind

Taught by: Ake Takahashi

We will work on very challenging math problems. We will also work on problems through rebuses, math puzzles, Tribond, and Mensa topics to enhance your problem solving skills. You are also introduced to many interesting mathematical topics that are not found in school textbooks.By testing your mettle, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover “the Wonders of Maths”.

Print Isn’t Dead!

Taught by: Kristina Casagrand

What’s better: print or digital? Depends on the context, right? In this class we’ll dwell in the world of paper and ink as a point of view for reflecting on themes such as attention, truth, art, free will, and agency. What affect do screens have on learning and memory? What went wrong with daily newspapers? How can books influence our personal and social identities? What counts as a book, anyway? As we explore these ideas, we will create our own zines (small, easily replicated magazines) and practice ways to expand our attention spans, collaboration skills, and personal print tastes.

Recreational Mathematics

Taught by: Joel Jeffries

Mathematics is often done to answer some of the hardest questions our society faces.  It is a powerful multifaceted tool that helps push us forward.  Mathematics is useful. But that is not what this class is about. Instead, we will be looking at some of the mathematics people have done throughout the ages just because they can.  We will explore ideas from fractals to combinatorial games to pretty much anything Martin Gardner liked.  We will play with ideas not because they are useful, but because there is joy to be had in the act of thinking.  And, along the way, though we may try to avoid it, we may discover some of the amazing usefulness of mathematics anyway.

The Blues, Jazz and the American Experience: Thriving on a Riff

Taught by: Jordan Henson

“Jazz is not just music, it’s a way of life, it’s a way of being, a way of thinking.” – Nina Simone. The blues and jazz were the first musical forms to emerge exclusively on American soil. Their emergence from the unique cultural blending of late 19th and early 20th century New Orleans mirrors the great “melting pot” of America, and their history is implicitly tied to the history of its country.  The blues and jazz quickly jumped out of the musical staff and into literature, art, and even philosophy. Students in this minor will study and listen to the blues and jazz, tracing their history and influences among other artistic disciplines, discussing how they differ from other musical forms, and investigating how jazz performance and improvisation can help one navigate the notes, high, low, blue, and everywhere in between, of life’s grand melody. No prior musical experience required!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the World Weird Web

Taught by: Dani Eschweiler

Memes are more than just memes: they evolve with and shape popular culture, but they also have the capability to distort the truth. Some memes, although under the guise of simple jokes, have evolved into vehicles for a mass, immediate distribution of ideas. These ideas originate from various places and people on the internet, but certain ones are significantly more prominent in particular digital spaces. Together we will examine various internet subcultures through the lens of social theory; we will take an in-depth look at their beliefs, rhetoric, and use of memes on digital platforms to advance a certain ideology. Are the ideas in these digital communities contained to their respective forums, or do they have real-world implications regarding the political, social, and cultural norms in our society? Let’s find out.

The Spoken Word: Performance Poetry

Taught by: Chris Holmes

Spoken word poetry combines the skill of using words to create images with the art of delivering these words to stir emotions. Poets – both novice and veteran – will study how to mix writing and performance by analyzing professional spoken word poetry, practicing the creative process with a hyper-focus on word choice, and delivering performances that literally mess with people’s emotions (in the best way) with mind-blowing metaphors and messages, word plays and rhythms. An MSA Slam also adds a layer of healthy competition. This is your opportunity and venue to take words, passions and big ideas, mix a hefty amount of originality with a dash of spice, and serve a rich fare of panache and emotion.

This Minor is Socially Constructed: On Social Categories and their Consequences

Taught by: Doug Valentine

Why do boys like blue and girls like pink? Who determines what counts as low, middle, or upper class? Does race exist? What are the material and social consequences of arbitrary divisions among people? Is science objective? If you have ever wondered about any of these issues, look no further! This minor will critically examine the taken-for-granted categories that make up our world from a sociological perspective. Hannah Arendt once said “there are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is a dangerous activity.” Warning: danger ahead.

What Does It Mean to Be Human?

Taught by: Shadi Peterman

Are humans the only species to use complex language? Are we the only ones capable of altruism or empathy? This course explores the question of what it means to be human through an anthropological and sociological lens. The course will begin by looking at the question from the perspective of biological/physical anthropology by studying both ancient human ancestors and our modern primate relatives, looking at both their physiology and behavior to understand what is (and is not) unique to humans. We will then shift to a cultural anthropological/sociological perspective to think about what aspects of human societies seem to be universal and consider why certain types of institutions and social structures are so common among humans.

When Does a Sound Become a Song?

Taught by: Steven Senger

We will investigate and try to communicate about phenomena often referred to as “music.” We’ll start with some basic physics, then dabble in some Western music theory.