University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst: General Education

Umass Logo image 1 image 2 image3
Photo

Teaching & Advising

 

Exemplary General Education Statements

Please scroll through the general education statements below for exemplary models of how to incorporate the Gen Ed learning objectives in a course syllabus.

Course Subject and Number Course Name Gen Ed Designation
Anthropology 100 Human Nature SB, G
Astronomy 101 The Solar System PS
Biology 106 Human Biology BS
Classics 103 Introduction to Classical Archaeology AT
Comm Disorders 210 Introduction to Communication Disorders U
German 323 Modern German History, 1750 to the Present HS
Geoscience 103 Introductory Oceanography PS
History 114 China, Origins to the Ming Dynasty HS, G
Japanese 144 Modern & Premodern Japanese Literature in Translation (1600-1945) AL, G
Linguistics 101 People and their Language SB, U
Mathematics 128 Calculus for the Life and Social Sciences II R2
Microbiology 255 Introduction to Medical Microbiology BS
Music 150 The Lively Arts AT, G
Philosophy 100 Introduction to Philosophy AL
Philosophy 343 Beauty and Aesthetic Value AT
Plant,Soil,and Insect Sci. 190s Plants in Our World BS, G
Political Science 101 American Politics SB
Public Health 160 My Body, My Health I
Resource Economics 121 Hunger in a Global Economy SB, G
Women's Studies 187 Introduction to Women's Studies I, U

 

Anthropology 100 - Dr. Robert Paynter

Human Nature (SB, G)

Anthro 100 Human Nature meets the General Ed SB (Social and Behavioral Sciences) and the G (Global Social and Cultural Diversity) requirements.  SB courses aim to introduce you to what and how we know about individual and social life, that human individual and social life is constantly changing, and that individual and social life have systematic forces that shape them.  G courses have the goals of learning that people live very different lives because of the diversity of ways societies have of being human, to help you understand the nature of some of these human differences, and through understanding these differences become receptive to pluralistic perspectives for understanding our world. 

In a nutshell, here’s how this course addresses these issues.  Central to an Anthropological take on Human Nature is the idea of culture.  Culture is the distinctive manner in which the human species makes its way in history.  At different times and places, people, living in societies, have been influenced by and have continued to make anew this awesome thing called culture.  None of these cultures can stop change though some have tried.  Some long term changes are brought on by changes in our bodies, some by changes in our environment, and some by the internal workings of the cultures we have created.  These changes do not happen willy nilly or at the behest of any individual’s will, but for reasons having to do with how we socially produce energy, exercise social power, and explain all of this to one another.  We’ll learn about these ways of life, as they were in the deep human past and as they are today, by spending time studying people who live in ways quite different from, as well as quite similar to, our life in an industrial-capitalist settler nation state that struggles with its divisions of class, race, ethnicity, and gender.  I, along with the other faculty at the University, think it is important that a University education introduce you to this perspective, to give you an insight on how to make a bountiful and fulfilling future for us all. 

Back to top

 

Astronomy 101 - Dr. Todd Tripp

The Solar System (PS)

This class satisfies the physical science (PS) general education requirement. According to the UMass General-Education Council, "the purpose of the General Education requirement is to stretch students' minds, broaden their experiences, sharpen their critical thinking and evaluation skills, and make connections through shared experiences." In this course, students will be provided with some knowledge of the physical sciences and the methods used by physical scientists. In this context, students will be required to think about and solve conceptual and quantitative problems of astronomy and physics, including some moderately challenging topics. This will involve some use of basic math. Students will also learn some of the historical background of astronomy and current open questions and goals of the science.

Back to top

 

Biology 106 - Dr. Judy Goodenough

Human Biology (BS)

This is a general education course carrying the BS designation. It must meet certain criteria to retain this designation. The criteria and the means of addressing them in a large class are listed below.

1. The course should cover the fundamental principles of the science.
We will cover the anatomy and physiology of the major systems of the human body and apply these principles to personal health whenever possible.

2. The course should include critical thinking.
A. The exams will include "application" questions. You will be given information (or a scenario) that we have not discussed in class. You will have to apply what you have learned to a new situation.

B. There will be periodic in-class discussions that focus on current social issues. We will explore the conclusions that can be drawn based on the current experimental evidence.

C. Some of the extra-credit assignments will require critical thinking. The in-class writing assignments will ask you to apply a concept discussed in that class to a new situation. Some the extra credit homework assignments will require critical thinking.
D. You have the opportunity to write a research term paper.

3. The course should address the relevance of the science and its impact on society.
A. Some of the extra credit assignments will address social issues.
B. We will have periodic in-class discussions prompted by issues currently in the media.
C. You have the opportunity to write a research term paper.

Back to top

 

Classics 103 - Dr. Anthony Tuck

Introduction to Classical Archaeology (AT)

The General Education Curriculum is designed to enhance critical reasoning skills, encourage the creation of cross cultural connections, and promote the broadening of one’s intellectual perspective though its range of courses. This course will ask you to consider historical parallels between the modern world and that of the Ancient Mediterranean, take into account the wide range of perspectives and voices that informs and shapes the historical narrative of the period, and develop and communicate these ideas through a dynamic interaction with your peers as well as through efficient, clear written expression.

Successful completion of this course will fulfill a General Education AT designation. This class is designed to not only introduce you to the material history of the Mediterranean and Western Europe, but also encourage you to consider the social, political and economic motivations that motivate the form and development of some of the Western world’s greatest aesthetic achievements. Through this, you will come to understand structures such as the Parthenon of Athens or Rome’s Temple of Jupiter Capitoline not merely as buildings, but as expressions of the ideas, attitudes, intentions and environment of the people who designed and used them. Moreover, we will consider the ways in which these cultural traditions remain central to Western political and social identity. This will be achieved through careful consideration of the various factors that provoke change in the archaeological record through their presentation in lectures, exams and short papers and through your considered discussion of them through a variety of on-line and group discussion venues.

Back to top

 

Communication Disorders 210 - Dr. Frances Burns, with credit to Dr. Patricia Mercaitis

Introduction to Communication Disorders (U)

The first purpose of this introductory level, SPARK-based, General Education Diversity-designation course is to provide you as an undergraduate student with an overview of communication development and the communication disorders professional fields given that we exist in a socially, culturally and linguistically diverse world. Secondly, by successfully completing this course, you as an undergraduate student will be better prepared for your professional role in our diverse society through increased levels of awareness, knowledge, skills and competencies in U. S. diversity and multiculturalism as you prepare to interact with individuals who have had normal communication development, as well as with individuals with all types of communication disorders and/or communication differences from diverse backgrounds.

General Education courses share the common requirements for critical thinking, reflection, writing and the opportunity to discuss course content. These requirements will be accomplished by the activities (assignments, reflections, video analyses) implemented within the discussion sections in addition to activities during the class meetings.  The learning components will involve the process and intended outcomes of learning about communication development and disorders in our diverse society: phenomena, ideas, values, one’s self and others, and about learning itself. The four areas of communication interaction: listening, speaking, reading and writing; will be addressed through a diversity perspective with a strong emphasis on oral and written language, and critical thinking/problem-solving.

We will focus on all aspects of primary diversity in our society: ability, race, ethnicity, gender, age, and culture. We will also address secondary diversity issues within the cultures of the major racial cultural groups that comprise our pluralistic society: class, experience, education, and contemplative practices.

As a result of your active participation as a learner, on completion of this course, you will be more knowledgeable about the four professions that comprise the field of communication disorders: speech-language pathology, audiology, hearing science and speech science. You will also learn about normal communication development and the specific disorders of language, speech and hearing seen through the lenses of diversity. You will learn about the critical issues that are driving the personnel needs in this field; specifically the need for bi- or multi-lingual, multi-culturally- educated professionals and paraprofessionals.

Back to top

 

German 323 - Dr. Andrew Donson

Modern German History, 1750 to the Present (HS)

This course surveys the troubled history of the modern German nation-state.  It traces how the loose federation of German monarchies and duchies coalesced in the late nineteenth century into a European powerhouse and how the world’s largest and best organized workers’ movement shaped its subsequent development.   Students are asked to take a position in the disagreements among historians about the origins of imperial Germany’s explosive internal political conflicts.  We explore the contradictions:  Why did Germany under the conservative chancellor Otto von Bismarck become the first nation in the world to introduce social security and national health insurance but then fifty years later, under the leadership of another authoritarian leader, torture and murder its Socialists?  Why did Germans introduce suffrage for women before all other major nations but vote in 1933 to rescind it and, in addition, abolish their democratic regime, arguably the most progressive in the world?  Topics include the absolutism of the old regime, the Enlightenment and the Napoleonic occupation, the 1848 revolution, unification and rule under Bismarck, imperialism under Wilhelm II, the First World War, the Weimar Republic, the Nazi dictatorship, the Second World War and the Holocaust, the divided Germanys, and the Federal Republic since 1989.  Special attention is given to the role of youth, workers, women, minorities, and artistic and cultural movements.

Because this course fulfills the general education requirement, we will be reading a variety of texts critically, including a novel, a play, a scholarly monograph, a half-dozen theoretical articles, and numerous short primary sources.  Students also have to submit weekly written answers to questions on these texts.  These questions are largely conceptual:  They ask not merely who someone was but also why that person thought and acted the way he or she did.  The goal is to develop the main skill of the historian:  the ability to place events and ideas in their historical context and draw conclusions about causes and consequences.  In addition, these exercises sometimes ask students to take a position in a debate and, more importantly, offer reasons for their opinion.  Their answers to the questions and their opinions then become the basis for class discussions.

Back to top

 

Geoscience 103 - Dr. Mark Leckie

Introductory Oceanography (PS)

Welcome to Introductory Oceanography! There are a number of reasons why you are taking this class. Many of you are taking this course to fulfill your Physical Science (PS) general education requirement. Many of you are interested in the oceans and wish to learn more. Perhaps you will decide to major in the Earth or Life sciences and pursue advanced degrees in marine geology or marine biology. Perhaps you plan to go to law school and specialize in Environmental Law or the Law of the Sea. Or maybe your family gets its livelihood from the sea, or spends a lot of time near the coast for pleasure. Over the years perhaps you’ve developed many questions about the sea.

You have enrolled in a general education course designed to acquaint you with the fascinating features of the nearly 71% of our home planet covered by water. The ocean basins are vast regions still shrouded in mystery, where new discoveries are being made every year. Our goal in Geo-Sci 103 is to provide you with a basic knowledge of just how the oceans work, how they impact and control the habitability of our planet, and how vital they are to our very existence. These are broad themes that reflect the spirit and value of the general education curriculum that is a part of your UMass experience. As citizens of our small world, we would argue that everyone should take a course like this! With jet service to almost anywhere in the world, financial markets electronically and politically linked for “real time” transactions 24-7, and global populations striving to live as well as we do here in the U.S., it's important for all of us to gain a holistic view of our integrated geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and cryosphere. At the same time, we want to explore the notion of scientific thinking and analysis. We will discuss how researchers collect data, form ideas, and then test those ideas. We want you to understand the scientific theories that help us understand Earth processes and history. For example, we are sure that the core of the Earth is solid. Why? No one has ever been there. Hurricane frequency and/or intensity are likely to increase in coming years, say climatologists. Why? The Labrador Current moving south along the New England coast is warmer now than it’s been in 70 years. Why? Will this impact the price of fish in the grocery store? We are rapidly depleting our natural hydrocarbon reservoirs. Can the ocean provide alternate sources of energy? Scientific research can help evaluate the impact of human activity on our home planet and it can have a direct effect on public policy. The latter is also governed in large measure by how global change begins to affect our everyday lives.

In addition to a broad introduction to the science of oceanography, the scientific principles upon which it is based, and the importance of the ocean in our daily lives, there are other benefits of this PS General Education course. Specifically, the pedagogy used in this course and the policies implemented here are relevant to the real world. For example, meeting deadlines, arriving to class on time, preparing for classes and exams, working in groups, considering diverse perspectives, communicating effectively (see below), and writing well are tangible life skills that will serve you well while you are here and after you leave UMass.

Back to top

 

History 114 - Dr. Sigrid Schmalzer

China, Origins to the Ming Dynasty (HS, G)

This class offers an interdisciplinary approach to Chinese history up through the Ming Dynasty. It fulfills general education requirements in history (HS) and global diversity (G). Let's take them one at a time:

1) History: Perhaps you think that history means "stuff that happened in the past," and that taking a history class means listening to a professor tell stories about this stuff and then reciting those stories on exams. That is not what we will be doing in this class. Rather, I will be introducing you to history as a discipline, as a way of exploring the past – that is, the theory and practice of history. You will not be reading a standard textbook that just lays out all the information on a platter. Instead, the majority of the reading will consist of primary sources. What is a primary source? It's something that was created by the historical actors themselves – that is, by the people in history we're studying. Primary sources are the evidence that historians use to figure out what happened in the past, how people lived their lives, and how things changed over time. You will learn to read these sources, analyze them, and use them to form historical arguments (interpretations of the past). Some of the materials are secondary sources – that is, they're written by other historians who themselves have analyzed primary sources and formulated their own interpretations of Chinese history. But even in
these cases, you will not passively read each page, underline the important facts, memorize them, and then take a test. Instead, you will think, talk, and write about how the authors use primary sources to make their historical arguments.

2) Global Diversity. This class satisfies the requirement in global diversity because it focuses on the history of a country that is not the United States or Europe. (This is obvious, right? However, my goal is to teach a class on Chinese history that would satisfy diversity requirements even at a Chinese university. Why? Because we will emphasize the cultural diversity of China itself, the way it has changed over time and across space. China two thousand years ago was NOT the same as China today. The place we call China has not always had the same name; it has not always been the same size; its culture has changed a great deal over time and space. What "China" means to people of Chinese heritage living in the United States in 2009 is very different from what it meant to people living in the fifth century. Even just looking at the fifth century, people living in the north of China were culturally quite different from people living in the south. They did not necessarily even think of themselves as being the same kind of people, as sharing a cultural identity. And China over the years has had changing relationships with foreign cultures; what we know as "China" has been shaped by these foreign cultures over time. Studying diversity is not just a simple matter of studying another country. It means thinking seriously about our assumptions of what constitutes difference and similarity. It means getting beyond thinking in lump categories like "China" or "America," and instead recognizing that just because two people may both be considered "Chinese," this doesn't mean that there is some kind of essential thing that "Chinese" is.

Back to top

 

Japanese 144 - Dr. Stephen M. Forrest

Modern Premodern Japanese Literature in Translation (1600-1945) (AL,G)

This course is part of the UMass General Education curriculum, and as such has some broader goals in addition to its Japan-specific content. Primarily, it addresses two fundamental questions: what is literature and why do we read it, especially outside our own language and culture? In addition, and no less important in terms of the goals of the Gen Ed program, the course also encourages a diverse outlook on culture, promotes the ideal of lifetime learning, and develops through discussion and writing the important skills of critical thinking and communication, among others. The course is conducted entirely in English, and all readings are in English. No particular background is assumed. We will encounter some terminology (e.g. poetic forms, literary genres) in Japanese, but English equivalents are also used.

Back to top

 

Linguistics 101 - Dr. John Kingston

People and their Language (SB, U)

Linguistics 101 fulfills both the Social and Behavioral Sciences (SB) and the United States Social and Cultural Diversity (U) general education requirements. It fulfills the SB requirement through the considerable attention paid to how language is simultaneously a product of humans’ unique biology and their diverse cultures, to how language use reflects and creates a speech community’s culture and society, and to how language changes over time. It fulfills the U requirement through its simultaneous emphasis on the diversity of human languages and on the genetic endowment that makes it possible for all humans to learn a language.

Back to top

 

Math 128 - Dr. Farshid Hajir

Calculus for the Life and Social Sciences (R2)

 

MATH 127 is a General Education course.  Learning the concepts of calculus in this course involves critical thinking -- logic and mathematical precision inform the teaching and learning of calculus throughout Math 127. At the heart of calculus is the notion that motion and change can be subdivided into smaller and smaller intervals and then analyzed piece by infinitesimal piece. This idea of de-construction/re-construction goes back in ancient times to Archimedes. But it was only in the hands of Newton and Leibniz that the mathematical notation, language, and sophistication of this idea could be sufficiently well-developed to serve as a tool for the wider community of mathematicians and scientists. The ideas continue to be subtle and elusive until experience and repeated practice renders them less abstract: grasping them requires a fine analysis and an active imagination, in addition to technical mastery of basic algebraic formalisms. Learning to apply the abstract concepts of limit (the technical device for synthesizing quantities after breaking them into infinitesimal components), continuity, and differentiation to the act of modeling real-world problems, is a separate and further overall theme for the course. Students learn in this course to incorporate and relate two kinds of knowledge in this course: the abstract notions of how the derivative can help to locate the "turning points" of a curve, for example, relate immediately to solving problems involving how to maximize profit or minimize loss of heat through a porous membrane.

 

MATH 128 satisfies the General Education R2 requirement.  A brief description of how the learning goals for this course match the R2 requirement objectives follows.

This course emphasizes two major topics of elementary calculus: the fundamental theorem of calculus and its many applications including elementary probability and, secondly, the calculus of functions of several variables culminating with Lagrange multipliers for constrained optimization problems. It also introduces a few elementary differential equations.

 

In terms of the General Education Program objectives:

1. Content: Know fundamental questions, ideas, and methods of inquiry/analysis used in the discipline.

The central idea of calculus is a method, dating back to Archimedes, but extended and perfected by Newton and Leibniz, for measuring rates of change of smoothly changing quantities. The notation, techniques, and theorems developed by Newton, Leibniz, Fermat, and many other notable mathematicians, are fundamental tools in any discipline where the relationships between smoothly varying quantities are of interest.

2. Critical Thinking: Students demonstrate capacity for making comparisons and developing critical acuity.

Students in this course engage in a particular kind of Critical Thinking employed in the mathematical sciences -- a particularly pure form of Critical Thinking involving logical and numerical relationships. These notions are infused throughout the entire course. For example, students in this course develop a very concrete understanding of the concept of 'marginal cost,' connect that concept with a picture of the slope of the tangent line, and are able to compute it using the derivative. Making good budgetary decisions are often predicated on a solid understanding of this concept.

 

3. Communication: Developing information literacy and technological literacy

Students in Math 128 learn the technical details of a fundamental notion of modern society: all around us are quantities in constant flux and much of the technological society we live in is predicated on our ability to monitor and predicted these changing quantities. We know how to compute the average of a discrete set of numbers, but how do we compute the average value of something (pressure in a blood vessel, say) when that quantity is constantly in flux? How do we compute the probability of an event when the parameters for it are continuously changing? This is the kind of question students learn to answer in this course. This kind of understanding is of increasing relevance in today's information-rich world.

4. Connections: Demonstrate capacity to apply disciplinary perspectives and methods of analysis to real world problems (the larger society) or other contexts.

The course has two simultaneous components which share air time throughout the course. Namely, the course introduces abstract notions such as functions, graphs, derivatives of functions, etc. and relates these to the measurement of quantities, velocities, rates of growth or decay etc. with direct applications in the sciences and engineering. Students learn how to take a concrete problem such as "If the rate the body produces a certain antibody is given, how do we compute the amount of antibody produced after a certain length of time?" and create a set of mathematical ideas modeling the problem. They then apply techniques of calculus to solve the mathematical problem and relate its solution to answer the real-world problem.
 
Creative, analytical, quantitative and critical thinking in solving problems form the backbone of the students' experience in this course through the introduction of definitions, theorems, and techniques in readings and lectures and weekly problem sets as well as exams. This course focuses on the students' ability to solve problems: these are of two kinds -- they can be strictly mathematical (as in 'compute the slope of the tangent line') or in the context of a real-world problem (as in 'how fast is the population of this colony growing?'). For the second type of problem, students learn how to model the real-world problem -- primarily from life and social sciences -- using mathematical functions and notation, then they solve the mathematical problem. Then, they must relate the answer back to the real-world problem. Writing is not a focus of the course -- partially due to practical considerations given the large number of students who take the course and limited resources in the department. But the rigor of the problems discussed and their close relation to real-world problems provide the students with a very rich experience in line with the R2 standards of the General Education program.

Back to top

 

 

Microbiology 255 - Dr. Shelly Thibodo

Introduction to Medical Microbiology(BS)

Introduction to Medical Microbiology is a General Education BS course that offers you an opportunity to learn about basic biological concepts and apply these concepts to understanding infectious diseases and how the human host interacts with organisms that cause these diseases. Case studies are utilized to encourage students to analyze information and predict causes and outcomes of infection. By examining these case studies, we will first hypothesize what possible etiological agents are involved in the disease. We will then suggest how to test for the accuracy of our initial judgment and investigate other possible explanations.

Through laboratory exercises and the group project, students explore how these infectious agents affect human society and also how society influences the transmission, treatment and eradication of these agents.  By participating in the group project, students learn to work together to write and present information to their peers, an exercise that will be repeated throughout most professional lives.

Back to top

 

Music 150 - Dr. John Jenkins

The Lively Arts (AT, G)

When UMass established the General Education Curriculum, the provost invited us to create a model Gen Ed Class—The Lively Arts—the university’s first interdisciplinary arts course, designed so you can meet guest artists in person, attend their performances and exhibitions, and learn the language and tools you need to understand how performers and visual artists do their work. A unique feature of The Lively Arts is the opportunity to ask artists questions during lectures. Learning how artists think when they are performing or creating provides insight into their lives and work.

We believe in the importance of the UMass General Education Curriculum because it is a carefully-planned program with clearly-defined goals. Evidence shows that “employers are looking for creative problem-solvers, effective communicators, and productive contributors in a diverse workplace.”  We know that these are skills everyone needs. Throughout The Lively Artswe will give you personal attention to help you improve your skills in writing, critical thinking, and working with diverse perspectives.    

Back to top

 

Philosophy 100 - Dr. Eileen O'Neill

Introduction to Philosophy (AL)

This course provides a historical introduction to Western philosophy through the interpretation of early modern (16th-18th centuries) texts by canonical male, and recently rediscovered female, philosophers.  The instructor will provide information about the historical and cultural circumstances that gave rise to these texts, and will point out rhetorical strategies used by the authors. Historical and literary interpretation will be pressed in the service of providing the best reconstruction of the arguments in these works.  Students are expected to utilize the reasoning skills that they acquire at the beginning of the course in their critical evaluations of these arguments.  Students will have ample opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of textual interpretation and argument analysis in the weekly at-home writing assignment, and in the in-class essay, quizzes and essay exams. The wide-ranging themes of the course have an underlying sub-theme: sceptical arguments.  For example, we’ll examine sceptical challenges to: the theses that “might makes right” and that “women are by nature intellectually inferior to men” (Gournay), our belief that the senses and reason are reliable guides to the truth (Descartes), and our belief that our inductive practices are rationally justifiable. (Hume).  Given the importance and breadth of the texts and topics covered, the stress on critical evaluation of arguments, and the focus on written and verbal expression, this course meets the objectives of the General Education Arts and Literature (AL) curriculum.

Back to top

 

Philosophy 343 - Heidi Buetow

Fulfilling the Gen Ed Requirement with Philosophy of Art

This course is intended to satisfy the "Arts" (AT) designation of the "Social World" curriculum area for the General Education requirement. General Education courses are directed towards accomplishing four categories of learning: Content, Critical Thinking, Communications, and Connections. In order to understand the goals of this class it is helpful to think of them in terms of their relationship to these categories.

Content: The notion of aesthetic value, in particular beauty, has remained a central theme in philosophical studies of art throughout time. Focusing on beauty and aesthetic value as the topic of this course will allow us a unique opportunity to cover many of issues that are central to the philosophy of art and aesthetics. We will discuss various topics relating to aesthetic value, such as: What is aesthetic value and what is its relationship to beauty? Is aesthetic value objective or subjective? What is the nature of aesthetic value and its relationship to aesthetic taste? Do some people have better taste than others when it comes to beauty? What is the relationship between aesthetic taste and gustatory tastes? Is taste in art really that different from taste in food? What is the relationship between aesthetic value and morality? Does aesthetic virtue have anything to do with moral virtue? What is the relationship between aesthetic value (especially beauty) and sexuality? Where is the line between the erotic and the pornographic? What are the limits of beauty? Can disturbing or revolting things be
aesthetically valuable? What is the relationship between art and beauty? Does beauty still have a place in the art world today or has art outgrown beauty'? What is the importance of taste or beauty in life and in art? Is beauty essentially useless or does it have a purpose?

Critical Thinking: As mentioned above, there is a heavy emphasis in this class on learning how to think clearly and critically. In the first part of the class you will learn how to critically evaluate a particular philosophy theory on the basis of the logical consequences of the theory. This part of the class will prepare you to understand and evaluate informal arguments in a structured and rigorous way, and to apply aesthetic theories to real world situations. Next, you will become familiar with some basic formal logic, and you will learn how to apply these skills to the evaluation of formal arguments. Finally, you will learn how to extract a formal argument from an informal argument, and to express your own theories in the shape of a formal, valid argument.

Communication: Thinking deeply about an issue is an essential skill, but clearly communicating your thoughts is equally important. In this class we will go through several "stages of communication" which are designed to improve the way you refine and communicate your ideas. In the first stage (the "intuition stage"), you will write a response paper which is designed to help you express your rough ideas about a topic. In the second stage (the "discussion stage"), you will discuss your ideas in a small group, and then with the entire class. This stage is designed to help you refine your views in light of arguments from your classmates. In the final stage (the "written stage"), you will learn how to clearly and effectively communicate your ideas in writing. At every stage of communication there will be an emphasis on communicating your ideas in a way that is tolerant and open minded.

Connections: Throughout this class you will he challenged to apply the methods of philosophical analysis to real life questions. The purpose of a philosophy class is not to teach you the answers, but to help you learn how to look for them yourselves.

We will only brush the surface of some important and on-going debates. Though you can't necessarily expect to leave here with the answers to all of your questions about aesthetics, you will leave here with a better sense of the issues. More importantly, you will have uncovered your own reasons for holding the views that you do. You may find that some of your views will change after exposing them to critical evaluation. You may also find that you have better reasons for holding your old views then you did before you took this class.

 

Back to top

 

Political Science 101- Dr. Ray La Raja

American Politics (SB)

This course fulfills a General Education requirement (Social & Behavioral Sciences) and, as such, pushes you to examine prior assumptions, broaden your knowledge of the world, sharpen your critical thinking, and engage you in intellectual dialogue with classmates. At the most basic level, this course aims to teach you about American politics. Specifically, you will learn about the ideas, political institutions and political activities that shape contemporary politics in the United States.

One goal is to expose you to foundational ideas concerning American government and democracy. However, I also want to test your assumptions (and that of political ‘pundits’) against evidence. Throughout the course you should ask: how do we know that is true? I ask especially that you listen to alternative perspectives, as a way of discovering the soundness of your own opinions. The course also strives to engage you in politics as a citizen by developing habits of reading newspapers, political blogs and finding sources of information to help you understand the world of politics. You will be asked in this course to learn about who represents you and how they deal with issues that are important to you. Ultimately, I expect students who take this course to participate confidently as citizens in American democracy (or your home country) and perhaps pursue leadership roles in the future.

Back to top

 

Plant, Soil, and Insect Science 190S - Dr. Vahram Elagoz

Plants in Our World (BS G)

This course will enable the students to study the intricate and often intimate relationship between plants and people, taking an interdisciplinary approach. This is a general education course with a Biological Sciences (BS) and Global Diversity (G) designation. As a BS designation, students will learn fundamental concepts in plant biology including fundamental properties of life, food chains and food webs, plants as primary producers and humans as consumers. One of the primary learning goals will be to understand society’s historical connection to plants and how plants have made an impact on civilizations. The course will also look at current environmental problems that affect local and global food security and supply, alternative food sources and farming techniques. Case studies will be used to show how scientific methods and theories can be applied to problems of global concern while critically evaluating the shortcomings of currents ways of understanding these issues.

As a (G) designation, the course is specifically designed to increase students’ awareness and understanding of diverse regions, cultures, and societies within the context of contemporary global challenges, and to understand how different cultures contrast with more familiar practices in the United States. Specific examples and case studies of communities in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America will be examined to compare cultural practices, including traditional agricultural methods that are more in tune with environmental realities in contrast to modern agricultural production techniques which are typically recommended as the only solution to food shortages and hunger.

Back to top

 

Public Health 160 - Dr. Daniel S. Gerber

My Body, My Health (I)

Public Health 160 My Body/My Health is a general education personal health course.  Topics covered are: emotional health, sexual health, substance abuse prevention, date rape prevention, healthy and unhealthy roles for males and females in the 21st century, how to create and live in a healthy community, and how to begin to live in a more sustainable world.

My Body/My Health course integrates different subject areas based on the prominent work of Peter Senge of M.I.T. around systems (holistic) thinking.  The idea of systems thinking for this course is recognizing the big picture of health through the dimensions of physical, emotional, intellectual, social, environmental, and spiritual wellness.  Also, health is seen as multi-level process of integrating these dimensions with the individual, the surrounding social environment (community), overall society, and physical and environmental structures (the planet). 

Overall, students will define what health is for themselves, leading to the clarification of healthy behaviors they already have and changing unhealthy behaviors to live a more healthy life.

Back to top

 

Resource Economics 121 - Dr. Julie Caswell

Hunger in a Global Economy (SB, G)

As a General Education course, our goal is to address fundamental questions, ideas, and methods of analysis in the social sciences; apply these methods of analysis to the real-world problem of hunger; and stretch our minds. Economics as a social science provides us with basic analytical tools with which to look at the world. These tools can help us to understand why hunger exists and is persistent around the world. But they do not provide complete answers or perspectives and part of our job is to recognize their useful applications and their limitations. We do this through critical thinking using data to analyze food supply and demand and then writing about and discussing what we know as well as what we want to know. Our global focus is on hunger where it is most prevalent in Africa and Southern Asia; where it is present but declining, for example in East Asia and Latin America; and where it persists at significant levels in developed countries in Northern America and Europe.

Back to top

 

Women's Studies 187 - Dr. Banumathi Subramaniam, with credit to entire department

Introduction to Women's Studies (I, U)

This course fulfills two general education requirements (interdisciplinary, “I” and domestic diversity, “U”). One goal of higher education is to nurture the potentials in all students. General Education aims at personal enrichment, cultural awareness, and breadth of knowledge. General education requirements will help to prepare you for a lifetime of learning and give you skills for community engagement and informed citizenship.

Women’s studies is fundamentally an interdisciplinary field. You will be introduced to ideas, theories, methods, and concepts from many disciplines. Diversity is central to our conceptions of “women” and “gender” – there is no generic, universal “man” or “woman.” We are always located in networks of other social variables of race, ethnicity, sexuality, class, nationality, ability etc. We will stress the intersectional nature of our identities both in our theoretical and experiential explorations. While the course will introduce you to the philosophical, theoretical and methodological diversities within the field of women’s studies, we will constantly engage and apply these ideas to our lived experiences. We will encourage you to bring your college experiences, bring questions about professional life and training, as well as challenge you to hone your critical thinking skills which will be essential for you to function productively in a diverse and rapidly changing world.

Back to top