University Seminars (USEMS): Fall 2016

American Political Thought (USEM 1580-004)
2 Credit Course
Thursday, 2:00 – 3:30 PM
Pavilion VIII, 103
James Savage, Professor of Politics

This course examines the development of American political thought from the Puritans through the Civil War.  All the readings in the course will be from primary sources.  We will read some of the classic works in American political thought written by such political actors as Jefferson, Hamilton, Paine, Adams, Tocqueville, Jackson, Stanton, Douglass, and Lincoln.

Australia (USEM 1580-001)
2 Credit Course
Monday, 4:00 – 5:50 PM
Shannon House, 108
Mark Thomas, Professor of History

This course will look at the history, culture and society of the land ‘down under.’  Australia is a land of opportunity and paradox.  It began as a penal colony and became the richest country in the world within a hundred years.  It is a country that has been independent of Britain for a century, yet still has the Queen as head of state.  It is a vast continent of only 15 million inhabitants, yet has remarkable regional diversity.  It has long been among the most urbanized of global societies, yet its cultural identify is largely shaped by rural idealism.

To understand contemporary Australia, one must understand its past, both as myth and reality.  This course will look closely at some of the major events in Australian history, from the voyages of Captain Cook and the landing of the First Fleet at Botany Bay, through the excitements of the Gold Rush and Ned Kelly, the traumas of Gallipoli and the Great Depression, to the economic, political and social problems faced in the uncertain world of the new millennium.  We will use both traditional and non-traditional means to understand these events, applying the realist perspective of the historian, the subjective perceptions of the diarist and novelist, and the powerful imagery of the artist and filmmaker. 

Clones & Genomes: New Biology (USEM 1580-007)
2 Credit Course
Wednesday, 2:00 – 3:50 PM
Physical & Life Sciences Building, 200
Michael Wormington, Associate Professor of Biology

Cloning humans, the creation of genetically identical individuals from differentiated adult cells, and once the exclusive domain of science fiction, has moved to the front pages of reputable newspapers and prestigious scientific journals. In 1997, the first scientifically substantiated report of a cloned mammal, Dolly the ewe, fomented considerable debate and discussion, and evoked vigorous responses from politicians, pundits, professors, theologians, and entrepreneurs alike. In the past seventeen years, Dolly has been joined by a plethora of cloned mammals. A comparable method of gene transfer used to propagate these cloned animals has been successfully used to treat female infertility in humans and the generation and exploitation of human stem cells and "therapeutic cloning" continues to raise ethical and science policy issues. The completion of the first human genome reference sequence in 2003 provided us for the first time with the genetic "blueprint" for our species. The course will be organized around the following “big questions”: Do human clones already exist? What’s the difference between reproductive and therapeutic cloning? Can deceased or extinct animals be cloned? Can DNA testing be performed on human embryos before they are implanted? Who has the right to know your DNA sequence? Can either somatic cell or germline gene therapy be performed in humans? Topics and assigned readings will be derived from the scientific literature, books, magazines, newspapers and resources available online.

Contemporary Perspectives on Social Justice Movements, Action & Change (USEM 1570-004)
2 Credit Course
Thursday, 2:00 – 3:50 PM
Shannon House, 108
Lisa Speidel, Curry School of Education

The purpose of this course is to engage students in critical thought and discussion about social justice movements, both well-known and more obscure, which represent community and citizen-based responses to injustice and inequality.  This course uses feminist theory to focus on the concept of agency and resilience and the ways in which seemingly divergent populations of people have utilized various strategies for achieving recognition and change.  This course will incorporate several themes; exploring the role of identity and different at personal and relational levels, the historical context of these concepts, and theoretical frameworks considered from local and global perspectives.  The aim of the course is to encourage students to develop a sense of purpose and plan of action grounded in engaged scholarship and social responsibility.  The structure of the course includes lecture, readings, interactive exercises, films, discussion, guest speakers, critical written evaluation, and personal written reflection of the weekly topics.

Cultural Afterlife of Jane Austen (USEM 1580-006)
2 Credit Course
Monday, 5:00 – 7:30 PM
New Cabell Hall, 415
Andrea Press, Professor of Media Studies

The course explores the popular cultural afterlife of two of the Austen-derived romance plots, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma, in film, TV, modern novels, graphic novels and YouTube.

Dying, Death and Bereavement (USEM 1570-002)
2 Credit Course
Wednesday, 2:00 – 3:50 PM
Pavilion VIII, B002
Richard H. Steeves, Professor Emeritus

The course is an exploration of thinking about dying, death and bereavement.  Although western culture and American culture in particular has a reputation for being death denying, we do in fact confront images of and talk about death on almost a daily basis.  This course will not be a study about death and dying in the news and popular media, rather it will be about those who have thought about our mortality seriously and extensively.  The course will be divided into three foci:  (a) writers and poets and playwrights, (b) death professionals such as hospice workers, funeral directors and grief counselors, (c) social scientists who study homicide, suicide, bereavement and related topics.  The goals are to explore different ways of thinking about what may truly be beyond our understanding, death.

Journeys through Hell (USEM 1580-002)
2 Credit Course
Tuesday, 3:30 – 5:20 PM
Shannon House, 108
Dariusz Tolczyk, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature

Extreme experiences of evil and oppression – concentration camps, prisons, mass terror, and other forms of victimization – have been often been presented as opportunities for unusual personal growth and spiritual ascent.  From archaic initiation rites of diverse cultures through ancient Greek, Roman, and Biblical wisdom, as well as many literary traditions, the point has been stressed repeatedly that being exposed to suffering and oppression not only can make us better, stronger, and more enlightened human beings but, in fact, tends to be a necessary condition of such profound ennoblement.

Is this true?  Survivors of extreme experiences of the twentieth century, including the Holocaust, the Soviet Gulag, Communist prisons of Eastern Europe, and Chinese mind-reform camps ask this question while describing their own ordeals.  What can we learn from them about humanity, both in general and our own?  In this seminar, we will explore and discuss cultural, religious and intellectual roots of the conviction that extreme oppression can be ennoble us.  We will confront these traditions with survivors’ writings about Nazi and Communist oppression.  In our explorations, we will ask some profound questions:  What motivates human beings under extreme conditions?  Are human beings good by nature?  How does mass-scale evil originate in history?  How do diverse cultural background affect ways in which people react to these assaults against their humanity?  Our discussions will allow us to explore human experiences not directly accessible for most of us, and confront our own assumptions with discoveries of those who lived through extreme experiences.  Readings include short excerpts from the Bible, Plato, Juvenal and some more recent thinkers, as well as prison/camp memoirs by Elie Wiesel, Aleksandr Solzhenistyn, Zhang Eialniang, Eugenia Ginzburg, Varlam Shalamov, Gustaw herling, Tadeusz Borowski.  Films “Korczak” (by Andrzej Wajda), “Life is Beautiful” (by Roberto Benigni), and “Interrogation” (by Ryszard Bugajski) will be viewed outside of class and discussed in class.  This course will also include a strong experiential element.  The students will meet and talk with Mr. Julian Kulski, a survivor of Nazi camps, a veteran of the World-War II anti-Nazi resistance, and the author of The Color of Courage: A Boy at War.

Measuring the Stars (USEM 1580-005)
2 Credit Course
Thursday, 2:00 – 3:30 PM
Edward Murphy, Associate Professor of Astronomy

The dedication of the Leander McCormick Observatory in 1885 marks a turning point in the history of science at the University of Virginia.  Before this time, the University did not have any nationally or internationally recognized research programs or facilities.  The donation of the Observatory, and the resulting research programs, were the first step in the University becoming the modern research university that it is today.  In this course, we will research and document the steps leading to the donation of the Observatory, and the impact that it had in these critical years of the transition to a research university. 

The Nature of College (USEM 1570-007)
2 Credit Course
Tuesday, 6:00 – 7:50 PM
Robertson Hall, 227
Mark White, Associate Professor of Commerce

This seminar explores the nature of our lives by examining the nature of our place at the

University, with a goal of moving towards a more sustainable society dedicated to achieving social, ecological and economic well-being. Through reading, writing, research and conversations, we’ll learn what’s required to provide us with “the good life” and consider how other beings from outside our community might view this life. Together we’ll investigate the natural, cultural and human resources we depend upon with an eye towards understanding (and improving) the systems for their delivery.

The Origin of the Universe (USEM 1580-003)
2 Credit Course
Monday, 3:30 – 5:20 PM
Physics Building, 218
Vittorio Celli, Professor Emeritus

Has the universe always existed or was it created from nothing?  Is it finite or infinite in extent?  Until the 1920’s, scientists by and large left these questions to religion and philosophy.  Then Hubble found that the universe is expanding, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.  Now we have plenty of evidence that, as far in the sky as our instruments can see, it all started about 13.8 billion years ago with a Big Bang.  But was there something before the Bang, and how did it come about?  We will discuss what is known, what is still uncertain or speculative, and what appear to be the ultimate limits of human ability to know, with readings from Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”, websites, and current articles in this rapidly evolving field.

Post-Soviet Political Challenges: Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, Separatism, and Irredentism (USEM 1570-006)
3 Credit Course
Tuesday, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
New Cabell Hall, 395
Yuri Urbanovich, Lecturer

The end of the Cold War coincided with a wave of national revivals that spread across Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and became one of the notable consequences of the collapse of communist regimes. This course will focus specifically on the origins of nationalism, separatism, secessions, and irredentist claims in the Russian Federation and other former Soviet republics.                        

Preventing and Responding to Gender Violence (USEM 1570-001)
2 Credit Course
Monday, 2:00 – 3:50 PM
Pavilion VIII, B002
Kathryn Laughon, Associate Professor of Nursing

This class is organized around three big questions:  What do we know empirically about gender violence and how does that compare to popular depictions of such violence?  Who is at risk for gender violence and who does that compare to news reports and fictional accounts of violence?  How do our current laws and policies fit with what we do and don’t know about best practices to prevent and respond to gender violence?  We will explore how we define violence, what the experience of violence is for woman and girls, and how this experience intersects with race, class, sexual orientation and other characteristics.  We will contrast what the data tell us about how girls and women experience violence across their lifespan with how female-directed violence is depicted in newspapers, magazine and entertainment media.  We will critically examine how current policies related to violence against girls and women serve victims of violence.  Students will work with the Sexual Assault Resource Agency to carry out projects to further the work of the local Sexual Assault Response Team.  Course materials include academic journal articles, newspaper articles, fiction, websites, and movies.  Students will have the opportunity to observe court cases and meet with a prosecutor, judge, victim advocates, and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union (USEM 1570-005)
3 Credit Course
Monday, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
New Cabell Hall, 291
Yuri Urbanovich, School of Continuing and Professional Studies

This course is about Russia and the Soviet Union. It is designed to explore some of this country’s major political themes of the twentieth century through an understanding of Russia’s history, culture, and politics.

Under the Hood: How College Works (USEM 1570-008)
2 Credit Course
Thursday, 2:00 – 3:50 PM
Pavilion VIII, 108
Karen Connors, Center for Teaching Excellence

A car has many moving parts, varied makes and models and diverse options even with the same company. Surprisingly, it is possible to drive a car without knowledge of these details. Yet, knowing how the car works can make it easier to maintain, fix when it breaks down, and sell. The same can be said for higher education for which there are a wide variety of institutions, many moving parts, and diverse option within the same university. You can go to college without really understanding how universities work and that disorientation many students feel can be overwhelming. However, for students to be successful and take ownership over your educational experience, it is helpful to understand the mechanics of higher education. During this course you will explore the higher education landscape at both the macro and micro-levels and gain the skills, comfort, and confidence to be an educational mechanic. We will ‘open up the hood’ to examine what makes a university run and how you can deeply engage in your own college experience.