University Seminars (USEMs): Spring 2012

UNIVERSITY SEMINARS: Spring 2012 University Seminars (USEMS) are designed to give first-year students the opportunity to develop critical-thinking skills and explore new ideas in an environment that encourages interactive learning and intensive discussion. The seminars are based on ideas that have changed the way we think about our relation to the world around us. The seminars are given by prominent faculty in departments and schools across the University, carry two or three hours of credit, and are restricted to 18 first-year students during the initial course enrollment. If space is remaining, second-, third-, and fourth-year students may enroll using a Course Action Form.

Refer to the Student Information System Course Catalog for a list of specific offerings each semester.

Four 3 Credit Courses are being offered this fall in addition to our traditional 2 credit courses. Note: College of Arts & Sciences' student only: USEM 1570s count as credit and 1580s count as elective credit inside the College of Arts & Sciences. Please check the course website before enrolling.

Media and the Civil Rights Movement
2 Credit Course
Monday 3:30 – 5:20
McLeod 2007
Aniko Bodroghkozy, Associate Processor

The Civil Rights movement benefited from and to a significant extent required the attention from national media in order to achieve its political and social objectives. How did the media respond to, engage with, and represent this most powerful of social change movements? We will examine a variety of media forms: Hollywood cinema, network television, mainstream newspapers, the black press, news magazines, and radio in order to explore the relationship between the movement and the media.

Keeping a Personal Journal
2 Credit Course
Thursday 2:00 – 3:50pm
Cauthen House 116
John Bunch, Associate Professor

Our writing/discussion group will explore the various ways one can use the journal keeping process for personal insights academic understandings and self-expression. We will include making sketches and photographs as tools that are closely related to the journal writing process (for personal use--not "art."). The examples we will read about and discuss include journal keeping as problem-solving, process meditation, dialogue, scientific investigation, social research, and thought clarification as a prelude to writing and other forms of expression. Specific journal assignments will include Lists, Portraits, Maps, Snapshots, Tear-sheets, Sketches, Dialogues, Guided Imagery, Points of View and Unsent Letters; we will read selections from the disciplines such as science, history, anthropology and the arts and from among the genres of the diary/journal such as Chroniclers, Travelers, Creators, Apologists, Confessors and Prisoners. Course requirements will be to keep a personal journal, to read assigned selections on journal keeping, to submit journal entries on specific topics and themes, and to submit a narrative discussion of a person’s diary or journal.

Contemporary Asian America
2 Credit Course
Wednesday 4:00 – 5:50pm
Cauthen House 112
Sylvia Chong, Associate Professor

Although Asians have been in American for as long as America has been in existence, the issues confronting them have changed greatly over time. This seminar focuses on the post-1980 period, after the term “Asian Americans” was coined and then put into use by local activists, and subsequently by the federal government and mainstream society as well. We will examine three broad topics: (1) Identity and Politics: Who counts as Asian American? What political issues unite or divide this community? (2) Higher Education: How have Asian Americans affected debates over multiculturalism? Diversity? Curriculum? Institutional representation? (3) Hate Crimes and Discrimination: How have particular instances of hate crimes or discrimination involving Asian Americans affected the community as a whole? This seminar will provide many opportunities for reflecting on the particular issues for Asian Americans that arise at the University of Virginia. The end of this course will involve a project for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (April), in which small groups from the seminar will each contribute an event towards APAHM.

Luminescence: Fun and Profit
2 Credit Course
Monday 4:00 – 5:50pm
Cauthen 116
James Demas, Professor

This course presents the basics and applications of luminescence to a variety of practical and fundamentally important problems in such diverse areas as toys, archaeology, cellular biology, biotechnology, forensics, nanotechnology, and materials.

The Strange Russian Novel
2 Credit Course
Monday 5:30-7:20pm
Pavilion 103
Katia Dianina, Professor

Studies two major Russian novels, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, in which an extraordinary cast of characters grapples with the conflict between reason and faith, passion and morality, good and evil. Special attention is paid to close reading, the interplay between text and context, and the eternal questions raised by nineteenth-century Russian authors that still concern us today: What is the meaning of human existence? What is the nature of moral responsibility, ethics, justice? What is one’s place in society?

Health on the Internet
2 Credit Course
Wednesday 4:00 – 5:50pm
McLeod Hall 2007
Sarah Farrell, Associate Professor

The objective of this course is to discuss, research, analyze and evaluate a problem in health care in order to design and create and finally reflect upon and evaluate a solution to the issue. Students will gain an understanding of the history, political/legal, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technological nature of health resources on the Internet. The students will gain experience in researching, evaluating and using health care resources as well as developing their own resources. The course involves a service learning project where the students conduct a needs assessment with a community health care provider/educator and consumer of health care on a topic matching both their research interest and community needs. Students use emerging social media tools to disseminate health information such as wikis, blogs, tweets, and podcasts to the population in the community interested in the project.

Creating the Rotunda
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 3:00-4:50pm
Alderman Library 317
William Ferster, Senior Scientist
Kurtis Schaeffer-Professor

Bill Ferster, Senior Scientist Creating the Rotunda is a project-based seminar on role of computers, digital technology, and electronic media in the humanities. Students and faculty will research the making of the University of Virginia Rotunda and collaboratively design and build a digital presentation of our findings. In doing so we will explore traditional views on the aims and scope of the humanities, the potential of digital technology to fulfill or transform those aims, and the possible applications of digital humanities to contemporary public intellectual life. We will be using VisualEyes (, a web-based tool for visualizing and analyzing primary documents, maps, timelines, charts, catalogues, and other basic resources for humanities scholarship. VisualEyes was developed by course co-leader Bill Ferster.

Renaissance Art and Science
2 Credit Course
Tuesday at 6:00 – 7:50pm
Fayerweather Hall 206
Francesca Fiorani, Associate Professor

The seminar examines the relations between art and science in the Renaissance, when disciplinary boundaries were not as clearly distinct as they are today. Interdisciplinary in approach, it addresses specifically the work of past artists, architects and scientists who regarded images as fundamental to the observation and conceptualization of natural phenomena and to the transmission of knowledge. Pertinent case studies include Brunelleschi’s machines, Leonardo da Vinci’s studies on optics, Andrea Vesalius’ book on anatomy, Galileo’s drawings of the moon, Kepler’s diagram of planetary motions, and Robert Hoots; microscope.

Voices of the Civil War
3 Credit Course
Tuesday 3:30-6:00pm
New Cabell Hall 341
Gary Gallagher, Professor

This course uses the writings of participants to examine major themes relating to the American Civil War. Assigned texts will include wartime and postwar Union and Confederate accounts—by men and women, white people and African Americans, soldiers and non-combatants--that illuminate, among other topics: (1) Why the war came; (2) How it evolved from a struggle for Union to one for Union and emancipation; (3) How the conflict affected civilians on both sides; (4) Why soldiers fought; (5) Why the United States won (or the Confederacy lost); and (6) How men and women on each side chose to remember the war and how those memories influence current perceptions about the conflict. Throughout the course, students will address the problem of assessing different types of eyewitness testimony, including wartime diaries, letters, speeches, and photographs, as well as postwar memoirs and artworks.

Religion, Race and Nation
2 Credit Course
Monday 2:00-3:50pm
Cauthen House 116
Mark Hadley, Associate Professor

An exploration of how constructs of race and religion intersect with ideals of American nationhood through the reading of classic texts by African-American authors such as Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin and others.

Gender Violence and Culture
2 Credit Course
Monday 9:00-10:50am
Wilson Hall 235
Kathryn Laughon, Associate Professor

Popular discussions about violence against girls and women grossly exaggerate some forms of violence and seriously minimize others. In this course, we will explore how we define violence, theories of why violence exists, and 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 examine how risk of violence varies according to the type of violence, the type of perpetrator, and the victims’ age, race, and class. Students will critically examine how and why images of violence are presented and distorted in the news, songs, movies, and other media. 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, victim advocates, survivors of violence, and sexual assault nurse examiners.

Diversity in the US Workplace
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 3:30-5:20pm
Robertson Hall 254
Rebecca Leonard, Associate Dean

Diversity is a competitive business strategy, which U.S. firm’s in today’s global marketplace must embrace to remain successful. Understanding differences and creating inclusive work environments is a key skill for managers today. This course will discuss issues related to diversity (race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc) and the impact and these differences on: Individual behavior in organizations, team development and effectiveness, organizational change and effectiveness and organizational success. The course will examine, define and create a greater understanding of diversity as a business imperative as well as challenge students to examine their own biases and stereotypes and how they can create positive changes for a more inclusive environment at UVA and in the future workplaces.

Stories of Work in the United States
2 Credit Course
Thursday 5:00-6:50pm
Robertson Hall 225
Janette Martin, Assistant Professor

This course includes fiction and non-fiction writing from nineteenth-century American Indian narratives to twenty first century writings. Discussions will center on literary genres as well as the social, political, and economic contexts from which the works evolved. We’ll select a range of writings that reflect the diversity of the American work experience.

Collapse of Early Complex Societies
2 Credit Course
Thursday 2:00 – 3:50pm
Nau 242
Rachel Most, Professor

The media is filled with compelling and intriguing images of lost civilizations-of societies who came into power and then fell. It is hard to ignore these images and our minds race to question what happened to these powerful societies – to Egypt, Rome, and the Inka, for example. What led to their demise? Famine? Invaders? Environmental degradation? What we see rom prehistory and history is that no civilization is permanent; as was written about the Roman Empire: “Civilization can die, because has already died once.” During this class we will examine the collapse of some of the greatest civilizations and explore what led to their demise.

Leadership by Design
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 2:00-3:50pm
Cauthen House 116
Marga Odahowski, Director

Throughout our careers and in life we are called to lead. Many of us have little formal education in the skills of observation, teaming and reflection that are necessary in leadership development. Drawing from cognitive science, business and the arts this course will introduce students to current research and practices as it relates to the leadership skills of self-mastery that enhance leadership development. This course will emphasis the personal and professional development of students and ways they can effectively begin to contribute to an organization (be a leader at any level) as well as achieve personal fulfillment and build the skill set for innovation. Students will be exposed to information and exercises to increase their capacity to listen deeply, demonstrate mutual respect and empathy and generate from a possibilities mindset.

The Roots of Globalization
2 Credit Course
Friday 2:00 – 3:50pm
Pavilion VIII, 103
Ricardo Padrón, Associate Professor

Globalization is a prominent feature of life in today’s world, but its historical roots go back at least 500 years. This course examines the beginnings of globalization in the encounter between Europe and the non-European world that began in the fifteenth century, and did so much to shape the modern world. After reviewing the general history of European expansion and the way it began to knit together human communities that were previously separate, we will look at various ways in which the pattern of convergence affected human life in ways that continue to be apparent today. We will do this by reading and discussing classic histories of the encounter between Europe and the non-European world, including works that deal with its impact on eating habits, the spread of disease, its effect upon the natural environment, and its tendency to produce hybrid cultures.

Half the Sky
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 2:00 – 3:50pm
Claude Moore Nursing Education Building
Barbara Parker, Professor

The course title refers to the Chinese ancient proverb “Women hold up half the sky” and is taken from the book that will be the major text. The intent of the course is to expand the intellectual horizon of students and develop beginning competencies on global issues. The course will explore the role of women in impoverished countries focusing on women’s health and violence against women in the context of economic, cultural, political, educational and religious facilitators and barriers to women’s health and empowerment. A major objective of the course is to not only expose students to the challenges of international women’s work, but to also provide them with tools to evaluate current programs and NGO’s delivering services to women internationally. At the end of the course the student will be expected to be conversant in the major issues and challenges of women in impoverished third world countries and know the questions to ask in evaluating intervention programs. The student’s will not be expected to have the answers to these issues but will be able to articulate beginning understanding of options and approaches.

A Survey of Language Learning
2 Credit Course
Monday 4:00 – 5:50pm
Stephen Plaskon, Associate Professor
New Cabell Hall 415

This seminar class will be devoted to a discussion of the basic aspects of language acquisition and development. Selected aspects of the development of syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and phonology; primary caretaker influences, and the role of the environment in language development will be the principle areas of discussion. All participants will have an opportunity to share their observations of a child or the results of an investigation into a topic of their choosing. Readings will be assigned from the required text as well as from select journals and the popular press. Video and audio presentations will be used to supplement discussions and presentations.

Genocide and Mass Killing
2 Credit Course
Monday 4:00-5:50pm
New Cabell Hall 412
Jeffrey Rossman, Associate Professor

One of the defining features of the twentieth century was the repeated use of genocide and other types of one-sided mass killing by states against internal and external populations. In this seminar, we will explore these phenomena from a theoretical and historical point of view, with particular attention to ethnic and racial genocides (e.g., Armenia, the Holocaust, Yugoslavia, Rwanda) and the mass killings that have taken place under Communist regimes (e.g., Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia). While the experience of victims will be of central concern, we will also examine the experience and motivations of perpetrators, the explicit and implicit goals of the terrorizing/genocidal state, and the response -- or lack of response -- by the international community. Requirements include readings of about 150 pages per week, active participation in class discussions, two four-page analytical book reviews and a final eight-page analytical review essay.

2 Credit Course
Monday and Wednesday 2:00-2:50pm
Cauthen House 112
David Rubin, Professor

Emeritus How do journalists, academics and other professionals reason? This highly interactive USEM—which satisfies the Second Writing Requirement—introduces a standard model of informal logic and provides abundant practice in the construction, analysis, and appraisal of arguments. While learning the model during the first third of the course, participants will focus—with increasing breadth, depth, and acuity—on opinion columns from leading periodicals. Then, after brief, transitional work on controversy, the class will turn to expert position papers in the debate over academic freedom.

So you want to be an Entrepreneur
2 Credit Course
Monday 1:00 – 2:50pm
New Cabell 543
Philippe Sommer, Senior Lecturer

This course will look at how entrepreneurs think, the “entrepreneurial mindset” and teach students how to look at startup opportunities with an entrepreneurial perspective. The course will feature case studies, guest speakers, lectures and hands on projects for students to see both successes and failures. Students will be challenged to assess startups from a quantitative and qualitative element.

Dying, Death and Grief or I’d Rather be in Philly
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 1:00-2:50pm
Pavilion VIII, 103
Richard Steeves, Professor

The title refers to what the comic W. C. Fields was reported to have wanted written on this gravestone, “On the whole, I’d rather bin in Philadelphia.” This 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, (b) death professionals such as hospice workers, funeral directors and grief counselors, (c) social scientists who study homicide, suicide, bereavement and related topics. The goal is to explore different ways of thinking about what may truly be beyond our understanding death.

The History of Books
3 Credit Course
Tuesday 12:30-3:00pm
Harrison Institute/small Library
Michael Suarez, Professor

In this seminar, we will study the history of books from the invention of printing to “born digital” materials. Every seminar will include both a discussion of the week’s required reading and a laboratory component in which students will handle and consider books, manuscripts, and related objects from the Special Collections of UVA and from UVA’s Rare Book School. We will learn to think about books as physical artifacts, commodities, monuments, sign systems, and agents of cultural and social change. We will examine the past and think analytically about the future of the book.

Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union
3 Credit Course
Monday 3:30-6:00pm
Clemons Library 322B
Yuri Urbanovich, Lecturer

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.

Post-Soviet Political Challenges: Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, Separatism and Irredentism
3 Credit Course
Tuesday 3:30 – 6:00pm
Clemons Library 322B
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.

The Nature of College
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 6:00 – 7:50pm
Robertson Hall
Mark White, Associate Professor

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.