Rank your DSEM choices!


Drew Seminar Course Descriptions

All first year students are invited to rank your top five Drew Seminar (DSEM) choices. The following is a list of DSEM courses for the Fall 2021 term.

The Forty Studies that Changed Psychology: Is our behavior more a reflection of our biology or our environment? Are the choices we make grounded in our free will, or do we conform to authority and situations? Psychology, as the sciences of mental processes and behaviors, helps us answer these questions. This seminar will explore some of the most influential studies in psychology — topics that include conformity, personality, sexuality, and false memories. In the process of discussing the methods and results of the particular studies, we will address the controversies, ethical dilemmas, and long-term implications of the findings on understanding what makes us tick.

Art and the Self, from the Artist Self-Portrait to the Selfie: What face do you show to the world? In this seminar we will consider the history of images of the self by studying self-portraits and selfies. We will study a range of artist self-portraits, both historical and contemporary, that will establish a variety of motivations for an artist to depict himself or herself. We will also consider our most ubiquitous form of visual self-representation today, the selfie. Who takes selfies and why? What factors affect the production, dissemination, and reception of selfies? What is the relationship between the self-portrait and the selfie in the history of images?

Four Out of Five Drew Students Recommend This Seminar: Evaluating Survey Research: Newspapers, news reports, journals, and other sources of information contain many conclusions based on “quantitative data” obtained from surveys. In this seminar, we look critically at the basis for some of these conclusions and discuss their validity. We compare and contrast original survey research to the mainstream news articles that summarize their results. We look at the design, implementation, and analysis of surveys including the sampling, the questions asked, other sources of bias, the data analysis and interpretation, the description and presentation of data, and the conclusions drawn. We design, implement, and interpret our own survey during the semester. This course allows you to explore a wide variety of related topics including whether the results of internet surveys are meaningful, what happened with the polling in the 2016 presidential election, how the S&P 500 may be thought of as a survey of the stock market, whether the methods used by US News and World Report to evaluate colleges are appropriate, and why you have not heard of President Landon.

Hogwarts, Houses, and Horcruxes: The Psychology of Harry Potter: J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has become a cultural phenomenon, moving beyond the literary canon into other popular culture media, including film, theatre, music, and sport. However, the Harry Potter series has also engendered serious and important multidisciplinary scholarship, as scholars from a variety of fields have used Harry Potter as a way to talk about important issues: race, gender and class; typical and pathological human behavior; education and learning; nature and nurture; good and evil; reality and knowledge. In this class, we will use the Harry Potter canon as the basis for considering these and other psychological, social, and cultural issues. It is expected that students enrolled in the course will have good prior knowledge of the Harry Potter series.

Understanding Pandemics: Pandemics impact our natural, social, and human worlds in profound and unprecedented ways. Scientists have identified the infectious agents that cause these diseases, in some cases determined the origins of these agents, and generated therapies that have greatly improved the lives of some of those infected. However, pandemics continue not only because of gaps in our scientific knowledge, but also due to social and cultural factors and public health policies. This course will explore our current understanding of infectious disease pandemics and their origins, ways that we can stop or prevent these pandemics, and the role of cultural factors and government responses to these health crises.

Personal Identity and Immortality: If I traded bodies with someone else, would I still be the same person? Would I continue to be the same person if my brain were transplanted into another human body or into the body of an android? Would a human being or an android with copies of my thoughts be me? These are vexing philosophical questions that are apt to give rise to widespread disagreement. However, there are at least two facts about which everyone is in agreement: 1) for every person there is some time at which that person is born and 2) there is some later time at which that person dies. This seminar is concerned with the question of what it is for some person who is born at one time to be the same person who dies at some later time. This investigation places us in a position to address the question of what it would be for a person to survive one’s death, or to be immortal. Readings include classical works by John Locke and David Hume, as well as works by contemporary philosophers Bernard Williams, Sydney Shoemaker, and Derek Parfit.

Personal Responsibility, Civic Duty, Social Need: The Complexities of Civic Engagement: Why do we volunteer our time or resources to help others? What do we hope to accomplish? How can we maximize our impact? When might our volunteer efforts have the potential to do harm? Does everyone agree that volunteering is always the best way to address social needs and inequalities? And when should individual choice take priority over responsibility to the larger community? Do we have a responsibility to be involved with civil society through local service or political organizations, or through engaging with elected government? Civic engagement confronts us with so many questions! In this seminar, we will explore these and other questions through the lens of current issues we face in our communities and as individuals. Topics may include civic discourse, immigration, the environment, education, income inequality, food and housing insecurity, social entrepreneurship, healthcare, and/or voluntourism.

Toward A Healthy World: International Cooperation and Governance: This seminar focuses on global health development and challenges. It understands health outcomes with an intersectoral approach that incorporates complex relationships between colonial legacy, economic development, international politics, globalization, human security, and social justice. In particular, the course examines the global burden of diseases and the contributing factors to health inequalities between and within the Global North and South. It also explores how governmental and non-governmental organizations can cooperate more effectively to address global health issues in the post-COVID world.

Music and Meaning: “Without music, there can be no perfect knowledge” Isidore of Seville (560-636). What is music and why do we need it? Many people attend music concerts and some even perform in music events. Sometimes we use music as a background soundtrack to our lives. Driving or walking from place to place with music playing in our ears or through the car stereo is commonplace. But why do we do this? Does music improve these experiences? Is music aiding us in completing the task or distracting us in these situations? Will fast music make us walk or drive faster? Everyone experiences music differently, and for millennia, humans have tried to make sense of music, good and bad, from many different perspectives: Scientific, philosophical, emotional, behavioral, and numerical. Given the almost ubiquitous presence of music in our lives, it might seem surprising that humans continue to debate music’s value and nature. The historical debates on the nature of music point to the important role music plays in the human existence, and the continued debate reveals music’s vast complexity. This course will address these questions and investigate the complexity of music’s function and power in our lives, and demonstrate how far-reaching a definition of music can be, and how music can exist for some as more than mere entertainment. The course will encourage discussion and debate on the nature of music through readings that span over one thousand years, and students will contribute to this ongoing debate and quest to understand what music is and why humans make it.

Weaponizing Genetics to Combat Disease…and Other Cool Stuff: About 20 years ago, who humans are as a species was unveiled when “our genome” was sequenced. When that announcement was made at the White House in June 2000, the science world was on fire with visions of medical cures for all the ills that befall us. A decade after that announcement, the technology to re-write all of our genetic shortfalls, CRISPR, was discovered. This Nobel Prize winning work, performed by Dr. Jennifer Doudna and Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, provided the world with the technological advancement necessary to make those visions a reality. CRISPR is now poised to change the very definition of life. In this course, we will explore this new reality, and consider a future where “Designer Babies” and “Super Soldiers” roll off the assembly line, all diseases are eliminated, global food security is the norm, and…well, other cool stuff.

Nothing to Waste: Toward Intersectional Environmentalism: Environmental Justice explores the relationship between human identity and the environment. Emerging from civil rights activism of the 1960s, environmental justice as a movement originally sought to bring to light the unequal burden of exposure to toxics in Black communities and among farmworkers. Since that time, environmental justice has diversified into inter- and cross-disciplinary academic inquiry, legal and institutional protections, and an expanded international human rights agenda. Environmental justice practice has become much more intersectional, elevating the concerns and leadership of indigenous peoples and coordinating with youth and elder activism. This course explores the history of environmental justice, and investigates both academic and activist techniques aimed at eliminating persistent, structural inequalities in access to safe and healthy environments for all. Our work as a Drew seminar will focus on writing for advocacy.

On being a scientist:  The system, the images, and the hidden figures whose impact outpaces their fame: What do we think of when we think of “a scientist”?  And what do we think about when we think of “science”?  Why are some scientists recognizable (Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking), and others are not  – despite their profound contributions to the field (Hedy Lamarr, Kizzmekia Corbett and Katherine Johnson)? This course explores the way that science is conducted in the US, and brings to the forefront of our attention the many faces of science that are less familiar to us, but whose impact is no less important.  Topics may include the ways that science is peer-reviewed and funded in the United States, the characteristics of the scientific workforce, the educational system for scientists, scientific writing and changing trends.  A significant amount of the class will unveil the hidden figures in science – raising our ability to recognize the many faces of science. Topics may include the ways that science is peer-reviewed and funded in the United States, the characteristics of the scientific workforce, the educational system for scientists, scientific writing and changing trends.

Acting Through the Ages: Truth in Performance: What has been the actor’s place in theatrical art from ancient to modern times, and what has constituted artistic success in “truthful” performance? We will study methods by which actors of various eras, in various parts of the globe, were trained to “hold the mirror up to nature,” and by what standards they have been judged. Using historical documents, manifestos, critical responses, photographs and films (and by trying out various techniques ourselves) we will chart the principal artistic, cultural and philosophical movements that have guided these human chameleons from the masked thespians of ancient Greece and Rome to the thoroughly unmasked performers of our own moment in theatrical time.

Latinos in Hollywood: Representations, Stereotypes, and Identities: From West Side Story to In the Heights, from I Love Lucy to Jane the Virgin, from the Latin Lover to Jennifer López and Sofía Vergara… This Drew seminar examines U.S. Latinx images and representations in film and television from the silent era to the present day, along with their historical and sociopolitical frameworks. We explore the construction and perpetuation of Latinx stereotypes in mainstream media productions, and also consider how film and television have been used as political tools to subvert some depictions and promote others. In examining the history of U.S. Latinx participation both behind and in front of the camera, the seminar analyzes the interconnections between Latinx representations on the big and small screen and the shifting discourses on class, gender, ethnicity, and multicultural identities in the United States.
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Madmen in Authority, Defunct Economists, and their Quarrels: An Exploration and Critique of Ideas about Capitalist Development: The course explores the conflicting visions and material interests underlying competing economic ideas and policies. It examines how and why different economists offer different definitions and accounts of economic prosperity and poverty, income & wealth equality and inequality, financial stability and instability, and economic efficiency and inefficiency. It draws on both historical and contemporary debates on the role of markets, governments, and organized private interests in the development and functioning of capitalist economies, and the role that economists have played in explaining, justifying, or critiquing capitalist development.

More than a Game: Sports Stories and Why They Matter: This is a class about sports. But not sports understood through wins and losses, stats and metrics, or highlights and box scores. Rather, it’s about sports understood through stories. From the resoundingly epic and unforgettable to the deeply personal and intimate, sports make for great human drama. Together as a class, we’ll explore this drama in all its cultural, political, and artistic glory. Bottom line: You’ll enjoy this class if you like sports, but you’ll enjoy it even more if you like books, articles, podcasts, and films about sports.

Oh, the Horror: Scary Movies and Cultural Unease: Horror films were among the early successes of silent film. Throughout the history of the medium the genre has endured, proving time and again the cultural thirst for fright. What does this desire to be scared through on-screen representations say about us? Horror is a genre that constantly straddles the line between provocation and exploitation. Many argue these films provide a cathartic outlet for viewers, while others see representations of violence as exploitative and a ‘piling on’ to a culture already rife with trauma. How do we as viewers and citizens make this distinction? Furthermore, are we better off with or without these films? These questions and others are addressed while focusing on three major themes in horror: the body, race, and gender. Students view required films with emphasis on modern and contemporary American horror and read seminal essays on issues within the genre along with studying newer forms of media such as podcasts devoted to the genre.

Strangers at the Shore: Immigrants and American Cities: This seminar is focused on immigration. Cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have become hubs for global capital, finance, commerce, arts and culture, and technological innovations. These cities are equally known for waves of immigration that have created layers of history shaped by the newcomers. The economy, culture, politics, and food of these cities are deeply shaped by immigrant populations who also get transformed in the process. This seminar is focused on the ways in which American cities have been shaped by immigration over many decades, and will look at both historical and contemporary examples to understand how global cities are deeply impacted by generations of immigrant populations. We will analyze the dynamic impact of immigrant population on politics, culture, and social lives of the cities through readings and films that underline the vibrant tapestry created by immigrants as well as anxieties triggered by religious, racial, and cultural differences brought by these communities, and examine the current controversies, such as the debates around the idea of ‘sanctuary city’, that many of the major urban centers have decided to follow.

Food for Thought, Thought for Food: Chinese Foodways: There is nothing more basic than food. Food is not only essential to human life, it also constructs human life through its production, distribution, and consumption. Food is also cultural and historical; different cultures and different historical periods give food different meanings. Chinese food is famous for its great varieties of delicious fare. There is a highly developed culinary culture inside China and abroad. Indeed, Chinese food in the US is at the core of Chinese immigrants’ experiences. This seminar is an interdisciplinary study on food in general, and a cross-cultural study on Chinese food culture in particular. While students learn the basics of making Chinese food, and appreciating different styles of Chinese food, they will explore food’s complex and competing relations to cultural identity and gender identity, to matters of convenience, and to the consequences of what we eat in this world of growing population and diminishing resources.

The Sixties: Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and Rock n Roll: The sixties is a period in American history that shaped the way we think about nearly everything; war & peace, race & gender, (in)equality & (in)justice, and culture & politics, to name only a few. In the years following World War II, the U.S. experienced profound change in nearly every facet of life. On the heels of 15 years of depression and global war, the American people now enjoyed relative peace, economic security, a flourishing middle class, and a vastly expanded role in the affairs of the world. This dramatically changed set of circumstances made Americans think in different ways about the persistence of injustice and racism, of freedom and democracy. By the sixties, a younger generation insisted on rapid change, even amid violent opposition to that change. The resulting tensions characterized what is likely the most tumultuous period of American history in the 20th century. This course will explore this period focusing on the Civil Rights/Black Power Movement, the Vietnam War, the Counterculture and Rock music, in an attempt to understand these tensions and conflict in the nation’s recent past and to come to terms with their implications for the nation today.

From Amélie to Emily in Paris: Myth and Reality in the City of Lights: Paris is both the setting and the theme of numerous films and recent television series. This seminar explores the representation of the French capital in these productions both as mythic and real through an analysis of plot construction, themes, and cinematography. In exploring a few “classics” as well as more recent examples (both French and non-French), we will discuss such questions as: How do narratives and cinematography perpetuate Paris as a mythic place? What myths does Paris embody on screen? How do individuals and groups relate to and respond to these myths versus real urban experiences? How do gender, race, and class affect Parisians’, Provincials’, immigrants’ and tourists’ experience of this city? Cinematographic techniques, city maps, urban history, and contemporary issues are employed to contextualize these representations.

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping: Given that the U.S. economy relies heavily upon consumer spending, it should perhaps be no surprise that advertising, shopping, and consumer culture is a prominent feature of American society. However, ads, products, and retail stores do not naturally emerge but are socially constructed, infused with meaning, intentionally designed, and meant to promote the purchase of a particular good or service. Drawing upon an eclectic mix of the social sciences, this course will explore the “science of shopping” and how the design of retail environments influences consumer behavior.

Rank your DSEM Choices!

You can rank your top five choices on the 2021 Summer Advising and Registration Information - Scheduling Planning Guide found in your Student Portal.