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Freshman Seminars

Can Giving Change the World?: Engaging Social Responsibility through Philanthropy/Honors

Greg Larson, Communication Studies
Andrea Vernon, Office of Civic Engagement
This course examines the relationship between the individual and society by addressing the question: How do individuals and organizations address pressing and enduring social problems to create meaningful change? Through the lens of philanthropy, this course introduces students to social responsibility and some of the big problems facing society. We will learn about how donating money to charitable causes is building the philanthropic movement at local, national and global levels to combat the most pressing contemporary challenges facing society such as poverty, environmental degradation, and disease. This is an experiential learning opportunity for you to study and experience philanthropy as a tool for social change and community engagement at local and global levels. Students will engage as community grant-makers allocating $10,000 of funding to local nonprofit organizations. (Students do not need to be in the Honors College to be enrolled in this course.)

How Does Literature Engage the Brain?

Ashby Kinch, English
This course will explore a staggering human phenomenon: the ability of one mind to penetrate deeply into another mind through the medium of art (fiction, drama, poetry, and film).  How does art engage the brain? Can approaching art through the insights of neuroscience reveal important facets of how we think? We will explore these questions through readings in neuroscience that connect with a range of compelling texts (Othello, Memento, Blade Runner, the poetry of Walt Whitman, to name a few). We will examine how these texts demonstrate astute intuitive awareness of basic brain characteristics, including theory of mind, elastic temporality, narrative modes of consciousness, and the perceptual processes that link us emotionally with the world around us. (Course fulfills the “L” General Education perspective.)

Human Rights Issues in Literature and Film of the Portuguese-Speaking World

Clary Loisel, Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures
This course is multidisciplinary in nature, integrating literature, film, and history.  Students will examine how particular literary works and films attempt to define the themes of inequality, injustice, and justice present in the intercultural relationship between societies and cultures across the Portuguese-speaking (Lusophone) world.  The countries to be included are Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, St. Thomas and Principe, and East Timor.  Students will gain an understanding of how Lusophone countries have approached and influenced each other.  In doing so, students will come to understand how the links between these countries affect social, political and cultural aspects on a global level. (Course fulfills the “L” General Education perspective.)

Hunger and Homelessness in a Land of Plenty: Montana and Beyond

Daisy Rooks, Sociology
How can poverty and homelessness exist in a land of plenty? Students will spend the semester developing their own answers to this question. Course readings drawn from Sociology, Anthropology, Journalism and Public Policy will provide insights into the causes and consequences of hunger and homelessness in the U.S. and Montana. During the course of the semester, students will provide 15 hours of service at the Missoula Food Bank, where they will interact with individuals experiencing hunger and/or homelessness. Students will experiment with several different types of writing, including thesis-driven, personal reflection and original research. Students will strengthen their critical thinking skills by interrogating the assumptions underlying their own views and beliefs, formulating arguments using appropriate supporting evidence and discussing sensitive and emotionally-laden topics respectfully.

Identity in Focus: Russian and American Perspectives

Clint Walker, Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures
Sean O’Brien, Film Studies
Who am I? Who are we? How are we and I related to one another? Few nations in the modern era have been as obsessed with questions of personal and national identity as the Russians and the Americans. This course will take two separate but related approaches to grappling with Russian and American formulations of these questions. The first will involve reading several classic works of Russian and American fiction and watching two key films that explore issues related to personal, group, ethnic and national identity. The second will provide students with the tools and training to produce a video short in which they will give artistic expression to their own understanding of a certain aspect of identity related to one or both of the two countries.

Social Interaction, Relationships, and Human Well-Being

Steve Yoshimura, Communication Studies
Friends, family members, and romantic partners provide opportunities to exchange many positive experiences, including kindness, affection, gratitude, humor, love, and forgiveness. However, these same relationships can also sometimes cause considerable amounts of stress from conflict, betrayal, rejection, and loss. This paradox gives rise to an important question: How do we communicate and interact with others in ways that maximize our health and well-being, even in the face of difficult relationship situations? In this course, we will discuss the variety of ways in which human well-being can be defined, and will examine how acts of social support, humor, kindness, gratitude, affection, love, forgiveness, and altruism can, under the right conditions, enhance the well-being of individuals, groups, and large societies.

The Promise and Peril of Stem Cells

Ekaterina Voronina, Biological Sciences
Stem cells are the amazing cells with a potential to self-renew. Their applications in research and healthcare are a focus of intense debate both in science and society. Students will learn whether and how using stem cells can revolutionize biomedical approaches and how do ethical and political issues affect the adoption of stem cell-based medicine. We will go from learning key concepts of cell and developmental biology to exploring the stem cell debate in the society and news media centered on ethical and political concerns of using stem cells. During the final part of the course, the students will write an essay on therapeutic stem cell applications. 

Why?: Modes of Inquiry in Social and Natural Sciences

Abhishek Chatterjee, Political Science
Brent Ryckman, Biological Sciences
How do human beings find out how things in the world work? The “world” here includes both the—so-called—“natural” world, and the “world” of humans (though the latter is really a part of the former). So, this course will ask students to consider if and to what extent there is common set of principles, or even a common spirit that guides all aspects of human inquiry, despite the apparently different methodological practices and goals of different fields or disciplines.  Specific examples will be drawn from the instructors’ fields of expertise, social and the natural sciences.

Women’s Rights and Women’s Roles around the World

Anya Jabour, History
Beth Hubble, Women and Gender Studies
This interdisciplinary course offers a comparative perspective on women’s participation in family, community, and political life around the world. In the first part of the course, students will learn about women’s oppression and organization in global context, emphasizing cross-cultural comparisons.  Topics include women’s work, political activism, social welfare, reproductive rights, family violence, and sex trafficking.  In the second part of the course, students will collaborate on designing a final service-learning project for public consumption. Examples include creating a website or blog; filming and editing a documentary; presenting at local schools; or designing, conducting, and reporting on a community needs survey.

Writing the Legends of Afghanistan

Matthew Semanoff, Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures
In 330 BCE, Alexander the Great entered Bactria (contemporary Afghanistan) in pursuit of the Great King of Persia, encountering terrorism, warlords, insurgencies and counter-insurgencies.  Since 2001, we have heard reports of strikingly similar experiences.  Although Operation Enduring Freedom draws to a close, we will continue to encounter the legacy of these experiences.   

This course is a case study of history as a construct of memory: how events are remembered and re-imagined over time.  Students explore ancient and contemporary campaigns in Afghanistan and will become the curators of primary sources that will contribute to the historical narrative of the first decades of the 21st century.  Interviewing UM’s student veterans, students in this class will contribute oral histories to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. (Course fulfills the “H” General Education perspective.)

Previous GLI Seminars