According to U.S. News & World Report, the College of Charleston is one of the “most innovative” universities in the country. One measure of a university’s originality and creativity is the diversity of courses it offers. From Folklore of the African Disapora to Nanotechnology in Medicine to From Russia With Code: Cybersecurity and Russian, the College’s roster of classes this fall is impressively broad in scope and innovative content.
Just ask the College’s Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Suzanne Austin.
“It’s important that we offer a breadth of courses across our academic disciplines,” explains Austin. “Students at the College expect that they can immerse themselves intellectually in a wide array of topics and issues and examine those from a diversity of perspectives. Having a curriculum that is engaging as well as enlightening serves our core value of academic excellence. In addition, it also underscores the College’s mission to empower students to engage in original inquiry and creative activities.”
Here’s a closer look at some of the classes that students are taking this fall:
ARTH 265 The City as a Work of Art
Now celebrating its 350th year, the City of Charleston is an amazing place. Its scale, architecture, geography and history render it unlike any other place in the world. And it’s the perfect site for exploring questions related to the role of cities. That’s what students in professor Nathaniel Walker’s course, The City as a Work of Art, are doing this fall.
“The public spaces of our city are the stages of our civic life,” says Walker, who teaches in the College’s Department of Art and Architectural History. “When a city’s fabric is beautiful, fair and resilient, it raises us up together, beckoning our better natures. Charleston is one of the nation’s most beautiful cities, with a number of great public spaces. And as recent events attest, when we evolve and improve as a society, the form and use our urban spaces evolve, too. Our streets and squares reflect our past and they help to shape our future. The architecture of human communities can numb us to our surroundings and push us further apart in every possible sense, or it can bring us together, open our eyes and nourish our hearts and minds.”
AAST 300 Race in American Film and Media
Students in this class will be introduced to the various ways that historical and contemporary racist imagery of people of color permeates both film and media. They’ll examine these aspects of North American culture to learn about the roots of racist stereotypes regarding African Americans, Native Americans, Asians and Asian Americans, Latino people and people of Middle Eastern descent.
African American Studies professor Anthony Greene says he teaches this course because it is critical to understand how stereotypical portrayals of people of color in the media connect to real-world consequences.
“Many films, television shows and news media reduce over a billion Muslims in the world to all being terrorists,” he says. “These same works portray Hispanics as drug kingpins, illegal immigrants and domestic workers. They create a binary where Asian individuals are either martial arts experts and/or proficient in STEM fields. And if not simply omitted, the American Indian is only seen on reservations, in traditional garb and/or as impoverished. Black men are portrayed as criminals or athletes, while Black women are depicted as angry. When this imagery is monolithic and repetitive, it becomes normalized. Consequently, these images impact attitudes and beliefs about people of color. I want students to become aware and critically analyze what they view as entertainment, which is why I conclude each lecture about the various groups with the following question: ‘Is it just entertainment?’”
PHYS 260 NASA Space Mission Design and Lab
Few universities in the country have a course like this one in which students from various academic disciplines work with engineering students at the University of Alabama Huntsville to write a proposal and design a mission to an assigned planetary body. This year, students in this class are making plans for an excursion to Saturn’s moon Titan.
“This course provides a chance for students to use the same techniques and create the same deliverables as a professional scientific and/or engineering team might when planning a space mission,” says Cass Runyon, a geology professor who co-teaches this class.
And physics professor Jon Hakkila, the other co-instructor, concurs: “This class exemplifies the type of experiential learning for which the College is so well known. The highlight of each class is a trip to Huntsville, where the students, along with their University of Alabama counterparts, present and defend their project to a panel of NASA scientists and engineers.”
PHIL 105 Contemporary Moral Problems
Should public health trump leisure, entertainment and business interests? And how should college students negotiate personal relationships, sex and dating during a pandemic? These are just some of the moral quandaries that philosophy professor Christian Coseru is asking his students to ponder this semester. Coseru has designed his syllabus around the coronavirus pandemic, capitalizing on the many moral dilemmas students already confront in order to help them examine and understand the practical aspects of morality.
According to Coseru, “If students are asked to socially distance, wear masks and avoid large parties, they are owed an explanation for why they should abide by these new norms. They’re owed the sort of explanation that tells them why that is the right thing to do – and not just what happens if they don’t.”
FYSE 111 and FYSS 101 Fake Media or Watchdogs for our Democracy? New Media and the 2020 Presidential Election
Students in this First Year Seminar will use the 2020 presidential election as a laboratory for examining how media – both mass and social – shape public opinion and influence election outcomes. Coursework will include watching and analyzing debates, campaign commercials and news coverage, as well as taking in social media campaigns and various entertainment shows.
Communication professor Namjin Lee says he designed this course to help students become more critical regarding their interpretation of political information.
“They’ll be required to consume a massive amount of campaign-related information from a variety of sources,” he explains. “That work will train them to become better observers of social and political processes. They’ll also apply basic theories developed at the intersection of communication, political science and social psychology to their observations. Along the way, these students will develop a sharper understanding of the important issues in our society and a greater appreciation of civic values. Ultimately, all these experiences should motivate them to become more active and informed participants in the democratic process.”
ENGR 103 Fundamentals of Electrical and Systems Engineering
Part of the College’s new systems engineering major, students in this class will be introduced to a broad range of engineering topics and fields, including design, engineering materials, basics of electricity, computers and programming, data analysis and graphing, systems engineering concepts and engineering communications. They’ll examine ethical aspects of the engineering profession and its social responsibility to communities. And they’ll learn about academic and cultural resources for developing their social and technical skills.
“If the year 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we exist in a globally connected system, and our action or inaction influences the world,” says professor Funke Oladimeji. “This class is designed to help students understand that they are part of a global learning community. They’ll develop critical and analytical engineering skills that they can integrate into the technical and managerial processes and activities of various complex systems. And they’ll learn to apply all of this to produce the most good for stakeholders within local, national and global communities.”
FYSE 139 and FYSS 101 Reading Hamilton: Hip-Hop and History in the American Musical
This course will examine Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster musical Hamilton for how it has changed the way we look at both American musical theater and American history. Students will consider historical writings and other American musicals, and they’ll examine the music, lyrics and staging of Hamilton to explore questions about American narratives.
“We’re looking at one cultural object – the musical Hamilton – through the lenses of history, political science, popular music and, of course, theater,” says theatre professor Susan Kattwinkel, who developed and teaches this course. “It’s a good introduction for first-year students to the world of scholarship in the liberal arts. Students will learn that you can critique products of popular culture and understand how they function within the broader society without losing your love for them. Critical responses to works of art change over time, and tracing that change with one musical provides a model for understanding the relationship between art and society.”