This semester features a variety of new courses across all disciplines from passionate professors.

E&ES 160/CIS 160:  Life in the Oceans in the Anthropocene and Beyond

This course, taught by University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and Research Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences Ellen Thomas, will address the consequences of human activity on oceanic ecosystems. This in-depth analysis of the ocean will include a look at the past, present, and future of an ecosystem that is fundamentally different than the rest.

“Life in the oceans is very different from us, and the deep sea is very remote from our daily lives, but we share one planet and it is important for humans (from food to medicine to just enjoying nature) to try and understand the ocean world, and gain respect for the value of healthy ocean ecosystems,” Thomas wrote in an email to The Argus.

This NSM course is intended for non-majors and seats 50 students. It meets Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. and features lectures and a variety of reading materials from news stories to scientific articles.

Thomas describes herself as enthusiastic about the class, which is based on her own research, and she is particularly looking forward to discussing the various life forms in the oceans.

“So few people learn something about animal form and function in high school, and few people know anything about invertebrate animals, which are so fundamentally different from the more familiar vertebrates that James Cameron felt justified in calling them ‘Aliens of the Deep,’” she wrote.

While the course should be engaging as a result of its focus on the unknown and on contemporary issues, Thomas also warned that it will be, at times, “depressing.” In spite of this, the class may inspire students to take action to alleviate the problems facing the ocean today.

“The simplest and most direct influence of changing oceans on our daily lives [is] rising sea levels, which will flood coastal regions (including Connecticut),” Thomas wrote. “We must try to limit global warming by restricting CO2 emissions, which will also help limit the acidification of the oceans that is now threatening the lives of corals and shellfish.”


WRCT 250G/ENGL 257/CSPL 250G: Topics in Journalism: Literary Journalism

This course is taught by Koeppel Journalism Fellow Ariel Levy ’96. Professor Levy is also a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.” She wrote in an email to The Argus that the class will focus on reading and writing two types of literary journalism, the profile and the essay, which she said are “the two types [she loves] best.”

“I want my students to come away from the class really understanding how these two forms work—there’s no formula, of course, but there are very specific things that have to happen for an essay or a profile to be publishable, and those things can be learned,” she wrote.

“Topics in Journalism: Literary Journalism” is offered by the Writing Certificate program. It is Permission of Instructor (POI) only and meets on Fridays from 1:10 p.m. to 4 p.m. The readings will include a range of works of magazine journalism from authors such as Truman Capote and Nora Ephron, and assignments will include short writing exercises and a longer final project.

Unlike a standard class in journalism, this course will offer students to opportunity to write creatively, and to insert themselves into the pieces they are crafting.

“Magazine journalism can often have a point of view, an explicit perspective the writer is communicating,” Levy wrote. “Newspapers have a different mandate: to communicate the news in the most straightforward and unbiased manner possible.”

The magazine authors featured on the syllabus are ones who have broken convention and admitted into their work their own biases. Students will leave the class having learned to craft pieces that are at once journalistic and literary.


AFAM 219: African American Urban Politics, Economy, and Policy

This course, taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies Clemmie Harris, will explore the way historical and contemporary policy and politics have shaped the African American experience in an urban environment, and will feature a section on the interactions among race, drug policy, and criminal justice. Harris describes the course as multidisciplinary, touching on the issues of struggle and power that are faced by communities of color and poor communities.

“The goal is quite simply to provide students with a rich and layered understanding on the issues and institutions that shape racial and social change in America,” Harris wrote in an email to The Argus.

“African American Urban Politics, Economy, and Policy” is a Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) class that meets on Fridays from 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. It seats 25 students but has a large number of open seats, which is great if you are looking for a new class to add. Evaluation is primarily essay-based.

Harris described the class as one with lessons he hopes stay with the students after the course is over.

“First, I hope to increase their critical understanding on key socio-political and socio-economic issues and institutional power that shape black life and African American political leadership,” Harris wrote, describing his goals. “Second, in addition to increasing their capacity for critical thought I hope to enhance their ability as critical writers. Finally, I hope to inspire desire for continued study in this area by taking more AFAM course offerings.”

This course may be particularly relevant to students who are interested in contemporary American politics because of the role of race in the political sphere today. This has played out in the historic presidential victories of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, which Harris says altered black politics.

“These victories continue to provide immeasurable levels of hope and inspiration to emerging generations of black people to not be deterred by racial barriers,” he wrote, adding, however, that plenty of work remains.

“The overwhelming support of the African American vote in both elections did not result in African Americans receiving fair levels of representation in the Obama administration,” Harris wrote. “Additionally, notwithstanding the president’s keen understanding on the history of race relations, the White House has been slow at best to address systemic factors of racial inequality.”

Further, Harris added, the Black Lives Matter movement and growing disaffection with the state of systemic racism will likely demand that Democrats and Republicans address these issues of inequality. This should make the course interesting to students who are following the 2016 election.


ENGL 358: Writing the War on Terror: Crafting Literary Responses to Fiction, Film, and Television after 9/11

While the name may be a mouthful, ENGL 358, taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of English Hirsh Sawhney is bound to be lively. This seminar will allow students to practice a wide variety of non-fiction writing techniques as they explore the way media coverage, specifically entertainment genres, have responded to the War on Terror. Sawhney, a book critic and a journalist, has encountered this subject in his own work. Sawhney’s inspiration for this course came from his beliefs on how the War on Terror has changed society.

“The so-called War on Terror has irrevocably altered the world’s political and socio-economic landscape, and I think it’s important to understand of how this ‘War’ has impacted the way we tell stories,” Sawhney wrote in an email to The Argus. “Moreover, we are inundated by an overwhelming quantity of conflicting and competing narratives about the violence that unfolded after 9/11.”

Sawhney hopes students learn to understand the complex story of the War on Terror in its proper historical context.

“Writing the War on Terror” is a POI English course that counts toward the Writing Certificate. It meets on Mondays from 1:10 p.m. to 4 p.m. This course will feature many writing assignments, including personal and journalistic non-fiction prose, and workshopping sessions with the class. Students will also read works of both fiction and non-fiction by authors from all over the world, and will watch documentaries.

Sawhney is most looking forward to showing students the work of filmmaker Laura Poitras, known for “Citizenfour” about Edward Snowden. Above all, he hopes students become more conscientious citizens of the world.

“I hope students learn to critically assess any information about war and politics that they receive from mainstream sources of news,” he wrote. “I also hope students learn to be more precise with their words.”


HIST 161: Sarnoff to Seinfeld: American Jews and the Television Age

This course, taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of History Rachel Greenblatt, takes an in depth look at the role of American Jews in the creation of television entertainment, and at the portrayal of Jewish characters.

Greenblatt wrote enthusiastically about the course in an email with The Argus.

“I love this course, and I love watching students gradually develop an understanding of the historical context in which what might seem like simple entertainment developed,” she wrote.

“Sarnoff to Seinfeld” is a history course that additionally counts toward the certificate in Jewish and Israel Studies. It is held on Thursdays from 1:10 p.m. to 4 p.m. The grading mode is “Student Option,” and there are still several seats that are open to people of all class years. The class will involve regular reading and viewing assignments, small projects, and one final paper or creative project.

While it is not a film class, Greenblatt was very deliberate in choosing television as the primary focus, saying that it would attract interest in exploring questions of Jewish culture in the United States.

“Television is something a lot of students can relate to,” Greenblatt wrote.

Not only is television entertaining, but it serves as a lens to a society’s culture, and also plays an integral role in it. This will be the central topic of the course.

“The real question is in what ways does television create culture, and it what ways does it reflect it?” she wrote. “Sometimes an artistic medium, including television, reflects the world around it, and sometimes the outside world is affected by the artistic image.”

Greenblatt greatly enjoyed preparing for the class, and this excitement will hopefully translate to the students.

“The fantastic aspect of preparing for ‘Jews and American Television’ is that I can share the preparation with family members,” she wrote. “In developing the course, I watched a lot of television, most of it old… I also read a lot about the history of radio and television in general, and about Jews in the development of the American movie industry.”

What is one takeaway Greenblatt hopes students get from the course?

“I hope students learn to get away from discussing Jewish characters on screen as reflecting ‘good’ or ‘bad’ images of a particular ethnic group and culture and instead learn to discuss the social and cultural meanings of the images they see in a more nuanced, sophisticated way,” Greenblatt wrote.

Comments are closed