This Spring, new courses offer new opportunities for students interested in topics in academia that are less-commonly taught.

Most courses offered at the University have been taught before, but every year, a few new courses debut. As preregistration comes to an end, The Argus took a look at three new course offerings to keep your eye on for Drop/Add.


CIS 250: Computational Media: Videogame Design and Development

This summer, Christopher Weaver, Visiting Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and CEO and founder of the video game publisher Bethesda Softworks, gave a lecture at Exley Science Center arguing that the technologies in video game software can be used in many other fields. The result of the lecture, Weaver wrote in an email to The Argus, is this course on video game design and development.

“Francis Starr, Director of the College of Integrative Sciences, realized how many cross-disciplines were involved in entertainment software and thought the addition of a course in computational media would be a unique opportunity for [Wesleyan] students to utilize their diverse skill-sets in an integrated and complementary way,” Weaver wrote.

Cross-listed with the Film and Computer Science Departments, the 200-level College of Integrative Sciences course meets on Tuesdays from 1:10 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is a permission of instructor (POI) course and has an enrollment capacity listed at 20 students. There are no prerequisites.

Computational Media centers on a final project in which students will create working demos that Weaver hopes will meld the teachings of the course with User demands. What exactly those demos will be about, or who the “User” is, Weaver would not explain; he wrote that he wants to keep the nature of the projects a surprise for people in the class.

However, it is likely that students will be making game demos of some sort for elementary school children. According to the course description, students will take one or two field trips to local schools in order to get feedback on their projects. These projects, Weaver suggested in his email, are intended to be educational—for the students in the class and the students in the local schools.

“The latest research in brain development and learning tells us that how games work has profound implications on learning at virtually every age,” Weaver wrote. “I want to help my students harness that power and apply it for good.”


HIST 117: Chinese Cities

Since 2011, a majority of Chinese citizens have lived in urban, rather than rural, areas—a striking difference from the 10 percent living in cities in 1949. Taught by Assistant Professor in History Ying Jia Tan, Chinese Cities examines urbanization and what life has been like in cities across different historical periods.

“What I’m trying to do, of course, is to get the students to understand the roots of China’s current environmental challenges, the challenges of trying to manage these large, massive, and actually, rather messy populations,” Tan said.

This 100-level course is a freshman seminar and is taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:40 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. There are no prerequisites.

Chinese Cities, Tan said, stems from his research in the history of energy. It also bears similarities to a course Tan taught at Rhode Island College on Asia and the World, in that both involve writing an essay about an image.

The essay on an image, Tan said, will be the first paper assigned in the class and can be used by students for the final research paper.

“It’s a seemingly simple project: write about it,” Tan said. “Write about an object. One of my students [at Rhode Island College] was saying, ‘Yeah, a picture says a thousand words, but to write a thousand words about a picture is really difficult.”

Tan said that, through this course, he hopes the students will gain better essay writing and researching skills.

He also may challenge students to think about what it means for a city to be Chinese. The class will discuss, among other places, Nagasaki in the 17th and 18th centuries, Batavia (or the city of Jakarta, Indonesia, when it was ruled by the Dutch), and Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

“Not all Chinese cities have to actually be in the boundaries of the People’s Republic of China,” Tan said. “So we will look at a number of cities that actually have very sizable Chinese communities.”


ANTH 256: Predators, Prey, and PETA: Changing Human-Animal Relationships 

From university laboratories, to Sea World, to “Meatless Mondays” in school cafeterias, the topic of what relationship human beings have—or should have—to nonhuman animals is contentious. This course, taught by Sarah Newman, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology, focuses on how this relationship has changed throughout human history.

Newman’s interest in teaching the course came from her research. She is a zooarchaelogist and looks at the relationship between human beings and animals in the Mayan Empire by reading ancient texts and viewing ancient images and animal bones.

The anthropology course will begin when ancestors to human beings first became predators, Newman wrote in an email to The Argus, and will end in the present day, as people debate the ethical treatment of animals.

“We will learn about ancient Greeks who marveled at the intelligence of goats and the octopus who outsmarted the Roman sewer system,” Newman wrote. “We will question whether pet-keeping is an act of love or an act of parasitism and whether you can really be a dog person or a cat person (and what it means if you are)!”

The 200-level course is a seminar course and is taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. It has no prerequisites.

In the end, Newman hopes to complicate the understandings students have about their relationships to animals.

“We will even read recent anthropological literature that breaks down the supposed divide between humans and animals altogether,” Newman wrote. “I hope that over the semester we will wrestle with some of the biggest questions that even the smallest animals force us to think about.”

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