Have you ever wanted to take a fun and interesting class that is a little different from the usual Wesleyan course offerings? If your answer to this question is yes, look no further than one of these great student forums. These are just a few of the many awesome, student-run classes that you can enroll in for credit this semester.
SISP 420-01: “Super Science!”: Exploring the Impact of Science, History and Culture on Superhero Comics (Meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:10-2:30 p.m.)
This forum, taught by Jordan Fragen ’16, will look at superheroes, their role in American History, and the sociocultural and contemporary scientific discoveries that influenced their creation. It will also delve into the moral questions that the characters grapple with in their stories.
When she first came up with this idea, Fragen envisioned addressing these topics in the form of a YouTube series. She interned for Stan Lee, the creator of superheros such as Spider-Man and the Hulk, for two summers. Lee was looking for YouTube content, but she never had enough time to create the videos. However, she jumped at the opportunity to use her ideas and create a student forum during her senior spring.
“I’m a huge geek,” Fragen said. “I’ve always thought that the science behind the heroes’ powers was very interesting.”
The forum will be mostly lecture and discussion, but there will also be five two-page reflection papers and a final group project. The final project is designed to give students the opportunity to study characters that the class did not cover much. Fragen is also trying to arrange a field trip for students to see “Batman vs. Superman,” which comes to theatres on March 25, 2016.
“I really hope that the students see how science influences other things in society,” Fragen said. “I think that most people don’t consider superhero comics to be science fiction when they really are, but I wanted to highlight that. I wanted to make science more accessible to students who might be intimidated by taking a science class. This class is sort of a mix between NSM and SBS, and I hope that it will be a fun science class for non-majors.”
ENVS 420-01: Food Justice and Sustainability at Wesleyan and Beyond (Meets Thursdays, 6-9 p.m.)
Ingrid Eck ’19 took the Food Justice and Sustainability student forum last semester, and, this semester, alongside Momi Afelin ’19, she decided to recreate it. Eck and Afelin plan to work with the Real Food Challenge, the student group on campus who led the forum last semester, to look at issues closer to home. They also plan to tackle larger issues in the U.S. such as farm workers’ rights, animal agriculture, fisherfolk, global climate change, and monoculture.
Eck and Afelin plan to have about two to four weekly readings and assign two students to lead each class discussion. They hope that this will give students a chance to really analyze the readings and create more student dialogue. They also plan to watch a couple of films, including “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.” At the end of the semester, students will be able to work with groups or by themselves to create a project that makes the University more food sustainable.
“Personally, taking the forum last semester opened my eyes to so many issues,” Eck said. “Food sustainability and food justice have been my passions recently, and I want to share that with others. Recognizing that there are food justice and sustainability issues right here in Middletown is really important because it is tangible to us and really something we can work toward changing.”
Afelin said that she hopes the project will make students realize how they can enact changes.
“Coming from a place where we are really in touch with the surrounding environment, I’ve always been interested in how we can preserve and sustain it, especially at a larger scale,” Afelin said. “We want students to take away not only a better understanding of food justice issues, but also how we can address them. Also, we want them to understand that since we are all inhabitants of earth, we are also all environmentalists.”
GOVT 420-01: Introduction to Political Geography (Meets Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m.)
In his student forum, Introduction to Political Geography, Daniel Dreyfus ’17, plans to look at the complex relationships between people, states, and space. He wants to show students how our preconceived notions of the neat division of the world into territories is not quite accurate.
“It’s a pretty standard ‘it’s complicated’ class,” Dreyfus said.
The forum will discuss different topics such as border disputes, international recognition, and micronations and look at specific examples of these topics, such as Northern Cyprus and Kashmir. The class will mainly be discussion-based, with about 60-80 pages of reading each week. There will also be four short 2-3 page essays and one longer 5-6 page essay.
Dreyfus decided to create this forum because he wanted the opportunity to explore the topic himself. He also hopes that students walk away with an expanded worldview.
“The material itself is not really represented in the classes offered at Wesleyan,” he said. “It’s very much a see-a-need, fill-a-need kind of thing. I will be happy that they are just there learning about so many situations and ideas that they haven’t been exposed to before. I want them to walk away with the realization of how complex the situations with geography really are.”
CSPL 420-02: Out of Theory and into Practice: Entrepreneurship Studies 101 (Meets Wednesdays, 7-9:30 p.m.)
Thatcher Eills ’17, Irvine Peck’s-Agaya ’18, and Christine Clarke ’18 took a previous iteration of this forum last year, but the students who taught it both graduated. They learned so much from it that they hoped to continue it in some way. This semester, they took over the forum and decided to take it to the next level.
Out of Theory and into Practice is structured around a central project: a business proposal. Throughout the semester, students will learn about topics such as industry analysis, market research, entrepreneurship ecology, and design thinking. At the end of the semester, they will present their business pitch deck to a group of University faculty and alumni that will act as a mock panel of investors.
“It’s a really cool opportunity for people who have a business idea but don’t quite have it fleshed out yet,” Eills said. “If we do our jobs well, we will have enough well-connected alums there that if you hit the right cord with someone, there is potential for your idea to be taken to the next step.”
“Beyond the skills that we learned last year, one of the best parts of the forum has been the students themselves,” Eills added. “We had a great network within the group, and we all stay in contact today. We hope that students will gain entrepreneurial skills, but we also hope to foster an entrepreneurial group/network at Wesleyan that stays connected.”
PHYS 420-01: “So is the Cat Dead or Alive?”: 200 Level Physics for Non-NSM Students
Helena Awad ’16 and Will Jasmine ’16 always figured that it was easier for science majors to take a 200-level English or philosophy class than it was for humanities majors to take a 200-level science or math class. By creating this forum, they wanted to make upper-level science and math classes more accessible to non-majors.
“We talk about this kind of stuff on the weekends anyway,” Awad said. “We figured we might as well teach it.”
They plan to split the class into two sections. Jasmine will teach more of the first quarter, focusing on general physics topics. He plans to use very basic problem sets since the class is for non-majors. Awad plans to take more of a lead in the second quarter and show students how regular physics is applicable to chemistry and biology. She wants to have students look at case studies and explore journal articles. The students will design their own Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) experiment and apply some of the topics from class to it.
“I hope the students take away an appreciation of what goes on in the sciences,” Awad said. “At Wesleyan, I feel like the sciences are so segregated, and we wanted to try and bridge that gap a little bit more.”
PYSC 420-03: Project-Based Storytelling (Meets Tuesdays, 6-9 p.m.)
A lot of students are more interested in creating their own projects than doing regular schoolwork; Isaac Schneider ’16 is one of those people. In his student forum, Schneider will give students the opportunity to get credit for creating a project along with the story behind it.
“A lot of people don’t have the time to take studio art classes or create projects that don’t fit within the bounds of studio art projects,” Schneider said. “This helps them have the time to create those projects.”
At the beginning of the class, students will discuss storytelling and look at different mediums of storytelling, including writing, an experimental webpage documentary, and sculpture. They will look at people who have created their own world in each medium, and then the students will work on creating their own projects and stories. The main assignments for the forum are creating a final project and a treatment for the project.
Schneider generously added that because of space issues, he would be happy to help those students who don’t get into the class create their project and fight for credit.
“I hope that students will take away a physical thing that they will be proud of,” Schneider said. “They will have completed something, and I hope that they will feel good about themselves. I hope that this will become an every semester thing. You should get credits for pursuing something that is education-worthy and not within the bounds of what Wesleyan offers.”