Fall courses put high-profile issues at the head of the class

By Leslie King | Emory Report | Aug. 25, 2015

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Members of the Emory community held a "die-in" Dec. 4 to protest police killings of black men. The upcoming university course on "The Ferguson Movement" is "taking an issue that's been identified by some students and faculty at Emory as important to them and creating another way for the conversation to happen," says co-convener Pamela Scully. Emory Photo/Video.

Creative, thoughtful examinations of real-world issues involving social justice, health care, religion and learning development will be conducted in fall classes offered by Emory’s outstanding faculty.

Here is a sampling of this semester's coolest courses drawn from across the university.


The Ferguson Movement: Power, Politics and Protest

Instructors: Co-conveners Dorothy Brown, professor of law, School of Law, and Pamela Scully, professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and African Studies, Emory College, with additional faculty representing law, business, medicine, public health, Emory College and theology.

Cool factor:  This university course addresses some of the most significant issues in America today from a multidisciplinary perspective. University courses are designed to unite students and faculty from across Emory for an intensive exploration of a subject of common concern.

Course description: The course contextualizes the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 within a larger discussion of race, politics and power in the United States. A discussion of topics like policing, media, voting rights, tax policy, and state and local politics, among others, the course will ask "what critical issues in our nation’s history have set the stage for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement” and what does the future hold?

Departments: Organized by the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence; listed through Laney Graduate School and cross-listed with different departments and schools across the university.


Paris is an Explanation: Understanding Climate Change at the 2015 United Nations Meeting in France

Instructors: Wes Longhofer, assistant professor of organization and management, Goizueta Business School; Eri Saikawa, assistant professor of environmental sciences, Emory College; Sheila Tefft, senior lecturer in the Emory Writing Program, Emory College; and undergraduate students Mae Bowen and Adam Goldstein.

Cool factor:  Among the first of the new Coalition of the Liberal Arts (CoLA) courses, this multidisciplinary look at climate change culminates in a trip to Paris in December for the 21st United Nations' Conference of the Parties, when officials from around the world hope to reach a new agreement on mitigating one of the greatest challenges facing the planet. The class will connect the Paris meetings to campus through innovative social media and other web-based platforms. CoLA courses are designed to create flexible faculty and student learning communities.

Course description: Understanding climate change from environmental, business, media and political perspectives will employ several learning components, including mock United Nations meetings, carbon emissions simulations, debates and media.

Departments: Business, Environmental Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies


Advertising in American Culture

Instructor:  Kim Loudermilk, senior lecturer and director, American Studies

Cool factor:  Advertising is everywhere — in magazines, on television, popping up in Facebook feeds, even on T-shirts.  Some experts estimate individuals see as many as 5,000 advertising messages a day.  Students will pay attention to and analyze the ways these messages affect people as individuals and as a society.

Course description:  The course will provide an introduction to the critical study of advertising and its role in creating and sustaining cultural attitudes and ideologies, asking how did advertising grow from a relatively small industry to the powerhouse it is today?  Students will analyze advertisements as texts — how does advertising convey its messages in both overt and covert ways?  How do ads indicate the cultural norms and attitudes of society?  They will examine the ways advertising influences and produces our consumer culture, and discuss the effects advertising has on cultural change —does it act as a progressive or a conservative force? 

Departments: Institute of the Liberal Arts, American Studies


Sleep and Dreaming, Brain and Mind

Instructor: Hillary Rodman, associate professor of psychology

Cool factor: The course explores sleep and dreaming under both typical and pathological conditions as a window into brain circuitry, the mind-brain interface, individual differences and behavioral choices. Sleep and dreaming are presented through the lens of current neuroscience data; students also examine their own sleep patterns (including some in-class napping "assignments") and consider the contents of dreams in light of scientifically derived hypotheses.

Course description:  Taking a biologically informed approach to understanding the mysteries of the third of our lives spent unconscious, the course invites students to become informed consumers of the accruing wealth of information and misinformation about sleep and dreaming in the popular press and cyberspace. Topics include addressing the role of sleep in emotion and performance, circadian rhythms, chronotypes, sleep and health, the functions of dreams, lucid dreaming, why sleep evolved at all, and more.

Departments: Psychology, cross-listed with Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology 


Southern Women's Writing

Instructor:  Molly McGehee 07 LGS, associate professor of American Studies, Oxford College

Cool factor: Excursions to sites related to the course content, including Alice Walker's birthplace in Eatonton and Flannery O'Connor's home, Andalusia, in Milledgeville, are planned. Students will be encouraged to investigate the numerous collections related to Southern women writers within the Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library and incorporate significant primary materials into final projects.

Course description: The ways in which modern and contemporary Southern women writers have sought to disrupt and disturb dominant conceptions and images of "Southern white womanhood" through their innovative works and through their activism will be examined, along with how such writers have represented the South through their texts. The course also examines the impact of their racial, gender, sexual, class and regional identities on their lives and their writing, as well as the role that media has played in popularizing certain images of Southern womanhood.

Department: English, Humanities Division, Oxford College


The development of learning and memory

Instructor: Nicole Varga, Dean's Teaching Fellow and PhD candidate in Cognition & Development in Laney Graduate School

Cool factor: Throughout the semester, students will gain an appreciation for the real-world applications of developmental memory research. At the course’s conclusion, they will be called upon to apply their expertise to critique material in the popular media, such as the Disney Pixar film “Inside Out,” or to push the field forward by designing an experiment that will address a current gap in the literature.

Course description: The mechanisms of learning and memory sculpt and infiltrate nearly every aspect of our lives. To understand these capacities in their highest form, most researchers have turned to studying adults. Nevertheless, it is by examining development that we are able to uncover the origins and underlying mechanisms that form this later complexity. In this course, students will examine the development of learning and memory from multiple perspectives, from infancy through adolescence. The course takes an in-depth approach to the history, theory and current empirical base, including its neurocognitive basis, working memory, episodic memory, autobiographical memory, strategic memory and emotional memory.

Department: Psychology


The Political Economy of China

Instructor:  Ning (Neil) Yu

Cool factor: Did the Chinese economy grow out of its disastrous past because of the political system or in spite of it? The course offers a close examination of the coevolution of China’s economy and politics that will help students form educated opinions about a myriad of contentious subjects, the implications of which go well beyond the lives of 1.4 billion people. The instructor’s pilgrimage from a village to a small town and then to big cities in China and the U.S. enables a personal touch that can bring life to otherwise dry statistics.

Course description: This course covers the economic and political institutions in China — the political systems and financial institutions and how they have evolved; economic reforms within the past 50 years and their impacts on standard of living within China and its global relationship. The course also discusses various economic and political indicators in China, how they have changed in recent years and how they are expected to change in the future.

Departments: East Asian Studies, Economics


Healthcare Design of the Future

Instructors: From Emory: Jeremy Ackerman, assistant professor of emergency medicine; Greg Martin, associate professor of medicine and chief of pulmonary and director of medical and coronary intensive care at Grady Memorial Hospital; David Murphy, assistant professor of medicine; Carmen Polito, assistant professor of medicine; Susan Shapiro, professor and associate dean for clinical and community partnership in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

From Georgia Tech: Craig Zimring, professor, School of Architecture, faculty of record; David Cowan, senior research scientist, Health Systems Institute; Lisa Lim, PhD student, College of Architecture; Paul Griffin, professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Other faculty: Amanda Mewborn, nurse, Piedmont Hospital

Cool factor: Students will tour intensive care units and talk to the doctors and nurses who are providing care to hear directly from people who work there on how the built environments helps — or doesn’t help — them care for patients effectively and efficiently. They work with the providers to help address some of these challenges and work with designers and engineers to design and test a solution to a pressing health care problem.

Course description: Open to graduate and advanced undergraduate students from Emory and Georgia Tech, this active, multidisciplinary workshop provides an introduction to health care and health care design, focusing on how to identify and evaluate opportunities for innovation, set up and analyze field studies, conduct multidisciplinary human-centered design projects and express results in written and graphic form, including mockups. This year the focus is on how design of ICUs can improve the care of complex diseases by improving physical design, devices, technology and care processes.

Departments: Emory School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Georgia Institute of Technology College of Architecture


The Challenge of Mystery: Images and Metaphors of Jesus in Film

Instructor:  Lloyd Baugh, Jesuit priest and distinguished visiting professor in the Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and Their Impact on Culture

Cool factor: The primary focus is a selection of the films that represent Jesus both directly and metaphorically. The films will be analyzed through the lenses of film aesthetics, christology, biblical theology, and Christian faith and experience. Baugh will also deliver two public McDonald Lectures on these topics, set for Sept. 24 and Oct. 14.

Course description:  The tradition of the Jesus-film through critical screenings is examined with the goal of gaining an understanding and appreciation of the basic theological and faith issues raised by these films. Special attention will be given to the question of how a concrete, material medium such as film can express the more transcendental dimensions of the identity and activity of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Students will be able to understand, appreciate and critique a film text from both a theological-religious perspective and a film-aesthetic perspective.

Department: Systematic Theology in the Candler School of Theology


Health as Social Justice

Instructor: Mimi Kiser, assistant professor, Interfaith Health Program, Rollins School of Public Health

Cool factor: Bringing together multidisciplinary perspectives on the social determinants of health and social justice/injustice, the course features student-driven, discussion-based teaching designed to enable students to delve deep into power dynamics, race relations and perceptions of self as leader within these spheres. Powerful conversations enrich students’ understanding of individual, communal and cultural dimensions of the complex interactions between social structural factors that influence health equity/inequity.

Course description: The course is designed to include students from Schools of Public Health, Theology, Nursing and Law in order to frame issues as interdisciplinary concerns. It examines the multiplicity of social justice factors that affect health as well as community systems and social change approaches that may favorably alter them. The course was originally offered in 1996 at the request of students in public health, nursing and theology after going through a period of development involving faculty and students in all three disciplines.

Department: Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health


Uncovering Emory’s Past

Instructors: Eric L. Goldstein, associate professor of history

Cool factor: Students get to turn the research lens on themselves and their surroundings, learning about historical analysis while exploring something that really matters in their lives. The things that shape an individual’s experience at Emory today all have histories, and uncovering those histories is a great way to better understand themselves and the university community.

Course description: Students will master techniques of historical research by exploring aspects of Emory’s history, asking such questions as what challenges has Emory faced in transforming from a small southern Methodist college into a global university; what impact has Emory had locally, nationally and globally; how have issues of academic freedom played out on campus; what is this history of difference and diversity at Emory; how has student life, including Greek life, reflected and challenged prevailing social patterns on campus and more broadly. From these questions, students will design and carry out their own research projects on Emory-related topics of their choice.

Department: History