Fall courses offer fresh perspectives on high-profile issues

By Laura Douglas-Brown and Leslie King | Emory Report | Aug. 24, 2016

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Students taking Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries will gain hands-on experience through fieldwork at the Emory WaterHub. Here, professor Christine Moe (second from left) visits the WaterHub to plan water-sampling locations for the class assignment with student Yvonne Kienast, assistant research professor Amy Kirby and student Emeli Anderson. Emory Photo/Video

Emory's fall semester courses bring critical insights to current events and offer new approaches to familiar subjects.

Students will explore high-profile topics like the presidential election, the refugee crisis, Islamophobia and the global struggle for human rights, while also gaining unique perspectives from Emory resources such as the WaterHub and the upcoming display of Shakespeare's First Folio, which Emory was selected to host for the state of Georgia.

Here is a sample of fall classes, from first-year seminars to graduate courses, that are timely, creative or just plain cool.


Appcology: New Commerce Infrastructure

Instructor: Benn Konsynski, George S. Craft Distinguished University Professor of Information Systems & Operations Management

Cool factor:  With the assistance and experience of actual app developers, we will explore the design and creations of these "snack­size "applications for mobile and desktop environments. The course will consider the opportunities for new patterns of communication between organizations and their mobile stakeholders.

Course description: The course will explore issues associated with the emerging types of applications and services, changing forms of software ecosystems and commerce interactions. It will involve both design and development of real apps, gizmos and widgets.

Department and school: Goizueta Business School graduate program


Christianity and Politics

Instructors: Robert M. Franklin, James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership; Letitia M. Campbell, lecture series coordinator

Cool factor: Students are required to volunteer for a political campaign, keep a journal of their experiences and thoughts, and prepare three-minute media commentaries on ethical and religious dimensions of the campaign, election and aftermath, which students will send to media outlets or post on social media. This practical experience will build students’ confidence as public intellectuals. The course includes a public, evening lecture series, "Faith and Politics," featuring religion and politics scholars and public intellectuals.

Course description: Given the unique role of Christianity in the formation of America, the course examines the role of its religious ideas, dispositions, values and behavior in shaping public policy and general standards of public morality. It also examines how political campaigns appeal to the imagination, mythmaking and responses to American hunger for meaning and community, as well as how candidates assume and manipulate religious leadership roles such as charismatic prophet, preacher, pastor, priest and servant leader. Special emphasis will be given to how religious communities can help to heal a nation polarized by partisan loyalty, class, race, region and religious identity.

Department and school: Candler School of Theology; should draw interest from those in political science, religion, sociology, history, law and psychology.


Controlling Crime

Instructor: Robert Agnew, professor of sociology

Cool factor: Special attention is devoted to several promising crime control strategies, including community policing, police crackdowns focused on “hot spots,” and restorative justice. Special attention is also devoted to the extent to which law enforcement agencies discriminate and the police use of deadly force.

Course description: This course provides an overview of the nature, extent and causes of crime; examines, using evaluation research, how researchers determine whether programs and policies are effective in controlling crime; and focuses on the four major strategies for controlling crime: the “get tough” strategies of deterrence and incapacitation, which have dominated crime control efforts in recent decades, and the strategies of rehabilitation and prevention. A central theme of the course is that efforts to control crime are effective to the extent that they address the causes of crime.

Department and school: Sociology in Laney Graduate School


Film, Media and Social Activism

Instructors: Edward L. Queen, Center for Ethics; Carlton Mackey, Center for Ethics and Department of Film and Media Studies.

Cool factor: Creative student teams will collaborate with leading Atlanta-area filmmakers, photographers and community nonprofit organizations to plan, develop and produce thought-provoking collaborative art projects addressing important social issues. The course is part of the Center for Ethics’ Southwest Airlines Art and Social Engagement Program, engaging art in all its forms designed to support meaningful student/community experiences.

Course description: Students will explore the function and role of film and media in social change movements and their role in addressing major social issues.  Class sessions will first engage with the topic of art and social engagement.” In the latter half of the semester, students will work in creative teams with area filmmakers and photographers to produce a short documentary film, blog, website, etc. engaging the work of a local nonprofit.

Department and school: Film Studies, Environmental Studies and Visual Arts in Emory College


Glial Neurobiology: Your Brain Beyond Neurons

Instructors: Kristen Frenzel, senior lecturer, Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology; Brilee Coleman and Michelle Giddens, Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Cool factor: This original course aims to demystify the “other” half of the brain with its focus on glia, which constitute approximately 50 percent of the brain and contribute to most neurological diseases. Students will write a submission-quality National Science Foundation grant proposal, a product that could jumpstart the next phase of their career.

Course description: Explore the many roles of these important cells — the most common and least talked about cells in the brain — in development and human disease. Study primary literature in the realm of glial neurobiology. This class is open to any interested students and will be particularly useful for students planning to pursue research in the future.

Department and school: Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology in Emory College


How Do We Know That? 2,500 Years of Great Science Writing 

Instructor: Douglas Mulford, senior lecturer, Chemistry

Cool factor: What did Darwin actually say? Einstein? Mendel? Should we clone humans? Can chocolate cause weight loss? What is the placebo effect anyway and why do I care? Was Galileo just a really big nerd? (Yes!) The course will look at how humans learn by looking at the original words of scientists throughout history. Occasional demonstrations, explosions and liquid nitrogen ice cream provided.

Course description: This is not a science class but scientific learning will be the framework for this study. This discussion-based first-year seminar will focus on how humans have learned knowledge throughout the history. Discourse will examine humans’ ways of discovery by looking at 2,500 years of great science writing to discover how science is done and how human knowledge as a species grows.

Department and school: Chemistry in Emory College


Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Rights

Instructors: Dabney P. Evans, assistant professor, Rollins School of Public Health; David Davis, associate professor, Emory College; Edward Queen, Center for Ethics

Cool factor: Co-taught by three instructors from different units of the University to students from across the University, the course sparks conversation about how views of human rights intersect across disciplines. “Cases,” incorporating these interdisciplinary perspectives to contemporary human rights issues, will be developed.

Course description: This graduate seminar examines the theory and practice of global human rights from an interdisciplinary perspective, including issues of the history, origins and legitimacy of universal human rights. The seminar will also examine human rights across a variety of substantive issues areas, including conflict, development, globalization, social welfare, religion, race and ethnicity, medicine, public health, and rights of women and other vulnerable groups.

Department and school: Laney Graduate School, School of Law and Rollins School of Public Health


Islamophobia In America

Instructor: Erik Love, visiting fellow, James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference

Cool factor: This course looks at Middle Eastern American advocacy around the myriad problems of racialized Islamophobia in America. This follows a look at the histories and contemporary portraits of several Middle Eastern American communities, and we examine the details of discriminatory programs, policies and practices.

Course description: Despite rapid migration from the Middle East to the United States after the turn of the 20th century, Middle Eastern American communities are among the least studied and most misunderstood. In recent decades, hate crimes, discrimination and more have emerged in a familiar American pattern of racial scapegoating. This course concludes by considering the efforts of social advocates working to confront Islamophobia.

Department and school: Sociology and Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies in Emory College


The Migrant & Refugee Crisis: Borders, Mobility and the Making of Il/legality

Instructor: Isabella Alexander, visiting assistant professor, Anthropology

Cool factor: Integrating ethnography, journalism, film and other forms of popular media, this course begins with an exploration of the current migrant and refugee crisis in Europe then explores the lesser-told stories of migration, deportation and detention unfolding on the periphery. Students will work together to build an interactive website on these issues for popular audiences.

Course description: This class begins with the premise that border regions, located at the cultural and geographical intersection of nation-states, offer an ideal place for questioning the construction of new individual and national identities. Students will be asked to think and write critically about how new identities are established, embodied and challenged, and how borders create a continual negotiation of the self and the other. Drawing on anthropological and popular media representations of the migrant and refugee crisis, the course will create a picture of the current state of transnational migration and note the distinctions established between the migrant, the citizen and the refugee.

Department and school: Anthropology in Emory College


Race and the American Presidency

Instructor: Brett Gadsden, associate professor, African American Studies and History

Cool factor: How did Lyndon B. Johnson, a son of the Texas Hill Country and a product of the Jim Crow South, become the standard bearer of presidential liberalism? Faced with an intransigent Congress, how did he win groundbreaking civil rights legislation and a great expansion of the American welfare state? This course is designed to answer these questions and explore what lessons can we apply from Johnson’s political career to the current political climate.

Course description: Students will trace the arc of Lyndon Johnson’s political career through the lens of American race relations. This course takes as its starting point Johnson’s modest Texas origins and his rise to power as the Senate majority leader in the early 1960s. Students will then study his political labors after he assumed the presidency, which resulted in the passage of historic civil rights legislation and produced the Great Society that was designed to address the problem of poverty. Students will consider Johnson’s political legacy and his relevance to contemporary political events.

Departments and school: History and American Studies in Emory College


Real Shakespeare?

Instructor: Patricia Cahill, associate professor, English

Cool factor: Students can immerse themselves in Shakespeare this year, which is the 400th anniversary of his death. They can contemplate rare books like the First Folio, which is visiting Emory from the Folger Shakespeare Library from Nov. 5 through Dec. 11, plus archival materials attesting to the many afterlives of Shakespearean drama. They can also contemplate Shakespearean art, study live and film performance, and create an exhibit using Shakespearean evidence they have excavated from the archives. 

Course description: This new, interdisciplinary first-year seminar is organized around the question of where and how to locate the genuine Shakespeare and what “evidence” means in Shakespearean drama and for Shakespeare scholars. Reading plays that showcase delusions, errors, conspiracies and lies will prompt consideration of why some people ask whether Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare and why some contemporary directors want to re-create the actual conditions of performance in Shakespeare’s day. Students will spend time in the Rose Library pondering the material evidence of Shakespeare’s impact.

Department and school: English in Emory College


Understanding Community: Oxford Encountering Oxford

Instructor: Lyn Pace, Oxford College chaplain

Cool factor: The class will begin with a dinner where students meet local Oxford residents. Following the dinner, students will set up a time to interview a community member. The interview, including the resident’s own understanding of community, will form the basis of each student’s mid-term paper. Also during this unit, local residents and leaders will guest lecture and introduce students to the landmarks and stories of Oxford, Georgia.

Course description: A major focus in this course will be on the city of Oxford and interaction with local residents. The course will engage students in a critical exploration of the concept of community to formulate their own ideas of community, identify various structures of belonging in communities, and develop a more profound understanding of multiple communities to which they have been and are connected, including communities of origin, the Oxford campus community, virtual communities, communities of self-interest, intentional communities, and the city of Oxford, Georgia.

Department and school: American Studies in Oxford College


Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries

Instructors: Christine L. Moe, Eugene J. Gangarosa Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation, and Eddy Perez, professor of practice

Cool factor: This course talks about poop, fecal sludge, diarrheal disease, toilets, menstrual hygiene and other taboo topics, introducing students from all disciplines to global water, sanitation and hygiene challenges. Innovative approaches to provide clean water and sanitation — like LifeStraw, Pee Poo Bags, Arbor Loos, household-level biogas systems, and PUR — are taught. Field/lab assignment includes a tour of the Emory WaterHub and testing microbiological quality of wastewater samples from both ends of the treatment system.

Course description: This course provides an overview of key water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues in the developing world and strategies to address these challenges. It includes discussions of behavioral determinants of WASH practices, WASH policies, human rights and inequities in WASH services for the poor, the relationship between WASH and diseases, gender issues and how poor WASH in schools impacts girls’ education and economic opportunities, WASH in emergencies and provision of services to displaced populations, and the challenges of sustaining WASH services and infrastructure. Students learn through collaborative projects and develop proposals with innovative solutions to WASH challenges in specific settings.

Department and school: Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health