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Liberal Arts Core Curriculum

The Liberal Arts Core Curriculum is comprised of the Common Core and Global Engagements requirements.

Common Core (CORE)

Director: N. Ries
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The Common Core Curriculum consists of four required interdisciplinary components. The first two components are taught by faculty members from across the university who work together to develop these courses: all sections of these two courses share common texts. Legacies of the Ancient World explores texts from the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern world that have given rise to philosophical, political, religious, and artistic traditions that continue to influence academic and intellectual discourse and critical thought. In Challenges of Modernity, students explore a variety of texts that engage with the modern ideas and phenomena that have shaped the world in which we live. Scientific Perspectives on the World (SP) courses engage issues of broader social significance that require scientific literacy. These courses are multi-disciplinary in focus: the topics of SP courses span the study of the physical world, biological processes, human behavior, mathematical methods, and technological innovations. Communities and Identities (CI) courses provide students with a multi-layered understanding of identities, cultures, and human experiences in particular geographically distinct communities and regions of the world.

Students are expected to complete the four common core courses by the end of their sophomore year. Approximately half of the fall 2015 FSEMs fulfill a Liberal Arts Core Curriculum requirement.

Courses - Challenges of Modernity

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CORE 152, Challenges of Modernity
Modernity is a crucial element of the intellectual legacy to which we are heirs. A matrix of intellectual, social, and material forces that have transformed the world over the last quarter millennium, modernity has introduced new problems and possibilities into human life. Within modernity, issues of meaning, identity, and morality have been critiqued in distinctive ways. People of different social classes, racial groups, ethnic backgrounds, genders and sexual identities have contributed to an increasingly rich public discourse. The human psyche has been problematized, and the dynamic character of the world, both natural and social, has been explored. Urbanization and technological development have transformed the patterns of everyday life. Imperialism has had a complex and lasting impact on the entire globe. The human capability to ameliorate social and physical ills has increased exponentially, and yet so has the human capacity for mass destruction and exploitation. In this course, taught by an interdisciplinary staff, students explore texts from a variety of media that engage with the ideas and phenomena central to modernity. To ensure a substantially common experience for students, the staff each year chooses texts to be taught in all sections of the course. This component of the Core Curriculum encourages students to think broadly and critically about the world that they inhabit, asking them to see their contemporary concerns in the perspective of the long-standing discourses of modernity.

Courses - Communities & Identities

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CORE 165C, China
China has the distinction of being one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures, with 5,000 years of rich, complex history. Today, it is also a rising international power with the second largest economy on the globe. CORE 165C approaches China not as a monolithic entity, but as a complicated place and people best understood through diverse perspectives, including but not limited to history, economics, geography, literature, art, politics, environment, society, ethnicity, gender, migration, and diaspora. Students also gain indispensable research skills as they develop their own projects.

CORE 167C, Japan
Engages in dialogue with popular discourses, scholarly literature, and primary information sources of Japan and those who live in the island nation state. Focuses on key social and cultural issues that characterize contemporary Japan while also paying attention to its historical experiences and traditions that variably shape the present. Examines such topics as changing ‘western’ views on the Japanese, diversity in Japanese society, socio-demographic challenges, literature and religion, Japanese political economy and globalization, societal response to natural disasters, and popular culture. Employs a wide range of learning methods, including lecture, class discussion, films, hands-on experiences (e.g., calligraphy), and intensive projects which require students to collect, analyze, and synthesize a wide range of scholarly and non-scholarly sources. Ultimately aims to nurture students’ ability to understand and empathize with the logic (and illogic), experiences and emotions of the Japanese people; that is to say, to understand them as you would understand yourselves.

CORE 171C, Mexico
An interdisciplinary introduction to the history, people, art and cultures of Mexico, a country of diverse ethnic, sexual, gendered, class, and political identities that shares a 2,000-mile border with the United States. How does Mexico’s colonial past inform the present? On what terms has a Mexican national identity been defined and who is included or excluded from rights and citizenship? Objectives are to examine Mexico’s complex history and social fabric; to study Mexican identities, politics, and cultural expressions with relation to this history; and to gain a general understanding of contemporary Mexico in the context of current events and Mexico’s relationship to the United States.

CORE 173C, Ethiopia
Surveys the culture, religion, communities, history, and socio-economic developments of Ethiopia from the ancient times to the modern period. Ethiopia is home to over 80 ethnic groups with striking cultures that are distinct from Western traditions. Major themes include peoples and languages; traditional customs and beliefs; Christianity and Islam; marriages; community service organizations; literature, novels; education; ethnic relations; traditional art and music; colonial resistance; sports; socio-economic developments; natural resources usage; Ethiopia and Europe; the Ethiopian revolution; Ethiopian immigrants in the United States; traditional harmful practices; and politics. Emphasis is also given to contemporary issues. Lectures are supplemented by discussions, film presentation, group activity, and coffee ceremony.

CORE 176C, North American Indians
Provides an overview of North American Indians by drawing on case studies from four groupings: New England tribes; Iroquois; Cheyenne; and Pueblos. These cultures are studied in terms of their historical and political relationship to Anglo-American society and institutions, attending to Native Americans' resistance to attempted conquest by European or American powers, the creation of reservation systems, and the use of institutions (e.g., the Bureau of Indian Affairs, schools, missions) to change Native American cultures. Students also examine the response of Native Americans to outside pressures. Students explore other issues, such as sovereignty, identity, gambling, repatriation, land claims, and education, and their impact on North American Indians. Videotapes and Native American artifacts are studied throughout the semester.

CORE 177C, Peru
The Latin American country Peru evokes dramatic and conflicting images of spectacular natural settings, ancient ruins, cosmopolitan cities, shantytowns, street children, poverty and more. It is a country of extremes. This course offers an interdisciplinary inquiry into this ecologically and culturally diverse land. The course begins by exploring the distinct geography and ecology of the central Andean region (rainforest, mountains, desert, and ocean) in order to understand how these features have shaped the societies that inhabit the region of present-day Peru. This involves analyzing the evolution and organization of Pre-Columbian societies, paying special attention to the Inca civilization. It also examines the ideologies, institutions and practices introduced with the Spanish conquest and era of colonialism in order to understand their impact on indigenous society and their relevance to the state of underdevelopment that characterizes contemporary Peru. Study of present-day Peru juxtaposes rural and urban life, the ties between the two spheres, and the crisis conditions that enveloped both ways of life until recently. Specific issues include the internal armed conflict, the coca culture and cocaine economy, shantytowns and land invasions, oil extraction and indigenous resistance, among other compelling issues. Throughout the term, this course emphasizes the many paradoxes of this intriguing land.

CORE 180C, French Caribbean
Martinique, a 400 square-mile island, is an official part of France today despite being 4200 miles away from mainland France. French is the official language but most Martinicans freely express themselves in Creole. The majority of Martinicans will declare that they are, first and foremost, citizens of the French Republic, but will also readily admit that they are Martinican by culture. What is striking about Martinique is the dizzying array of cultural signifiers that seem to coexist in a veritable braided community, in which it can be genuinely difficult to tell where one cultural identity strand ends and another begins. Martinique is thus a fabulous lens through which this process of negotiating and renegotiating of cultures, languages, and identities can be viewed, and can be considered a precursor to modern-day globalization.

CORE 183C, The Middle East
A multi-disciplinary introduction both to the region conventionally referred to as the Middle East, and also to the academic discipline of Middle Eastern Studies. In other words, it is a study of the people, religion, history, and culture of the region, and also about the politics of studying that region. One of the presuppositions is that a careful, rigorous, and critical study of cultural studies can help one understand one’s own assumptions, presuppositions, etc. Among the topics students examine are the multiple interpretations of religion, including sects within Islam, that exist in the region; a variety of cultural practices and various languages; and the effect of imperialism and colonialism on the area. Readings include what current native commentators are saying on cultural, economic, and social debates.

CORE 190C, South Africa
Aims to provide students with an overview of the social, cultural, political, and economic dynamics that have shaped life in South Africa. Students and faculty work together to better understand the way in which the country of South Africa came into being, how that national identity has been a site of struggle and contestation, particularly in the case of the struggle to overcome Apartheid, and how South Africans are working to overcome the legacy of racism and oppression that has marked much of the social and cultural experience of South Africa. In doing so, students investigate the changing dynamics of race, gender, and culture in South Africa, with a particular focus on understanding the ways South Africans are actively reshaping and unsettling existing social identities and distinctions.

CORE 198C, Cuba
Examines the complex geographic, historic, social, racial, literary, political, and artistic fabric of Cuba. Historical readings explore major themes of Cuban history, while literary and personal narratives provide insight into social and political realities. These themes are complemented by a study of Cuban film, dance and music as agents of identity formation.

Courses - Legacies of Ancient World

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CORE 151, Legacies of Ancient World
Explores ancient texts that articulate perennial issues: the nature of the human and the divine; the virtues and the good life; the true, the just and the beautiful; the difference between subjective opinion and objective knowledge. These texts exemplify basic modes of speech, literary forms, and patterns of thinking that establish the terminology of academic and intellectual discourse and critical thought: epic, rhetoric, tragedy, epistemology, science, democracy, rationality, the soul, spirit, law, grace. Such terms have shaped the patterns of life, norms, and prejudices that have been continually challenged, criticized, and refashioned throughout history. To highlight both the dialogue and conflicts between the texts and the traditions they embody, this course, taught by a multidisciplinary staff and in an interdisciplinary manner, focuses on both the historical contexts of these texts and the ongoing retellings and reinterpretations of them through time. Moreover, the course includes texts from the ancient Mediterranean world that have given rise to some of the philosophical, political, religious, and artistic traditions associated with "The West," emphasizing that Western traditions were not formed in a vacuum but developed in dialogue and conflict with other traditions, some of which lie beyond the geographical area of "The West." Common to all sections of this component are classic works such as Homer, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Plato, and a Roman text. Complementary texts or visual materials from the ancient period, in and beyond the Western world, and/or response texts from the medieval or contemporary periods are added in individual sections or groups of sections. Thus, some groups of sections may have particular themes. These themes will be identified at registration every term.

CORE 151, Legacies of Ancient World/SRS
Explores ancient texts that articulate perennial issues: the nature of the human and the divine; the virtues and the good life; the true, the just and the beautiful; the difference between subjective opinion and objective knowledge. These texts exemplify basic modes of speech, literary forms, and patterns of thinking that establish the terminology of academic and intellectual discourse and critical thought: epic, rhetoric, tragedy, epistemology, science, democracy, rationality, the soul, spirit, law, grace. Such terms have shaped the patterns of life, norms, and prejudices that have been continually challenged, criticized, and refashioned throughout history. To highlight both the dialogue and conflicts between the texts and the traditions they embody, this course, taught by a multidisciplinary staff and in an interdisciplinary manner, focuses on both the historical contexts of these texts and the ongoing retellings and reinterpretations of them through time. Moreover, the course includes texts from the ancient Mediterranean world that have given rise to some of the philosophical, political, religious, and artistic traditions associated with "The West," emphasizing that Western traditions were not formed in a vacuum but developed in dialogue and conflict with other traditions, some of which lie beyond the geographical area of "The West." Common to all sections of this component are classic works such as Homer, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Plato, and a Roman text. Complementary texts or visual materials from the ancient period, in and beyond the Western world, and/or response texts from the medieval or contemporary periods are added in individual sections or groups of sections. Thus, some groups of sections may have particular themes. These themes will be identified at registration every term.

Courses - Scientific Perspectives

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CORE 120S, Earth Resources
Management of the Earth's energy, mineral, and water resources is a subject of ongoing controversy and debate. This debate revolves around two related issues: the diminishing supply of some resources and the environmental cost of resource extraction and energy production. This course examines the origin and geologic setting of Earth's resources, and how these factors influence resource exploration, extraction, and use. Environmental and economic aspects of resource extraction are explored. Students examine the public debate about resource management and conservation, as well as the roles of politics and the media in shaping this debate. This course emphasizes student-led discussions of case studies dealing with current resource-related topics. The purpose of this course is to create a framework in which resource issues can be evaluated, integrating the scientific and social issues inherent in resource development.

CORE 124S, Cells & Human Development
The fusion of sperm and egg cells to form a single-celled zygote is the initial step in development in most multi-cellular organisms. In humans, repeated divisions of this single fertilized egg are responsible for the production of more than 70 trillion cells of greater than 200 different types. In this course students examine how a fertilized egg undergoes division, how the stem cells produced by these divisions become "determined" to form cells of particular types, and how these determined cells finally differentiate into the highly specialized cells that make up most tissues and organs. As this process is examined, students also explore the relationship between cells and developmental patterns, and investigate how genetic and environmental factors can influence (and alter) cell fate. Biological, social, and ethical aspects of the human manipulation of development are also considered, including examination of such topics as cloning by nuclear transfer, reproductive technology, fetal surgery, stem cells, and embryonic gene therapy.

CORE 170S, Media Effects
Uses a social scientific approach to examine the effects that media exposure has on audience members. Students develop an understanding of how the media affects audience members' physiology, cognition, beliefs, attitudes, affective states, and behavior. Key media topics studied include violence, sex, politics, and portrayals of groups. Key types of media studied include television, music, video games, and social media.

Global Engagements

Courses in this component provide the opportunity to analyze the conditions and consequences of human diversity in its local and transnational forms. To satisfy this requirement, each student will successfully complete a designated course that inquires into the ways that people seek to make sense of a diverse and increasingly interconnected world. Global Engagements (GE) courses come from departments and programs throughout the university, and they take a variety of forms. For instance, a course in this component might ask students to do one of the following:
  • examine the consequences of globalization in one or more of its many forms,
  • investigate issues or processes that have an impact that can be fully understood only by using a global perspective,
  • experience the cross-cultural understanding that comes from intensive language learning or study group participation,
  • cross boundaries by examining how diversity finds expression in human culture, or
  • consider human diversity in dimensions such as race, class, and gender.

Ultimately, the GE requirement seeks to empower students to live responsibly in contexts that require an understanding of the complexity of human beings and their impact, whether in the United States or in the broader world.

A Global Engagements course may count toward a student’s major or minor; it may also fulfill an Area of Inquiry requirement. The requirement must be completed prior to graduation.

Global Engagements courses will be identified in the registration materials available each semester. Use the Core Area dropdown box on the course offerings page or click "View All" below.

Courses - Global Engagements

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CHIN 121, Elementary Chinese I
This introduction to modern standard Chinese emphasizes understanding and speaking, with practice in reading and writing approximately 300 characters in either traditional or simplified forms. It covers basic structural patterns and vocabulary needed for ordinary conversation as well as future development.

CHIN 201, Intermediate Chinese I
Offers continued training in Modern Standard Chinese, with emphasis on reading and writing skills. Grammar review is combined with introduction to variations in speech and writing. Recitation and conversation sessions, role-play, and skits reinforce listening and speaking ability. By the end of the year, students may expect to communicate in both speech and writing on everyday topics.

CHIN 222, China thru Literature & Film
Offers an introduction to representative works of Chinese literature in English translation, as well as works of Chinese film with English subtitles. Specific focus and selections vary from year to year. No knowledge of Chinese is expected.

GERM 201, Intermediate German I
Completes the presentation of basic structures of German and helps students develop greater facility and sophistication in using these structures - in comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing. Continue the exploration of German cultures begun on the 100 level.

GREK 122, Elementary Classical Greek II
The second semester of an introductory study of the elements of the Greek language. A thorough and methodical approach to the basics is supplemented, as students progress, by selected readings of works by ancient authors.

HIST 218, African Amer Struggle-Freedom
Surveys the presence of African Americans in the United States and their struggle for freedom under the concept of democracy. Examines African origins, the Middle Passage, the creation of an African American culture in slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the growth of black communities in the face of hostility, the African American impact on American culture, the Civil Rights movement, and the continuing struggle by African Americans to make democracy real. (US)

JAPN 201, Intermediate Japanese I
The first semester of intermediate-level study of Japanese, this course completes the presentation of basic structures of the language. There is continued emphasis on oral communication, with practice in reading simple texts and acquisition of an additional 500 Chinese characters by the end of the term.

PCON 218, Practices of Peace & Conflict
Introduces students to a range of approaches and problems in the descriptive analysis of peace and conflict. Students juxtapose core theoretical texts on war and violence from the social and human sciences with detailed ethnographic case studies. Practices of contemporary conflict are paired with the interpretive paradigms whose aim is to understand and resolve them. For example, case studies in terror are paired with the field of trauma studies; specific regional conflicts with theories of global networks; and contemporary mass violence with analysis of genocide perpetration. In the process, introduces students to important methodological paradigms from the social sciences, chiefly from anthropology, sociology, and geography, as well as humanities-based approaches from comparative religion, literature, and language studies.

POSC 216, Comparative Pol: Latin America
Today Latin America is one of the most democratic regions of the developing world, although it faces problems of inequality, gridlock, and economic growth. Latin America's 20th-century experiences of coups, revolutions, and instability also present important lessons for comparative politics. This course introduces students to the countries of Latin America and the important patterns of similarity and difference that can help them understand political development and elucidate comparative trends. Regime type is one prism through which students examine the region's countries, including democracy, semi-democracy, and various authoritarian regimes, especially bureaucratic authoritarianism. Another important topic is the United States' relationship with the region's polities, on issues like the Cold War, drug wars, and economic policies. In addition to big countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela, the course also focuses on countries of particular student interest. (CO)

RELG 240, Religion and Terrorism
Terrorists are often driven by extremist beliefs staunchly rooted in religious, racial, and ethical rationales for torture, violence, and genocide. The course provides a theoretical and empirical understanding, and explanation of terrorism. While tracing the history of terrorism to the ancient West, students will also identify various analytical approaches to the study of terrorism, recognize terrorist groups, and review terrorist tactics. Students will examine the ways that states counter terror, and the choices and the tradeoffs states face when confronting terrorism. Students will examine terrorist individuals and groups in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism such as the Ku Klux Klan, Timothy Mc Veigh, Republican Army in Ireland, Orthodox Rabbi Meir Kahane, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, Osama bin Laden, Boko Haram, Islamic State, and Shoko Asahara in Japan.

RELG 265, Global Bioethics and Religion
The revolution in biotechnology has given humanity powers unimaginable a few decades ago. Bioethics within the Western cultural tradition examines moral and ethical dilemmas arising from the interface of human experience and advances in biology, medicine, and technology (human embryonic stem cell applications, cloning, genetic engineering , euthanasia, etc.). Global bioethical inquiry places moral and ethical bioethics deliberations on the international stage, with a focused exploration of diverse and competing transnational theoretical debates. The course undertakes a critical study of comparative religious ethics and global bioethics issues within Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity.

SPAN 202, Intermed Spanish: Lang & Lit
Continues to improve the student’s ability to understand, speak, read, and write Spanish and emphasizes development of reading comprehension. It includes a review of the more difficult points of intermediate grammar and focuses on the acquisition of skills necessary for the study of literature. Vocabulary study, conversational practice, and short compositions based on readings are included. Instructors will determine eligibility of students with more than 3 or 4 years of secondary school Spanish following review of language background. Language Placement Guidelines

WMST 202, Intro to Women's Studies
Explores gender from a variety of angles, and in tandem with race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexuality, and other markers of identity. Students develop vocabulary and tools to speak and think critically about oppression, patriarchy, social change, and common assumptions about the world and people around us. A primary goal is to explore both the forces that feed into inequality and discrimination, and ways to resist, challenge, and overcome those forces. Students explores issues ranging from bodies, work, families, identity, politics, medicine, history, and the media, as well as the ways in which feminist movements around the world have addressed these topics.