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First Year

2018 Seminar Topics


Better Together: Flourishing in a Diverse World
We live in a world that is increasingly characterized by diversity, difference, and conflict. Diversity itself is neither good nor bad, but the way we approach diversity can make it healthy or toxic. In this seminar, we will consider ways to engage race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, national origin, worldview, etc., in ways that are healthy, productive, and life-giving. A guiding philosophy for the course will be the African notion of Ubuntu, “I am because we are.” This is the third of a three-year cycle with Ubuntu as McMurry’s university theme.

Hidden Figures: Voices from the Other Side:
As the feature film Hidden Figures has informed us, there are often people who occupy the shadows of history.  How is it that we, as a society, are just now hearing the story of these NASA scientists?  Structures of power go a long way in answering this question.  In accord with this, many other stories have went untold.  This seminar will listen to the stories of people who have went unheard.  We will explore major historical events from “the other side”.  Our story of the founding of this country has been told primarily from the viewpoint of European settlers.  What would it sound like from the perspective from the Native Americans?  How about the Civil Rights movement from the perspective of African-Americans?  How about the numerous wars from those who lost?  Come on a journey this semester to the “other side”.

Honors - Beautiful Souls: Overcoming the Bystander Effect
We have all been in situations where we followed social pressure when the most prudent behavior would have been to resist it.  The writer Susan Sontag says it best: “At the center of our moral life are the great models of resistance: the great stories of those who have said ‘No.’”  This seminar examines several accounts where individuals in leadership positions surmised the situation and did the right thing against significant odds.  The stories range from defying Nazi persecution during the Holocaust to contemporary corporate whistleblowers.  Lessons derived from these “beautiful souls” can be used to enhance our resistance or what is commonly referred to as human agency.

Honors-Historical Trends
News is the first draft of history, wrote one correspondent at the height of World War II.  He was right, but is today’s much faster paced world of social media and breaking news, we often never get to the second, third, or fourth drafts.  So, how is news made?  How is history made?  In this class, students will study topics ripped from today’s headlines and serve as cast and crew for an Internet Broadcast show entitled, Historical Trends with Dr. Don Frazier.  In the process, students will be organized into the various elements of a broadcast team and do in depth research to present a talk show format for a global audience aimed at the informed public and people their age.  In the process, you will learn writing, editing, video, production, and management skills that will serve you well throughout your college career and beyond. 

I Learned the REALLY big stuff from my Kindergarten teacher
Now that you are in college, you will make many decisions every day.  The little decisions that you make, though, are often more important than the big ones. This seminar, taught by a former early childhood educator, will explore  those simple lessons that, if learned and followed, will help you develop habits that lead to success.  Step back in time and revisit the wonderful things you learned (and maybe forgot) when you were five.

Innovation and Design Thinking
This seminar will encourage you to cultivate new ideas and develop solutions for issues and life challenges. Students will be introduced to the basic elements of design thinking and life design mind-sets. These elements and mind-sets include curiosity, learning about your audience, constructing of a point of view based on user needs, brainstorming for creative solutions, collaboration, building representations of your ideas and testing your ideas. Students from all disciplines are encouraged to enroll in the class as the design thinking process is best implemented by a diverse group of individuals. The seminar will provide the students a valuable skillset that can be used throughout their university experience.

Into the Arena
When was the last time you didn’t do something because you were afraid to fail or be mocked? Imagine that you had the opportunity again, but this time you went through with it and found success. Chances are you would feel some sort of accomplishment and gain confidence to do it again. Maybe it was a poem you wrote, a play on the field, or applying to college. No matter the arena, taking the step to share, to show up, to be vulnerable makes you one of the most fearless people in the world. This course will explore what it means to be fearless and dare greatly to achieve your goals through discussions, readings, papers, videos, and projects. 

Life is fair…and other impossible Dreams
Fairness and Impossible are vague concepts that often seem in conflict. This course will exam models, so that paradoxes can be analyzed and the possibility of fairness can be determined. Specific examples will include, voting systems, fair division and apportionment problems. The consequences of Arrow’s impossibility theorem and the Balinsky-Young theorem will be part of this discussion, and other impossibility theorems will be discussed.

Movies and Meaning.
In his Ars Poetica, or The Art of Poetry, the Roman poet Horace claims literature has two purposes: “to entertain and to instruct.” Although Horace formulated this analysis in first century BCE and was thinking about poetry, many critics would agree that his analysis applies to the modern art of film-making. A movie not only should engage us with suspense and move us emotionally, it also should impart to us some wisdom about virtue, character, and a life well-lived. In this seminar we’ll watch an array of classic and contemporary films and analyze how they instruct us. Students will take an exam on narrative elements and write two short papers that analyze the themes of films. Each student will also present to the class an outline of a movie in which he or she might be the protagonist.

Muggle Studies
In the fictional, magical world of Harry Potter, muggles are non-magic individuals who fascinate those in the magical world because of their odd way of life. Having lived with muggles for most of his life, Harry Potter does not see muggle life as strange until he enters the magical world. In this course, we will explore our own culture as Harry Potter does the muggle culture, seeing the strange in the familiar. We will use portions of the books and movies of the Harry Potter series to guide our own analysis of culture. Through our analysis students will gain important insights into why we do the things we do, how our culture shapes our views of others, and how others might see us.

Parchment Barriers: Rocking the First Amendment
This seminar course examines the rhetoric and constitutional issues associated with the First Amendment. The Founders of this country seemingly issued contradictory commands and then passed on to us a challenging legacy to figure things out on our own. The question is, how are we doing and where has the judiciary positioned us going into the 21st Century? This course provides an introduction to the rhetoric of the Supreme Court as it frames the concepts of liberty, rights, and the powers of government with respect to religion, speech, and protest.

The Art of Mindfulness and Manners in the Digital Age
We live in a highly competitive, fast-paced and stressful world.  This course will help to prepare you to navigate daily university life with proper etiquette, composure and sense of self.  Armed with the tools of this experience you will become aware of the requirements of proper decorum and courtesy.  Topics covered will include classroom etiquette, navigating social events, appropriate attire, table manners, introductions, interviews, proper rules of grammar in writing and speaking and stress management.  Class activities will include active discussions, participation practicing through roll-play, conducting a survey of your professors and researching and writing a formal paper.

Mindsets, and Mind-Traps: The Psychology of Everything.
This course will examine the way our fundamental mindsets, or frames of reference, inform (and often misinform) our understanding of everything—people, relationships, opportunities and threats.  This course will also examine ways to be a more accurate and effective at navigating the challenges of life.

The Globalization of Crime
With the world changing and advancing with technology, criminal organizations are taking advantage of new opportunities. The advancement of travel, ease of communication, and an increase in demand, has all contributed to the globalization of crime. Every nation has been affected by the globalization of crime and the problem continues to grow.  Topics to be explored are trafficking in human beings (human sex trafficking), smuggling of migrants, drug trafficking, including the Mexican Drug cartels, arms trafficking, the illegal sale of human body parts, and terrorism.  A variety of methods will be used to enhance learning, including international movies, documentaries, and case studies.  

What I Wish I Had Known When I was 20
Today’s business environment is dynamic. It requires people to identify opportunities quickly, balance priorities, and learn from failure.  This class will present students with opportunities to experiment and to mash-up their skills and passions in new and possibly surprising ways.  The class will focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, guided by Dr. Tina Seelig’s research.  Dr. Seelig holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford University and is currently executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.  Students will challenge assumptions while applying a new business model to different types of problems.

Zombie U: College, Identity Construction, and The Walking Dead
What happens when you go to college? What problems do you face, and how do you address them? While you may not deal with the exact problems that arise in a zombie apocalypse, you may still experience similar difficulties as you learn to navigate this new environment. This course will explore the many struggles that Rick Grimes and others face as they attempt to contend with a post-apocalyptic, zombie-filled reality while addressing the ways in which each character establishes and then modifies his/her own identity. Topics of discussion will include:  Identity construction, problem-solving, collaboration, relationships, and several other applicable