FYP Courses Fall 2014

Brown College: Matt Lavin and Yong Ouk Cho
Media and International Politics

What do we know about the world, and how accurate is what we think we know? Nearly everything we learn about international affairs, particularly international politics, comes to us through some kind of media filter. Not surprisingly, these media have a profound influence on our perceptions of the rest of the world. Already in 1787, Edmund Burke had labeled the news media a non-official branch of government, or “the fourth estate.” Modern advancements of communication approaches and technologies—the telegraph, radio, television, film, and the Internet—have further colored the lenses through which we view diplomacy and foreign affairs. This course investigates the relationship between the media and international politics through a series of crucial case studies.

Buys College: Kara McLuckie and Eudora Watson
Stories: Seen, Heard, Told

Storytelling and story reading are fundamental human activities and make up the backbone of this course. Using various media including print, film, radio, and electronic, we will explore questions such as: How do we organize our experiences into stories? How can learning about the choices that go into creating a story help us as readers, writers, and performers? To what extent does language shape the content and order of stories? How can we move beyond the basics of plot and character in ways that deepen our experience of the story – be it short story, novel, graphic novel, film, radio, or blog? How does our ability to recognize the complexities of story build our capacity to think critically, develop empathy, and better understand our place in the world? We will read and discuss stories in the context of medium, record our response to those stories, conduct supported research, and create a final narrative project for public presentation.

Campbell College: Mary Jane Smith
Blues People: Race, History and Music in the U.S.

This FYP approaches the issue of U.S. race relations through the prism of African/American music and history. We will explore the ways in which music has tended to draw African-Americans and whites together and how it has, at other times, been manipulated to reinforce separation between the races. Specific musical genres and musicians will help us to tell the story of how African-American history, black/white race relations, and music intersect, particularly with the rise of spirituals during slavery, the rise of blues during the Great Migration, the rise of rock ‘n’ roll during the 1950s, the rise of soul music during the Civil Rights era, concluding with the post-Civil Rights rise of hip-hop and rap. This FYP will not cover all American musical genres, nor is it a history of American music. Rather this course will use music to discuss U.S. history and race relations.  Students do not need any music education or performance background for this course.

Clark College: Rachel Sturges and Amir Jaima
The Human Body: Metaphor and/or Physical Reality?

Linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson assert that the physical experiences of our bodies generate the metaphors we use to describe how we think. For example, we grasp an idea. Bodily metaphors also convey what we do or don't value. In times of happiness, we say our spirits are lifted and things are looking up. On the verge of a new experience, we take the plunge. If we agree with this claim about the body metaphor, how might the analysis of body metaphors give us insight into the values of different cultures or subcultures? After all, different religious traditions, historical movements, and modes of thinking read the body as metaphor differently. Our race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability frequently have an impact on the way we experience the world. So, how does the physical body interact with the body metaphor, especially if one's body is marked differently from social norms? Through a variety of readings and both oral and written assignments, we'll explore some of these questions.

Corey College: JJ Jockel & Ginny Schwartz
Coldest Cold War Flicks: Cold War History, Cold War Film

This course will examine the earliest and coldest days of the Cold War, a period extending from the end of World War II in 1945 to the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, through a sampling of historical texts and American movies made during that time. Movies are often more than just mindless escapism: the stories and texts continually recast by our culture not only entertain but also can provide a window into who we are, and were.

Because films, like literature, can reflect the time in which they are produced, we can study history and film together to gain insights into values, issues, beliefs, hopes, fears and historical experiences. We will look at how the motion pictures of the day reflected the major preoccupations of the early Cold War era, chief among them dealing with nuclear weapons, responding to the Soviet communist threat and undertaking America’s new responsibilities abroad, as well as enjoying prosperity and mobility at home in the new suburbs while spawning a generation that eventually would be called the “boomers.” Special attention will be paid to the noir films of the 1940s and 1950s, family melodramas such as Mildred Pierce and Rebel Without a Cause, horror films of the 1950s such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and nuclear war films such as On the Beach and Dr. Strangelove.

Curtin College: Elun Gabriel & Sarah Gates
The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien

This course will explore J. R. R. Tolkien’s imagined world of Middle-earth through The Lord of the Rings and other writings, while also placing Tolkien’s creative work within the context of the real world in which Tolkien lived. Through historical investigation of twentieth-century Britain and Europe, literary analysis of Tolkien’s novels, and exploration of Tolkien’s linguistic scholarship, religious beliefs, and personal life, we will gain a rich understanding of Tolkien and his work. We will also consider Tolkien’s influence on fantasy literature, the 1960s counterculture, and other aspects of modern culture.  Please note that this course is focused on Tolkien’s novels, not Peter Jackson’s movies (although we might spend a little time on the movies toward the end of the semester). 

Eaton College: Pedro Ponce and Madeleine Wong
Reading the Body

A friend looks at you with an expression of concern and asks, “Are you OK?“ Your opponent on the playing field takes a moment to size you up before a key play. Airport security asks you to please stand on the colored markings with your hands over your head.

Your body is being read all the time and represented in ways that are often contradictory to your own representation. You, in turn, are a reader of bodies: body language, facial expressions, and gestures. But if bodies can be read, can they be misread? Are ideas of “normal” bodies biological or culturally constructed? Are you yourself without your body?

This class will tackle these and related questions through a cultural history of the body from the Enlightenment to present day. In learning how we read bodies, we will consider the body from a number of different perspectives: history, human geography, psychology, biology, and aesthetics. We will consider the ways that bodies are used to define and regulate the self and society—from the idealized bodies of athletes and models to surveilled bodies to Joaquin Phoenix’s disembodied digital love interest in the film Her.  Along the way, you will learn some of the many ways that academic disciplines intersect and inform each other and cultivate the skills and strategies needed to make more of these connections for yourself.

Ford College: Karen Gibson
Children’s Literature and Its Life-long Lessons [CBL]

Stories exert a profound influence on humans by engaging our imaginations and teaching us life lessons while entertaining us.  From economics to advertising to the inspiration to follow your dreams, chances are, it was a piece of children’s literature that led to your initial understanding of the concepts and themes now guiding your young adult life.  As we explore the power of story-telling, you will learn to identify the many life lessons we first encountered as children and to consider their importance in your current life from a variety of different perspectives and disciplines.   A Community Based Learning component in which students spend time in local schools, day care centers, and libraries will be an essential part of the course and will allow you to observe and perhaps practice some of the material covered in class.  As a culminating experience, students will create their own literacy project, including an original children’s book and lesson plans to share with local children’s organizations. [CBL]

Gaines College: Larry Boyette
The Guitar as Instrument and Icon

Modern guitars as tools to make music reflect a long and continuing evolution shaped by the interaction of music, society, craft, materials and technology.  The woods from which guitars are made, for example, might be appreciated for their beauty, measured for their physical and acoustic properties, but also examined as a focal point of international conflict over the survival of rare species and the exploitation of the resources of developing nations.   Understanding contemporary design of guitar amplification requires looking back to the antiquated technology of vacuum tubes but also to advanced computer-driven sampling and emulation. 

Considered as an icon, or symbol, the guitar offers a similarly rich field for study.  What did Woody Guthrie mean when he wrote on his guitar “this machine kills fascists”?  Why did the organizers of Woodstock choose for their poster an abstract image of a dove perched on the headstock of a guitar?  Why did SLU alum Grace Potter lend her name to a signature model Flying V guitar? 

Although guitar players –and other musicians and artists—are encouraged to apply, all are welcome to this exploration, which will combine reading and listening with hands-on investigations of the science and craft of the guitar.

Green College:  Robert Thacker and Tom Greene
The Geography of Hope

Some of our most potent and enduring relationships are with places and regions. We visit them, learn to find our way through them, master their nuances, and eventually develop powerful relationships that nurture and shape us.  “Home” is a word that resonates emotionally and intellectually. Or in Wright Morris’s redolent phrase, “The Home Place.” Or as Eudora Welty once wrote, “a place that has been lived in is like a fire that never goes out.” Or as Wallace Stegner had it in his “Coda: A Wilderness Letter: “a geography of hope.” Personal and historical memory shape our seeing, our knowing, our understanding. We become scholars of these favorite places – documenting them objectively as field scientists, seeking to convey their emotional and aesthetic essence through descriptive narratives or fictional accounts. Our course will examine several North American locations to see what others have learned and expressed about their regions and, ultimately, about themselves.

Heaton College:  Karyn Crispo
Unlocking the Heart: Creating from the Inside Out

Pablo Picasso once said, “We artists are indestructible; even in a prison, or in a concentration camp, I would be almighty in my own world of art, even if I had to paint my pictures with my wet tongue on the dusty floor of my cell.”   How is it that in such heavy and dark times the punished or oppressed are able to create, and what role does creative expression play in healing and rehabilitation?  In the United States we use the term “correctional facility,” but is our criminal justice system correcting anything?  Why do we have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world?  In this course we will grapple with these questions, keeping human rights as our prime focus.  We’ll explore written and visual art as forms of therapy and rehabilitation for both victims and offenders.  Do our victims in New York find justice?  Are our inmates being treated humanely?  You’ll have an opportunity to work with local inmates in the St. Lawrence County correctional facility as well as work with advocacy groups like Think Outside the Box that aim to establish and maintain dignity for all inmates.  How can we serve victims while also treating offenders humanely?  How can we offer respect to all?

Herrick College:  Cynthia Bansak
Children’s Literature and Its Life-long Lessons in Business [CBL]

For many of us, our first experience in the world of business is the lemonade stand at the end of the driveway and the first key decision is what to charge for a glass of lemonade.  A nickel, a dime, or a dollar?   The price will make or break the business -- charge too much and no one will buy your lemonade; charge too little and you will not have enough.  Welcome to your first lesson in business.  Or is it?  Our business education starts at a much earlier age.  Children’s literature is ripe with economic metaphors and references to business.  Farmer Boy teaches children about sustainability, while The Lorax forces us to consider how business activity interacts with environmental concerns.  In these and other ways, stories exert a deep influence on humans, by capturing our imagination and teaching us economic concepts while entertaining us.  While learning about the power of children’s literature, students will become better versed in some basic economic principles and explore the many ways these ideas are communicated to children at a very young age.  For a final project, students will create their own children’s book and lesson plan and present them to local daycares, schools, and libraries. [CBL]

Holmes College: Jeff Maynes & Tina Tao
Sherlock Holmes and the Art and Science of Reasoning

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth!" This is a famous maxim of Sherlock Holmes, a rule used to reason through crimes and solve mysteries. In this course, we will use Holmes as a guide to understand how to reason critically and responsibly. Students will learn techniques for mapping arguments, identifying their logical structure, and evaluating their merits. We will explore many of the most interesting Holmes stories, both in Doyle's original novels and short stories and in television and film adaptions, to figure out exactly how he reasoned and to evaluate it ourselves—was Holmes that good, or just that lucky?

Students will practice understanding and evaluating arguments both from the Holmes stories and other related texts on topics ranging from friendship to fingerprinting. Over the course of the semester, we will practice these skills by pulling arguments from these texts, developing original arguments, and even writing some Holmes stories of our very own (with well-crafted arguments at the heart of them!). By the end of the course, students will be better prepared to reason through complex issues, both in and out of the classroom (but no promises about one's ability to solve crimes).

Manley College: Kate Spencer
Paths, Pilgrimages and Perspectives: A Study of Personal Narrative

What defines a journey? Movement? Travel? If we stay in the same physical place, do we not, nevertheless, still experience an internal journey? In all our commonalities, we come from different places and yet have all arrived here at St. Lawrence. You all took a journey to get here, and you are all about to embark on the journey known as “college.” You will learn things about this place and, more importantly, yourself. The goal is to write the journey as you have experienced it and to immerse yourself in the journeys of others. We will analyze and evaluate the self and its perpetual journey through life. Students will gain a more thorough understanding of the creative writing process, as well as critical approaches to reading and writing through workshops, peer evaluations, group projects, discussion, and self-reflection.

With the semester-long project of journaling, we will explore the meaning of personal narratives and develop our own. Special focus will be placed on the works of Jack Kerouac. We will also explore the spiritual journey through the eyes of other authors and artists by examining works in a variety of media, including film, music, web blogs, poetry, essays, and letters. The journal-writing component of the course will culminate in your strongest entries being transformed into a book as part of your final project. Since the nature of the journey itself is the backbone of the course, we will take at least one little journey of our own somewhere in the North Country.

Plaisance College:  Josh Exoo and Jessica Rogers
Your Place in the World: What it Means to be Local

There is no single definition of "local" in common use today; it means many things to many people.  We will read several different descriptions of "living local" from memoirs and explorations of growing and eating food in The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball and Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.  We’ll look at David Suzuki and Wayne Grady’s Tree: A Life Story and examine how the “biography” of a tree connects to students’ own experiences and what it means to connect to their environment.  There have also been many different types of literature that examine what it means to draw from your local environment - from food, to farms, to hiking and traveling, understanding culture and developing a sense of place.  Specifically we’ll draw upon a short story by Ernest Hemingway about the transformative power of knowing nature, essays by naturalist Wendell Berry about local culture, and several examples of poetry by Elizabeth Bishop, Phillip Levine, and Percy Shelley looking at what local might mean in contrast to global.  Each of these readings, along with others, will explore what it means to be local.  

Pomponio College:  Serge Onyper
Back to the Land: Seeking Simplicity in an Age of Complexity

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to own a hobby farm or a homestead or live as part of a self-sustaining community? What is the allure of such a lifestyle? Would you be able to do it? Recent history is full of examples of individuals and communities that have returned “to the land” to seek the simplicity of life in harmony with the natural world. What does this lifestyle entail? How do these practices impact the local economies? More importantly, is it a life worth living?

The course will survey the back-to-the-land movement generally, with a focus on its rich history in the North Country of New York State. We will try to grasp, chronicle, and, in some ways, relive the pioneer spirit that has driven many to return to the land. We will contemplate the reasons for choosing a lifestyle close to nature and explore the multiple ways in which the ideals of the back-to-the-country movement can be put into practice. Through a series of field trips and guest lectures, we will meet individuals and explore regional communities that have embraced simple living and discuss their successes and struggles. We will also ponder the larger questions regarding the sustainability of their ideals in the face of a global consumer culture that gives little thought to its impact on the earth’s life-support systems.

Priest College: Matt McCluskey and George Repicky
Rural Dreams: Surveying the Plight and Promise of America’s Small Towns [CBL]

While rural areas currently account for less than a fifth of America’s population, small towns have played an outsized role in the  nation’s history, political economy, and understanding of itself, even as they have faced existential challenges for much of the past century.   In this course, we will closely examine the histories, present circumstances, and potential futures of rural America. As a class, we will debate whether small towns need or deserve special protections in a world that is rapidly urbanizing. We will explore the types of economic initiatives and leadership models that could help reinvigorate rural communities. Students will also consider what we can do about the rural poverty, environmental problems, and outward migration of talented young people that we encounter with disconcerting regularity. 

To fully explore these questions, we will consider the role that agriculture, energy development, local institutions, regional power structures, demographic patterns, government policies, and globalized economic practices have on small towns. To guide this exploration, we will examine a variety of literary, philosophical, historical, scientific, and public policy-related texts. There will be a special emphasis within the course upon learning about Canton and its surrounding communities. We will work together to place local challenges and opportunities within a national context and to identify past and current visions that have shaped the life of this particular place. To fulfill this goal, students will be asked to participate in Community-Based Learning (CBL) placements for 20 hours during the semester, engage in local archival research, and listen to the stories of our neighbors in New York’s North Country.  [CBL]

Reiff College:  Meg Flaherty, Tom Ryan, Elisa Van Kirk
Developing the Leader Within: What Makes A Leader? [CBL]

Leadership involves influence. The modern view sees it more as a process of mobilizing a group toward a common goal than a set of inborn traits. Throughout the course, we will explore leadership theory and discuss how it applies to real life situations. Topics central to leadership include self-confidence, motivation, vision, integrity, and overcoming adversity. Clearly communicating a message through public-speaking, prose, or modern media is essential to influencing others. In addition to reading texts, you will take part in various writing assignments, group projects, public speaking and community-based learning experiences. We all have the potential to lead in our own way. This course is meant to help current and aspiring leaders gain a better understanding of effective leadership and to provide the tools necessary to bring out the leader within. [CBL]

Romer College:  Heidi Pitzer and Jennifer “Alex” Norden
Revisiting, Representing and Reimagining Education: (Re)Telling School Stories

Did you receive a good education? What is a “good” education (and is it something you “receive”)? What is education for, and for whom? How could your K-12 education have been different? This course asks you to revisit your schooling experiences using sociological, cultural studies, historical, and philosophical lenses, which you will develop during the semester. We will examine the purposes, practices, and contexts of education and the stories we tell about school. We will consider how political and social forces shape school life—how do the structures of race, class, sexuality, and gender reproduce themselves in schools? How do capitalism, globalization, neoliberalism, and democracy play out in education? Through critically reflecting on and writing about your own education and through examining a range of popular educational narratives, you will explore how these forces influence the ways we think about and talk about school. We will interrupt some of the “commonsense” talk about school and work to tell new, more inclusive, and more democratic stories about school.

Romoda College: Neil Forkey
Identity and Belonging in the St. Lawrence Valley

What does it mean to live on or near an international border, specifically one created by the natural landscape, such as the St. Lawrence River? How do these political and geographical borders shape the identities of people living there? Your university sits in the St. Lawrence River Valley, which has occupied an important place in the history of North America since the pre-contact period between First Peoples and Europeans. It has served simultaneously as a place of residence, transportation route, conduit of commerce, and sometimes national symbol. French explorer Jacques Cartier christened it the “River of Canada.” Indeed, the capital and technological flows between Europe, Montreal, and the Great Lakes region spurred new opportunities and migrations that owe so much to the force of this majestic river.

In this course, we will focus on the differing local and national cultures of the United States and Canada as seen in the St. Lawrence Valley. Using a roughly historical approach, we will trace early contact between First Peoples and European settlers, the portrayal of cultures and identities, colonization and expansion, and the development of each nation to the contemporary period. Our prime concern will be the definition of this borderland region as part of the two nation-states and the continuing role its First Peoples play in it. Case studies include differing approaches to Western expansion, models of settlement, trade (the fur trade to free trade), environmental issues, and approaches to social policy. We will expand our exploration of the cultural experiences of Canada and the United States, both mythic and real, outside the classroom through at least one field trip.

Sawyer College: Sue Manory and Greg Miller
Health and Wellness for Life

Mental and physical well-being is, in part, determined by individual behavior, personal choice, and circumstances.  Due to an increased understanding of the myriad benefits of a healthy lifestyle, coupled with nationwide attention to physical, mental, and social issues impacting today’s society, maintaining a healthy, well-balanced existence is more important than ever.  This course is intended to expand students’ awareness of lifestyle choices that will have a positive impact upon health and well-being throughout the college experience and beyond.  During the course, we will ask you to read a variety of texts, as well as undertake a series of written and oral assignments and group projects to foster a critical understanding of mental, personal, and physical values which will promote healthy decision making for a lifetime of well-being.

Sprague College:  Diane Exoo and Rebecca Jewell
Murder and Mayhem: Literature and the Law

Victims and villains, sleuths and scenarios, destruction and deduction… from the Victorian parlor to the modern-day movieplex, audiences have long been fascinated by stories of murder and mayhem. These stories, however, do a lot more than entertain.  Every mystery is an intellectual invitation to construct a narrative that makes order from chaos.

Every mystery is simply a problem of information. Solving a mystery is an exercise in multidisciplinary critical thinking. It is an exercise in research and pattern recognition, logic and deduction, and constructing a plausible narrative from the given text or clues. Furthermore, stories about crime solving provide useful models for the processes of researching and presenting an argument.

In this course, we will examine how the disciplines of the liberal arts have been used to solve some of recent history's foulest deeds. From literature to statistics, sociology, and philosophy, we will be investigating how the modes of critical thinking across various discipline have been used to solve crime. Paying particular attention to mystery and crime fiction as literary genres, we will consider the work of writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Agatha Christie, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the makers of popular TV shows such as Dexter and Law & Order. We will let their narratives guide us in exploring how we—as individual writers and as a society—might best make sense of a world of uncertainty.

Young College: Jennifer MacGregor
The Creative Process

Creativity seems to be the buzzword of the decade, a trait valued not just in the arts, but in science, business, therapeutic modalities, and in our most prized self-images. Like the children of fictional Lake Wobegon, we all hope that we possess creativity in levels “greater than average.” But what is creativity?  What is going on in the mind and body when one is producing a creative work or solution? In this course, we will focus primarily on the creative process in the arts, with particular emphasis on those creative endeavors that promote healing or change, in both individuals and communities. Additionally, we will begin to learn the necessary craft of critique and will rely on both ancient philosophers (such as Aristotle) and modern critics (such as Danto) to gain an understanding of why all art is not equally “good,” as we pull apart the cultural constraints on our artistic judgments. To this end, each student will individually explore his or her own creative process through a variety of artistic media (poetry and prose, drawing and painting, music). Additionally, as a class we will work on collaborative creative pieces, exploring what Ingmar Bergman called “the magic lantern” of the synergistic group endeavor. No prior artistic experience required, but a willingness to step outside your comfort zone and explore creative potential in various modalities is important.


Ref: FYP/Fall 2014/ 2014-FINAL-Fall-FYP Course Descriptions--7-7-14.docx