Engagements at a Glance

EGMT 1510: Engaging Aesthetics

Fall 2017

Fall Session One: August 22 - October 13

EGMT 1510/1530: Making the Invisible Visible

EGMT 1510/1530: Making the Invisible Visible

What do cultural artifacts—monuments, songs, books, films, TV shows, paintings, folk art, and so on—reveal about our cultures? And what are their limitations? In considering these questions, we will ask whether and to what extent engaging aesthetics and difference are complementary endeavors. Addressing these questions will require us to consider aesthetics and human difference from a number of angles. We will ask how the positions we take when reading—both physical and ideological—influence our interpretations, and the kinds of arguments monuments make to us based upon their positioning and how they ask us to approach them. Along these lines, we will also explore the concept and practice of audience and what it means to approach aesthetics in the public realm. How is reading or viewing shaped by those around us? What’s the difference between an audience in a movie theater, stage production, museum, or class? Why do different venues require different forms of spectatorship? Similarly, imagine the same cultural artifact, such as a song, in varied contexts or performed by different kinds of people. These and other concerns will animate the course as we study the way that cultural artifacts produced in particular historical moments are subject to current and future interpretation.

Instructed by

Woolfork

Lisa
Associate Professor of English

The College Fellows program appealed to me because I am committed to pedagogical notions that fuel successful humanities courses: rigor, spirited inquiry, and techniques that open up spaces for collaborative learning. I believe that the best teaching combines the inspiration of art, sometimes painstaking craft, and a dash of magic – those indiscernible elements of classroom interaction that elevate what could have been flat dialogue into experiences that reside in memory long after the class ends. I like to think that students find my classes memorable because I challenge them to engage the subject material in a variety of forms, because I value them and respect their contributions, and because I prioritize the learning enterprise that we’ve committed to embark upon together.

The Engagements provide an opportunity to extend my teaching of African-American literature and culture beyond the scope of the specific field and into the general terrain of understanding difference. For my courses, this will involve a macroscopic view of how racial difference was (and is) constructed in American life. Students entering one of my classes quickly realize that they will be responsible for much of their own learning; as a result, they learn to expand their academic capacity, to take risks, and extend their intellectual reach. As an associate professor of English, I try to create a challenging, engaging and exciting environment that promotes rigor. I seek an atmosphere in which everyone feels free to speak, as well as a space in which students critically connect with the course materials rather than speak solely from personal experience or anecdotes.

,

Goldblatt

Laura
Posdoctoral Fellow

I worked as an English teacher at a failing high school in the Mississippi Delta before arriving at the University of Virginia. Nearly all of my high-school students were of color and qualified for free or reduced price lunch: I can count the exceptions to this rule on a single hand. More than half of the female students in my classes graduated from or left high school with at least one child, and my daily headcount too often depended upon sentences in juvenile detention, or worse.

Suffice it to say that the student body at the University of Virginia, an elite public institution that largely educates the children of professionals, has little in common with those who helped me craft my earliest and most abiding pedagogical principles. Despite these differences, both experiences have shown me that good teaching does not depend upon academic level and that the classroom can serve as a powerful laboratory for participatory democracy.

Due to these experiences, the hands-on, collaborative, and wildly ambitious pedagogical imagination at the core of the Engagements proposal drew me to the program. Two main goals guide my teaching. On the pedagogical side, using the tenets of cultural and literary study, I urge my students to view aesthetic objects as entangled in a complex web of meanings, historical contexts, and relationships that require consideration from multiple perspectives and methodologies. But for me, teaching also has material consequences on my students’ lives and the lives of those with whom they interact.

Beyond the content I convey, I aim to teach my students to think critically and creatively about the local and global systems in which they are imbedded while also urging them to consider possibilities to be realized outside these systems. I consider my courses a success when my students acquire the ability to consider the different viewpoints that can be brought to bear on cultural artifacts and to resist the urge to overlook the way something is said—its packaging—when considering its message. Most of all, I hope my classes will give them the courage to speak.

T/R 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1510: Art: Inside/Out

EGMT 1510: Art: Inside/Out

In this course, you will explore our world through the lens of artistic creation and aesthetic encounter in its many forms: from the arts of painting and sculpture to literature, music, and theater, to experiences of the natural world. Through a series of encounters with specific objects, interpretive and critical readings, interactions with practicing artists, and your own hands-on creative exercises, you will become familiar with some of the many ways that art and aesthetics shape human experience and culture. By the end of the semester you will have learned:

  • some of the principles of description and analysis of aesthetic experience and objects;
  • how historical, geographical, and cultural differences have shaped ideas and experiences of arts;
  • what creativity looks like “from the inside”: that is, from the perspective of practicing artists an in your own creative enterprises;
  • how art has been understood to affect and even transform us as individuals and cultures.

With the UVA Grounds and the Charlottesville community as our laboratory, our work in this course will embrace visits to studios and from practicing artists, and will extend to museums, film, and musical and theatrical performance. In every case we will bring to bear our readings and discussion of arts criticism, philosophy, and commentary--including your own. We will think together about the power of art as well as notions of art’s ‘aura’; about the range of cultural frameworks for art and aesthetic encounter (institutions, experience, critique); about the “time” of art and its changing nature over historical periods; and about aesthetic wonder and artistic creativity as dispositions you can harness and take forward into other realms of your lives.

Instructed by

Betzer

Sarah
Co-Director of the College Fellows & Associate Professor of Art History

An art historian by training, I was drawn to the work of the College Fellows and to the Engagements curriculum as a creative, innovative approach to rethinking the general education experience at the University of Virginia. I am tremendously excited about the College Fellows Program, an extraordinary opportunity to harness the deep, disciplinary expertise of UVA’s exceptionally devoted scholar-teachers working together to pose larger questions that transcend familiar disciplinary boundaries.

To this end, the new Engaging Aesthetics courses that we’ve designed will help students become sophisticated consumers and creators of texts, images, and ideas, developing skills that will provide an essential foundation for their undergraduate experiences across the arts and sciences and for their lives beyond UVA. Engaging Aesthetics courses provide an ideal opportunity to explore the enduring power of one of the key insights of the 18th century: art has the capacity to act upon, inspire, and even transform, its viewers.

Since joining the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences faculty in 2007, I have participated in the Pavilion Seminar program and have taught art history courses at all levels of the undergraduate and graduate curriculum. My research focuses on 18th- and 19th-century European art, art writing, and aesthetic theory. My first book, Ingres and the Studio: Women, Painting, History, focused on 19th-century French artist J.-A.-D. Ingres. My current research explores artistic encounters with ancient figural sculpture in the century after the discoveries of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the 1750s.

Course Name: Title: 
,

Holsinger

Bruce
Professor of English

It’s been an honor to join colleagues across the disciplines at the University of Virginia in rethinking how we teach our incoming first years, and I’m excited to meet and learn from a new generation of students in the coming years. I am a scholar of literature as well as a fiction writer, with interests that span medieval literature, historical fiction and fantasy, religious studies, and the history of the book. I’ve taught courses on a variety of topics, from “Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” to “Literature and the Environment,” from “Crime Fiction” to “The Literature of Fantasy from The Hobbit to Game of Thrones.”

In my view, the most effective and exciting teaching at any level involves bringing fresh perspectives into the classroom at every opportunity, a sensibility that has also inspired my scholarly and creative writing over the years. My most recent books are two novels, A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire, historical thrillers that draw on my knowledge of the medieval period while helping me see this fascinating era from a new perspective.

My current research will result in a book titled Archive of the Animal: The Parchment Inheritance and the Common Era, which tells the strange story of parchment, the treated animal skin that was the most important writing surface in the European world for about a thousand years. I’ve worked with scientists, archivists, craftsmen, artists, and many others while writing this book, and it’s shown me how much we can all learn from a diverse range of perspectives on what we think we already know.

Course Name: Title: 
T/R 9:30am - 10:45am
EGMT 1510: Extinction in Art and Literature

EGMT 1510: Extinction in Art and Literature

Scientists recently designated the contemporary era as the sixth age of mass extinction, and the first in which humanity has played the primary role. This course explores how man-made, or anthropogenic, extinction is being conceptualized and represented in literature, visual art and other cultural artifacts. We’ll explore how writers and artists think about and with the idea of our age of extinction as an urgent conceptual, representational and ethical problem, and the modes and media they use. Aesthetic approaches to this environmental crisis implicitly or explicitly force us to address the question of the ethical possibilities of the arts and encourage us to rethink what ethical engagement might look like across longer timescales and global networks of action.

            We’ll address one of the most pressing global issues of our time through the close analysis of literary texts, visual art, data visualizations, audio recordings, photojournalism and film that try to give a shape to a process that is not always visible, immediately experienced, or easily apprehended. We will ask how extinction has been imagined, through what forms and aesthetic expressions, and to what uses it has been put. What kinds of historical narratives and innovative visualizations emerge from efforts to imagine extinction? What aesthetic strategies do writers and artists use to conceptualize the idea of extinction within and alongside other historical, cultural and scientific processes – imperial expansion and colonization, conflict, fantasies of lost worlds, “deep” time, re-wilding, and so-called “de-extinction,” the resurrection of species?

Instructed by
M/W 12:30pm - 1:45pm

Fall Session Two: October 16 - December 5

EGMT 1510/1530: Making the Invisible Visible

EGMT 1510/1530: Making the Invisible Visible

What do cultural artifacts—monuments, songs, books, films, TV shows, paintings, folk art, and so on—reveal about our cultures? And what are their limitations? In considering these questions, we will ask whether and to what extent engaging aesthetics and difference are complementary endeavors. Addressing these questions will require us to consider aesthetics and human difference from a number of angles. We will ask how the positions we take when reading—both physical and ideological—influence our interpretations, and the kinds of arguments monuments make to us based upon their positioning and how they ask us to approach them. Along these lines, we will also explore the concept and practice of audience and what it means to approach aesthetics in the public realm. How is reading or viewing shaped by those around us? What’s the difference between an audience in a movie theater, stage production, museum, or class? Why do different venues require different forms of spectatorship? Similarly, imagine the same cultural artifact, such as a song, in varied contexts or performed by different kinds of people. These and other concerns will animate the course as we study the way that cultural artifacts produced in particular historical moments are subject to current and future interpretation.

Instructed by

Woolfork

Lisa
Associate Professor of English

The College Fellows program appealed to me because I am committed to pedagogical notions that fuel successful humanities courses: rigor, spirited inquiry, and techniques that open up spaces for collaborative learning. I believe that the best teaching combines the inspiration of art, sometimes painstaking craft, and a dash of magic – those indiscernible elements of classroom interaction that elevate what could have been flat dialogue into experiences that reside in memory long after the class ends. I like to think that students find my classes memorable because I challenge them to engage the subject material in a variety of forms, because I value them and respect their contributions, and because I prioritize the learning enterprise that we’ve committed to embark upon together.

The Engagements provide an opportunity to extend my teaching of African-American literature and culture beyond the scope of the specific field and into the general terrain of understanding difference. For my courses, this will involve a macroscopic view of how racial difference was (and is) constructed in American life. Students entering one of my classes quickly realize that they will be responsible for much of their own learning; as a result, they learn to expand their academic capacity, to take risks, and extend their intellectual reach. As an associate professor of English, I try to create a challenging, engaging and exciting environment that promotes rigor. I seek an atmosphere in which everyone feels free to speak, as well as a space in which students critically connect with the course materials rather than speak solely from personal experience or anecdotes.

,

Goldblatt

Laura
Posdoctoral Fellow

I worked as an English teacher at a failing high school in the Mississippi Delta before arriving at the University of Virginia. Nearly all of my high-school students were of color and qualified for free or reduced price lunch: I can count the exceptions to this rule on a single hand. More than half of the female students in my classes graduated from or left high school with at least one child, and my daily headcount too often depended upon sentences in juvenile detention, or worse.

Suffice it to say that the student body at the University of Virginia, an elite public institution that largely educates the children of professionals, has little in common with those who helped me craft my earliest and most abiding pedagogical principles. Despite these differences, both experiences have shown me that good teaching does not depend upon academic level and that the classroom can serve as a powerful laboratory for participatory democracy.

Due to these experiences, the hands-on, collaborative, and wildly ambitious pedagogical imagination at the core of the Engagements proposal drew me to the program. Two main goals guide my teaching. On the pedagogical side, using the tenets of cultural and literary study, I urge my students to view aesthetic objects as entangled in a complex web of meanings, historical contexts, and relationships that require consideration from multiple perspectives and methodologies. But for me, teaching also has material consequences on my students’ lives and the lives of those with whom they interact.

Beyond the content I convey, I aim to teach my students to think critically and creatively about the local and global systems in which they are imbedded while also urging them to consider possibilities to be realized outside these systems. I consider my courses a success when my students acquire the ability to consider the different viewpoints that can be brought to bear on cultural artifacts and to resist the urge to overlook the way something is said—its packaging—when considering its message. Most of all, I hope my classes will give them the courage to speak.

T/R 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1510: Art: Inside/Out

EGMT 1510: Art: Inside/Out

In this course, you will explore our world through the lens of artistic creation and aesthetic encounter in its many forms: from the arts of painting and sculpture to literature, music, and theater, to experiences of the natural world. Through a series of encounters with specific objects, interpretive and critical readings, interactions with practicing artists, and your own hands-on creative exercises, you will become familiar with some of the many ways that art and aesthetics shape human experience and culture. By the end of the semester you will have learned:

  • some of the principles of description and analysis of aesthetic experience and objects;
  • how historical, geographical, and cultural differences have shaped ideas and experiences of arts;
  • what creativity looks like “from the inside”: that is, from the perspective of practicing artists an in your own creative enterprises;
  • how art has been understood to affect and even transform us as individuals and cultures.

With the UVA Grounds and the Charlottesville community as our laboratory, our work in this course will embrace visits to studios and from practicing artists, and will extend to museums, film, and musical and theatrical performance. In every case we will bring to bear our readings and discussion of arts criticism, philosophy, and commentary--including your own. We will think together about the power of art as well as notions of art’s ‘aura’; about the range of cultural frameworks for art and aesthetic encounter (institutions, experience, critique); about the “time” of art and its changing nature over historical periods; and about aesthetic wonder and artistic creativity as dispositions you can harness and take forward into other realms of your lives.

Instructed by

Betzer

Sarah
Co-Director of the College Fellows & Associate Professor of Art History

An art historian by training, I was drawn to the work of the College Fellows and to the Engagements curriculum as a creative, innovative approach to rethinking the general education experience at the University of Virginia. I am tremendously excited about the College Fellows Program, an extraordinary opportunity to harness the deep, disciplinary expertise of UVA’s exceptionally devoted scholar-teachers working together to pose larger questions that transcend familiar disciplinary boundaries.

To this end, the new Engaging Aesthetics courses that we’ve designed will help students become sophisticated consumers and creators of texts, images, and ideas, developing skills that will provide an essential foundation for their undergraduate experiences across the arts and sciences and for their lives beyond UVA. Engaging Aesthetics courses provide an ideal opportunity to explore the enduring power of one of the key insights of the 18th century: art has the capacity to act upon, inspire, and even transform, its viewers.

Since joining the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences faculty in 2007, I have participated in the Pavilion Seminar program and have taught art history courses at all levels of the undergraduate and graduate curriculum. My research focuses on 18th- and 19th-century European art, art writing, and aesthetic theory. My first book, Ingres and the Studio: Women, Painting, History, focused on 19th-century French artist J.-A.-D. Ingres. My current research explores artistic encounters with ancient figural sculpture in the century after the discoveries of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the 1750s.

Course Name: Title: 
,

Holsinger

Bruce
Professor of English

It’s been an honor to join colleagues across the disciplines at the University of Virginia in rethinking how we teach our incoming first years, and I’m excited to meet and learn from a new generation of students in the coming years. I am a scholar of literature as well as a fiction writer, with interests that span medieval literature, historical fiction and fantasy, religious studies, and the history of the book. I’ve taught courses on a variety of topics, from “Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” to “Literature and the Environment,” from “Crime Fiction” to “The Literature of Fantasy from The Hobbit to Game of Thrones.”

In my view, the most effective and exciting teaching at any level involves bringing fresh perspectives into the classroom at every opportunity, a sensibility that has also inspired my scholarly and creative writing over the years. My most recent books are two novels, A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire, historical thrillers that draw on my knowledge of the medieval period while helping me see this fascinating era from a new perspective.

My current research will result in a book titled Archive of the Animal: The Parchment Inheritance and the Common Era, which tells the strange story of parchment, the treated animal skin that was the most important writing surface in the European world for about a thousand years. I’ve worked with scientists, archivists, craftsmen, artists, and many others while writing this book, and it’s shown me how much we can all learn from a diverse range of perspectives on what we think we already know.

Course Name: Title: 
T/R 9:30am-10:45am
EGMT 1510: Extinction in Art and Literature

EGMT 1510: Extinction in Art and Literature

Scientists recently designated the contemporary era as the sixth age of mass extinction, and the first in which humanity has played the primary role. This course explores how man-made, or anthropogenic, extinction is being conceptualized and represented in literature, visual art and other cultural artifacts. We’ll explore how writers and artists think about and with the idea of our age of extinction as an urgent conceptual, representational and ethical problem, and the modes and media they use. Aesthetic approaches to this environmental crisis implicitly or explicitly force us to address the question of the ethical possibilities of the arts and encourage us to rethink what ethical engagement might look like across longer timescales and global networks of action.

            We’ll address one of the most pressing global issues of our time through the close analysis of literary texts, visual art, data visualizations, audio recordings, photojournalism and film that try to give a shape to a process that is not always visible, immediately experienced, or easily apprehended. We will ask how extinction has been imagined, through what forms and aesthetic expressions, and to what uses it has been put. What kinds of historical narratives and innovative visualizations emerge from efforts to imagine extinction? What aesthetic strategies do writers and artists use to conceptualize the idea of extinction within and alongside other historical, cultural and scientific processes – imperial expansion and colonization, conflict, fantasies of lost worlds, “deep” time, re-wilding, and so-called “de-extinction,” the resurrection of species?

Instructed by
T/R 9:30am - 10:45am
EGMT 1510: Telling the Truth

EGMT 1510: Telling the Truth

There is no such thing as “Just the facts, Ma’am.” When journalists tell stories, when filmmakers craft documentaries, even when scientists write up lab reports and judges pronounce their decisions — there’s an aesthetic dimension to their work. Telling the truth is intrinsically wrapped up in the art of the telling, just as great fiction, conversely, conveys some deeper truth about life. Documenting facts in any genre or style carries with it a sense of drama: the composer structures a narrative, selects what to say, gives the facts coherence, builds them up around an argument (sometimes implicit), and attempts to touch her audience in some way. At the same time, claiming to tell the truth bestows added authority on the drama and extra responsibility on its author. Whether the story is told in images, words, music, voice or film, the facts must always be reconciled with the art, and the art with the facts. Why is this so?And does this mean that telling the truth is hopelessly relative, subjective, manipulative? In this course, we’ll look at the interplay of truth and beauty in works of nonfiction —documentary storytelling. We’ll debate the norms and conventions of different forms of such work. And we’ll discuss the complicated role that the “art of facts” plays in helping people grasp reality. Your assignments will involve making your own miniature documentary in one or another genre, and engaging with one another’s work in the spirit of collaborative creativity. Our “storytelling cooperative” places you in artistic fellowships where you’ll experiment with a particular medium. You and your fellow artists will workshop narratives of your own, produce a draft story, and then reflect on your composition. This effort invites you to think about how a sense of narrative honesty and a knack for storytelling together can enrich your life experiences.

Instructed by

Armengol

Roberto
Postdoctoral Fellow

I’m an anthropologist who studies contemporary cultures and societies. When I’m not designing and teaching Engagements, I research and write about what I call “the people’s socialism” in Cuba — the way self-employed workers on the island compete with and support one another in new kinds of entrepreneurship that complicate our simple views about the “amoral market.” I’m also working toward a new project on sustainable cultures.

Anthropology is all about the human condition, in all its staggering variation. While some of my colleagues dig up relics and remains in search of bygone eras, most of us live in the now — among the people we study. We observe their values and customs, with empathy. We delight in difference, and ask what we hold in common. We cultivate the practice of knowing by experience, and move others with stories of that experience well told. We foster wonderment in the human spirit, and our work sits in that sense at the crossroads of all the disciplines.

I came to the Engagements hoping to light a spark in young people for that same kind of learning and doing. In my classes, students visit local landmarks and debate the histories that haunt us. They interview the unseen faces in their own neighborhoods. They simulate the way natural disasters get written on a social landscape. This is what deep learning is about: questioning our commonsense notions and exploring alternative ways of being with dogged devotion to the real, navigating hopeful arguments for the possible.

M/W 12:30pm - 1:45pm

Spring 2018

Spring Session One: January 17 - March 13

EGMT 1510/1530: New Media Art in the Age of Global Networks

EGMT 1510/1530: New Media Art in the Age of Global Networks

If art has always had a role to play in mediating relationships between human beings, what artistic and social possibilities are emerging with the new media in the mix — from internet art and interactive sound art, to fully immersive virtual realities and AI’s that dream? Do computer technologies and global networks promote the democratization of artistic production, distribution, and reception? Or do they reinforce or even amplify imbalances of power and of access to resources that already exist? Do present-day configurations of art, technology, and media culture allow us to gain empathy for and insight into the experiences of different people and communities? Or do they obscure differences by requiring us to conform to the logics of our tools and techniques? Do computers expand creative possibilities and transform what's possible in art? Or do they, instead, undermine the artist's imagination, originality, and artistry? After all, how do computers change art-making?

In this course, we will explore these questions and others through encounters with a variety of new media artworks and practices, made by people working in a variety of different cultures and social situations. We will use new media as a way to respond to course content — and to make new, propositional works.

Instructed by

Coffey

Ted
Associate Professor of Music

I teach subjects at the intersection of music, culture, and technology. I make acoustic and electronic chamber music, sound installations, and songs, and much of my practice involves collaboration with artists working in other media.

I was drawn to the College Fellows to enrich and refine my teaching, especially through community with other scholars thinking through new perspectives, ideas, and methods. When I consider “engaging aesthetics” as one of the themes for the Engagements courses we’ve designed, to me it implies appreciating and evolving an ancient, profoundly human way of reasoning, one distinct from and not reducible to other ways of reasoning. Both in the apprehension and in the poetic practices of art, things can be demonstrably true without being quantifiable. In fact, we may not even be able to specify what quanta are relevant. Yet even where haphazard proliferation of ‘facts’ effects white noise, art maintains its power to speak, to cut through, to tell stories that we recognize as true.

This is part of why the arts are fundamental rather than ornamental to human experience. The other part has to do with what education fundamentally is: the transformation of areas of knowledge and practice once unfamiliar into that which we hold dear, full of logic, specificity and care. As more of the world is transformed in this way, we gain traction toward humility and intellectual honesty, less inclined to prejudge our fellows and worlds, more inclined and able to commune with them. 

,

Kasra

Mona
Assistant Professor of Digital Media Design, Department of Drama

I believe the Engagements courses offer a unique and transformative educational experience that fosters independent learning, active participation, and critical and reflective thinking. My scholarly work and creative practice is centered on transdisciplinary exploration and critical examination of the confluence of visual communication and emerging media in the 21st century, and my pedagogy reflects my artistic practice and scholarship. I believe in empowering students to understand the sociopolitical and cultural implications of technology and to experiment with the ways by which new media can enhance and reimagine narrative, performance, and personal and creative forms of expression.

I strive to equip students with strong foundations in media literacy, theory, and practice while introducing them to emerging media as spaces for creation, reflection, and speculation. As an assistant professor of digital media design in the College’s Department of Drama, I work to continuously find new ways to connect technology to students’ creative ingenuity and help them develop critical perspectives on new technologies and artistic practices.

I apply an interdisciplinary framework to my research, combining semiotics, visual studies, media theory, and cultural studies to examine the power and impact of online images upon cross-cultural and cross-political life in the networked age. I have exhibited work in numerous exhibitions and have programmed, curated, and served as a juror for several film festivals and art exhibitions. In 2016, I served as the conference chair at ACM SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest, most influential annual conference on the theory and practice of computer graphics and interactive techniques.

T/R 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1510: Art: Inside/Out

EGMT 1510: Art: Inside/Out

In this course, you will explore our world through the lens of artistic creation and aesthetic encounter in its many forms: from the arts of painting and sculpture to literature, music, and theater, to experiences of the natural world. Through a series of encounters with specific objects, interpretive and critical readings, interactions with practicing artists, and your own hands-on creative exercises, you will become familiar with some of the many ways that art and aesthetics shape human experience and culture. By the end of the semester you will have learned:

  • some of the principles of description and analysis of aesthetic experience and objects;
  • how historical, geographical, and cultural differences have shaped ideas and experiences of arts;
  • what creativity looks like “from the inside”: that is, from the perspective of practicing artists an in your own creative enterprises;
  • how art has been understood to affect and even transform us as individuals and cultures.

With the UVA Grounds and the Charlottesville community as our laboratory, our work in this course will embrace visits to studios and from practicing artists, and will extend to museums, film, and musical and theatrical performance. In every case we will bring to bear our readings and discussion of arts criticism, philosophy, and commentary--including your own. We will think together about the power of art as well as notions of art’s ‘aura’; about the range of cultural frameworks for art and aesthetic encounter (institutions, experience, critique); about the “time” of art and its changing nature over historical periods; and about aesthetic wonder and artistic creativity as dispositions you can harness and take forward into other realms of your lives.

Instructed by

Betzer

Sarah
Co-Director of the College Fellows & Associate Professor of Art History

An art historian by training, I was drawn to the work of the College Fellows and to the Engagements curriculum as a creative, innovative approach to rethinking the general education experience at the University of Virginia. I am tremendously excited about the College Fellows Program, an extraordinary opportunity to harness the deep, disciplinary expertise of UVA’s exceptionally devoted scholar-teachers working together to pose larger questions that transcend familiar disciplinary boundaries.

To this end, the new Engaging Aesthetics courses that we’ve designed will help students become sophisticated consumers and creators of texts, images, and ideas, developing skills that will provide an essential foundation for their undergraduate experiences across the arts and sciences and for their lives beyond UVA. Engaging Aesthetics courses provide an ideal opportunity to explore the enduring power of one of the key insights of the 18th century: art has the capacity to act upon, inspire, and even transform, its viewers.

Since joining the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences faculty in 2007, I have participated in the Pavilion Seminar program and have taught art history courses at all levels of the undergraduate and graduate curriculum. My research focuses on 18th- and 19th-century European art, art writing, and aesthetic theory. My first book, Ingres and the Studio: Women, Painting, History, focused on 19th-century French artist J.-A.-D. Ingres. My current research explores artistic encounters with ancient figural sculpture in the century after the discoveries of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the 1750s.

Course Name: Title: 
,

Holsinger

Bruce
Professor of English

It’s been an honor to join colleagues across the disciplines at the University of Virginia in rethinking how we teach our incoming first years, and I’m excited to meet and learn from a new generation of students in the coming years. I am a scholar of literature as well as a fiction writer, with interests that span medieval literature, historical fiction and fantasy, religious studies, and the history of the book. I’ve taught courses on a variety of topics, from “Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” to “Literature and the Environment,” from “Crime Fiction” to “The Literature of Fantasy from The Hobbit to Game of Thrones.”

In my view, the most effective and exciting teaching at any level involves bringing fresh perspectives into the classroom at every opportunity, a sensibility that has also inspired my scholarly and creative writing over the years. My most recent books are two novels, A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire, historical thrillers that draw on my knowledge of the medieval period while helping me see this fascinating era from a new perspective.

My current research will result in a book titled Archive of the Animal: The Parchment Inheritance and the Common Era, which tells the strange story of parchment, the treated animal skin that was the most important writing surface in the European world for about a thousand years. I’ve worked with scientists, archivists, craftsmen, artists, and many others while writing this book, and it’s shown me how much we can all learn from a diverse range of perspectives on what we think we already know.

Course Name: Title: 
T/R 11:00am - 12:15pm
EGMT 1510: Black and White - Race and Photography in America

EGMT 1510: Black and White - Race and Photography in America

What does it mean to see the world in black and white? How has photography as a medium shaped how we understand race? How have ideas about race shaped aesthetic practices in photography?  This course explores the overlapping histories of photography and race in the nineteenth and twentieth century US.

Technologies for seeing and making sense of the world, race in a post-emancipation society and photography as a medium evolved together in the US.  As the ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the most photographed American of his era, argued in the 1860s, the new “picture-making faculty” was “a mighty power,” an effective tool for defining the identities of both enslaved and emancipated Americans.  Race and photography depended on vision and on an appeal to aesthetics for this authority.  Both also claimed to present rather than represent—to reveal the material world in ways unmediated by human agency.  

In the contemporary moment, we no longer understand photography as a transparent medium unmediated by the agency of the photographer.  We no longer argue that race is an identity that people can see.  Yet photography continues through its aesthetic and documentary power to shape the meaning of race.  In this course, we will examine images by photographers including James Van Der Zee, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Gordon Parks, Danny Lyon, Roy DeCarava, Emmet Gowin, Dawoud Bey, Sally Mann, and Carrie Mae Weems.  We will visit the Fralin Museum of Art and UVA’s Small Special Collections Library.  And we will make our own photographs exploring the meaning of race in contemporary America.

Instructed by

Hale

Grace
Commonwealth Professor of American Studies and History

As a cultural historian who focuses on the 20th-century United States, I explore the history of cultural categories and concepts such as race, place, rebellion and authenticity. I teach students to interpret the past by analyzing visual sources such as photographs and films, and audio sources including rock songs and radio program, as well as more traditional historical sources like letters and newspapers. I try to show students how the study of history reveals dimensions of our shared humanity that, while no longer visible in the present, can help us understand what will be gained and what will be lost as we make our future. 

I was drawn to the work of the College Fellows because I love exposing new college students to the wonders and the challenges of thinking and to conducting research in a serious community of scholars. My Engagements courses will focus on the intersection of aesthetics and difference by examining the history of an old practice in the U.S. South with a new name, “creative placemaking.” We will explore how the aesthetic practices of artists, artisans, writers, musicians, and documentary makers have both created and challenged romantic ideas about Southern peoples and places. We also will explore how art and other forms of creative expression have shaped actual Southern places, ranging from Delta towns and Appalachian villages to El Nuevo Atlanta, newly hip downtown Richmond, and the indie culture stronghold of Athens, Georgia.

A member of the Arts and Sciences faculty since 1997, I helped establish American Studies as an independent program and have worked with colleagues there to hire a diverse faculty and nurture a vibrant undergraduate intellectual community. Beyond my academic research, I have written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The American Scholar. My books include Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940, and The Romance of the Outsider: How Middle Class Whites Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America. My forthcoming book is titled Cool Town: Athens, Georgia and the Promise of Alternative Culture in Reagan’s America.

TR 4:30-5:45pm

Spring Session Two: March 14 - May 1

EGMT 1510/1530: New Media Art in the Age of Global Networks

EGMT 1510/1530: New Media Art in the Age of Global Networks

If art has always had a role to play in mediating relationships between human beings, what artistic and social possibilities are emerging with the new media in the mix — from internet art and interactive sound art, to fully immersive virtual realities and AI’s that dream? Do computer technologies and global networks promote the democratization of artistic production, distribution, and reception? Or do they reinforce or even amplify imbalances of power and of access to resources that already exist? Do present-day configurations of art, technology, and media culture allow us to gain empathy for and insight into the experiences of different people and communities? Or do they obscure differences by requiring us to conform to the logics of our tools and techniques? Do computers expand creative possibilities and transform what's possible in art? Or do they, instead, undermine the artist's imagination, originality, and artistry? After all, how do computers change art-making?

In this course, we will explore these questions and others through encounters with a variety of new media artworks and practices, made by people working in a variety of different cultures and social situations. We will use new media as a way to respond to course content — and to make new, propositional works.

Instructed by

Coffey

Ted
Associate Professor of Music

I teach subjects at the intersection of music, culture, and technology. I make acoustic and electronic chamber music, sound installations, and songs, and much of my practice involves collaboration with artists working in other media.

I was drawn to the College Fellows to enrich and refine my teaching, especially through community with other scholars thinking through new perspectives, ideas, and methods. When I consider “engaging aesthetics” as one of the themes for the Engagements courses we’ve designed, to me it implies appreciating and evolving an ancient, profoundly human way of reasoning, one distinct from and not reducible to other ways of reasoning. Both in the apprehension and in the poetic practices of art, things can be demonstrably true without being quantifiable. In fact, we may not even be able to specify what quanta are relevant. Yet even where haphazard proliferation of ‘facts’ effects white noise, art maintains its power to speak, to cut through, to tell stories that we recognize as true.

This is part of why the arts are fundamental rather than ornamental to human experience. The other part has to do with what education fundamentally is: the transformation of areas of knowledge and practice once unfamiliar into that which we hold dear, full of logic, specificity and care. As more of the world is transformed in this way, we gain traction toward humility and intellectual honesty, less inclined to prejudge our fellows and worlds, more inclined and able to commune with them. 

,

Kasra

Mona
Assistant Professor of Digital Media Design, Department of Drama

I believe the Engagements courses offer a unique and transformative educational experience that fosters independent learning, active participation, and critical and reflective thinking. My scholarly work and creative practice is centered on transdisciplinary exploration and critical examination of the confluence of visual communication and emerging media in the 21st century, and my pedagogy reflects my artistic practice and scholarship. I believe in empowering students to understand the sociopolitical and cultural implications of technology and to experiment with the ways by which new media can enhance and reimagine narrative, performance, and personal and creative forms of expression.

I strive to equip students with strong foundations in media literacy, theory, and practice while introducing them to emerging media as spaces for creation, reflection, and speculation. As an assistant professor of digital media design in the College’s Department of Drama, I work to continuously find new ways to connect technology to students’ creative ingenuity and help them develop critical perspectives on new technologies and artistic practices.

I apply an interdisciplinary framework to my research, combining semiotics, visual studies, media theory, and cultural studies to examine the power and impact of online images upon cross-cultural and cross-political life in the networked age. I have exhibited work in numerous exhibitions and have programmed, curated, and served as a juror for several film festivals and art exhibitions. In 2016, I served as the conference chair at ACM SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest, most influential annual conference on the theory and practice of computer graphics and interactive techniques.

T/R 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1510: Beauty and Math in the Cosmos

EGMT 1510: Beauty and Math in the Cosmos

Patterns, symmetry, and harmonics are mathematical principles that are found throughout the natural world, from leaves on trees, to galaxies in the universe.   In this course students will explore the deep intertwining of fundamental math and geometries found in nature.  Students will investigate how their sense of aesthetics is influenced by these mathematical principles, and learn to identify mathematical components in their own aesthetic judgment.   We will examine how one’s environment might impact their perception of beauty in the natural world.  Student will also consider the extent to which these mathematical principles have been represented in art from different cultures, ranging from Islamic architecture to Surrealism, thereby questioning whether math is a “universal” language. Throughout the course, students will create a portfolio of their own art based on mathematical principles, culminating in a class art show.  

Instructed by

Johnson

Kelsey
Associate Professor of Astronomy

I am a zealous science evangelist and a fervent advocate of cross-disciplinary collaboration and education, which can stretch us beyond our comfort zones into rich and unexplored intellectual landscapes. Learning is one of our most essential responsibilities, and the breadth and depth of our collective knowledge and understanding affects virtually every aspect of society and how we live and thrive within it. 

My work in the classroom is heavily influenced by embracing and promoting students’ sense of curiosity and wonder, which I argue is at the core of fostering life-long learners. My work as the founding director of the award-winning “Dark Skies, Bright Kids” outreach program for elementary school students has strengthened my conviction that astronomy can serve as a powerful tool for rekindling a love of science in students who have pursued other disciplines.

I have taught in the University of Virginia’s Department of Astronomy since 2004. My research spans galaxy evolution, with a focus on ancient star formation in the universe. I am a champion for the importance of science literacy in modern society; our understanding of how science works and how to interpret scientific findings has consequences for issues ranging from the mundane to the profound.

I have served on numerous national and International committees that have to integrate the competing forces of scientific impact, financial resources, public understanding, and policy.  In addition to my work as a College Fellow and as associate professor of astronomy, I am excited to accept a new appointment in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences as director of the Echols Scholars Program.

M/W 3:30pm - 4:45pm
EGMT 1510: Black and White - Race and Photography in America

EGMT 1510: Black and White - Race and Photography in America

What does it mean to see the world in black and white? How has photography as a medium shaped how we understand race? How have ideas about race shaped aesthetic practices in photography?  This course explores the overlapping histories of photography and race in the nineteenth and twentieth century US.

Technologies for seeing and making sense of the world, race in a post-emancipation society and photography as a medium evolved together in the US.  As the ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the most photographed American of his era, argued in the 1860s, the new “picture-making faculty” was “a mighty power,” an effective tool for defining the identities of both enslaved and emancipated Americans.  Race and photography depended on vision and on an appeal to aesthetics for this authority.  Both also claimed to present rather than represent—to reveal the material world in ways unmediated by human agency.  

In the contemporary moment, we no longer understand photography as a transparent medium unmediated by the agency of the photographer.  We no longer argue that race is an identity that people can see.  Yet photography continues through its aesthetic and documentary power to shape the meaning of race.  In this course, we will examine images by photographers including James Van Der Zee, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Gordon Parks, Danny Lyon, Roy DeCarava, Emmet Gowin, Dawoud Bey, Sally Mann, and Carrie Mae Weems.  We will visit the Fralin Museum of Art and UVA’s Small Special Collections Library.  And we will make our own photographs exploring the meaning of race in contemporary America.

Instructed by

Hale

Grace
Commonwealth Professor of American Studies and History

As a cultural historian who focuses on the 20th-century United States, I explore the history of cultural categories and concepts such as race, place, rebellion and authenticity. I teach students to interpret the past by analyzing visual sources such as photographs and films, and audio sources including rock songs and radio program, as well as more traditional historical sources like letters and newspapers. I try to show students how the study of history reveals dimensions of our shared humanity that, while no longer visible in the present, can help us understand what will be gained and what will be lost as we make our future. 

I was drawn to the work of the College Fellows because I love exposing new college students to the wonders and the challenges of thinking and to conducting research in a serious community of scholars. My Engagements courses will focus on the intersection of aesthetics and difference by examining the history of an old practice in the U.S. South with a new name, “creative placemaking.” We will explore how the aesthetic practices of artists, artisans, writers, musicians, and documentary makers have both created and challenged romantic ideas about Southern peoples and places. We also will explore how art and other forms of creative expression have shaped actual Southern places, ranging from Delta towns and Appalachian villages to El Nuevo Atlanta, newly hip downtown Richmond, and the indie culture stronghold of Athens, Georgia.

A member of the Arts and Sciences faculty since 1997, I helped establish American Studies as an independent program and have worked with colleagues there to hire a diverse faculty and nurture a vibrant undergraduate intellectual community. Beyond my academic research, I have written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The American Scholar. My books include Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940, and The Romance of the Outsider: How Middle Class Whites Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America. My forthcoming book is titled Cool Town: Athens, Georgia and the Promise of Alternative Culture in Reagan’s America.

TR 3;30-4:45pm
EGMT 1510: The Aesthetics of Trauma

EGMT 1510: The Aesthetics of Trauma

What is the difference between the beautiful and the grotesque? What is the gravitational pull of the iconic Vietnamese “Napalm Girl” 1972 picture and the drowned Syrian refugee boy’s picture on the shores of Turkey in 2015? How does art allow us to grabble with trauma? What jarring or therapeutic effects can one extract from traumatic recollection and expression? How Can individual and collective trauma intertwine to create a narrative witnessing, and an everlasting artistic and national remembrance?

This course will explore the artistic and ethical engagements of traumatic recall and expression. It will address the moral capacities of art at times of national and cultural crisis. We will cover the various ways in which certain groups have grabbled with catastrophic events such as: slavery, genocide, holocaust, Nakba, Maffa, and the unfortunate aftermath of the Arab Spring. In particular, we will evaluate the effectiveness of art installations, interactive drama, digital music, films, and literature in covering the tragic outcome of the Syrian revolution, its toll in terms of lost lives and refugee world crises. We will explore art’s potential to provide healing and activism despite utter loss.

Instructed by

Al-Samman

Hanadi
Associate Professor of Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures

My research interests in Arabic literature and culture, gender studies, and trauma theory have informed my scholarship and course selections. My motivation as a College Fellow to design and teach Engagements courses in the new curriculum stems from my belief in the relevance of issues of gender, politics, and trauma to all majors. I am also a strong believer in the gained intrinsic rewards for all concerned when there is a synergy between the teacher’s research and teaching mission. This teaching pedagogy has always informed the courses I offered, at UVA and beyond, in order to engage students culturally and aesthetically as well as the public at large.

I will offer a series of courses that examine the extent of the success or failure of the Arab Spring’s democratic experiment throughout the Arab world. These courses will focus on the artistic outcome of such movements as expressed in art, film, and other forms of dramatic expression. Of particular interest to me are the ways in which artists found innovative mediums to convey the traumatic experience of imprisonment, killing, and refugee status in their work. For example, we will explore how artists created an evocative art installation containing talking graves to convey the traumatic experiences of those killed by authoritarian regimes, and how another artist captures the horrific results of bombing civilians by crafting bronze statues using barrels and shrapnel mediums.

By developing courses that highlight political and civil activism through art, I hope to elicit aesthetic and ethical engagement in our classroom discussions, and to engage difference on Grounds and within the College’s general education curriculum.

 

T/R 12:30pm - 1:45pm
EGMT 1510: The Aesthetics of Trauma

EGMT 1510: The Aesthetics of Trauma

What is the difference between the beautiful and the grotesque? What is the gravitational pull of the iconic Vietnamese “Napalm Girl” 1972 picture and the drowned Syrian refugee boy’s picture on the shores of Turkey in 2015? How does art allow us to grabble with trauma? What jarring or therapeutic effects can one extract from traumatic recollection and expression? How Can individual and collective trauma intertwine to create a narrative witnessing, and an everlasting artistic and national remembrance?

This course will explore the artistic and ethical engagements of traumatic recall and expression. It will address the moral capacities of art at times of national and cultural crisis. We will cover the various ways in which certain groups have grabbled with catastrophic events such as: slavery, genocide, holocaust, Nakba, Maffa, and the unfortunate aftermath of the Arab Spring. In particular, we will evaluate the effectiveness of art installations, interactive drama, digital music, films, and literature in covering the tragic outcome of the Syrian revolution, its toll in terms of lost lives and refugee world crises. We will explore art’s potential to provide healing and activism despite utter loss.

Instructed by

Al-Samman

Hanadi
Associate Professor of Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures

My research interests in Arabic literature and culture, gender studies, and trauma theory have informed my scholarship and course selections. My motivation as a College Fellow to design and teach Engagements courses in the new curriculum stems from my belief in the relevance of issues of gender, politics, and trauma to all majors. I am also a strong believer in the gained intrinsic rewards for all concerned when there is a synergy between the teacher’s research and teaching mission. This teaching pedagogy has always informed the courses I offered, at UVA and beyond, in order to engage students culturally and aesthetically as well as the public at large.

I will offer a series of courses that examine the extent of the success or failure of the Arab Spring’s democratic experiment throughout the Arab world. These courses will focus on the artistic outcome of such movements as expressed in art, film, and other forms of dramatic expression. Of particular interest to me are the ways in which artists found innovative mediums to convey the traumatic experience of imprisonment, killing, and refugee status in their work. For example, we will explore how artists created an evocative art installation containing talking graves to convey the traumatic experiences of those killed by authoritarian regimes, and how another artist captures the horrific results of bombing civilians by crafting bronze statues using barrels and shrapnel mediums.

By developing courses that highlight political and civil activism through art, I hope to elicit aesthetic and ethical engagement in our classroom discussions, and to engage difference on Grounds and within the College’s general education curriculum.

 

T/R 9:30am - 10:45am

EGMT 1520: Empirical & Scientific Engagement

Fall 2017

Fall Session One: August 22 - October 13

EGMT 1520/1540: Knowledge You Can Trust

EGMT 1520/1540: Knowledge You Can Trust

According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans are losing trust in their institutions. On average, only 32% of Americans expressed a “great deal” or “quite alot” of confidence in key institutions. In the months following last year’s presidential election, this erosion of trust became a subject of national debate as stories about “fake news” dominated the headlines––could any newsource be trusted to provide truthful and trustworthy information? Could we, a public in search of the facts and truth, find real knowledge anywhere?

In this course, we will consider what it means to trust not only a person––a parent, a friend, a teacher––but also an institution, a community, or a profession. We will focus, in particular, on the ways in which a range of modern institutions––such as the state, media and journalism, scientific communities, religious institutions, and universities––create and share trustworthy knowledge. We will also consider the ethical and political consequences when the institutions that we have long relied on to provide us trustworthy knowledge face unprecedented challenges.

Over the course of fourteen weeks, we will consider these big but basic questions through an empirical and ethical investigation of the organization of knowledge: its sources of authority, legitimacy and credibility. We will consider the ways in which empirical forms of knowledge, especially knowledge based on statistical methods and practices, are central to the modern state, media and science. How do states gain knowledge about themselves? How does modern science rely on empirical methods to make its claims?  We will also consider what it means to be an ethical agent in light of the apparent breakdown in trust. What does it mean to be a member of a community, both locally and more globally, and how do you decide whom and what to trust? How do modern institutions relate to particular ethical traditions and how do individuals understand their own lives and unique traditions through these institutions? Our goal is to understand better the empirical basis of modern knowledge and its institutions as well as to reflect upon the kinds of ethical people these institutions help form. 

Instructed by

Wellmon

Chad
Co-Director of the College Fellows & Associate Professor of German Studies

I teach and write on European intellectual history, media theory, and the history of education and technology. My work ranges across centuries and ideas. In part, that’s because I get easily distracted by new books and new ideas, but it’s also because I simply love to learn from my students, my colleagues, and my books.

As co-director of the College Fellows Program, I consider the Engagements a dream come true. My work as chair of the General Education Reform Committee, which designed the new curriculum, inspired me to teach in the College Fellows Program. As a Fellow, I get to teach with and learn from some of UVA’s smartest and most talented faculty members, and I leave every Fellows meeting with a new book or a new thought. I get to share all those with students in their very first college class and show them that learning never ends and, regardless of your career, that you can devote your life to it.   

My teaching has been recognized with an All University Teaching Award, and my scholarship has been supported by awards and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. I’ve written essays on everything from Google’s search engines and Facebook’s algorithms to virtue in the modern university and the history of reading. My five published books include Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in an Era of Print Saturation (forthcoming, 2017), and Organizing Enlightenment: Information Overload and the Invention of the Modern Research University (2015).

 

,

Vaidhyanathan

Siva
Robertson Professor of Modern Media Studies

My scholarly work on digital media informs everything I teach in the Department of Media Studies. I could not write about copyright, privacy, security, and how we discover information if I stayed in one area of study. I have to deploy tools and knowledge from history, economics, law, sociology, anthropology, literature, music, computer science, statistics, linguistics, and the visual arts. I teach the same way, leading my students to deeper veins of knowledge within the disciplines. I find deep joy in learning from others, making connections across fields of ideas, and communicating clearly with broad audiences. If I succeed in the classroom, it’s because I show students that they can experience that joy as well. 

I chose to teach an Engagements course because I am deeply committed to promoting the vast opportunities, resources, and conversations that exist only in America’s great public research universities. I reject the idea that small, liberal arts colleges provide better educational environments. I champion the idea that research university faculty must cross intellectual boundaries and invite students of all levels into their paths of discovery.

For a decade, I have been teaching in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and I have taught also at the University of Virginia School of Law. I have written five books on internet culture or intellectual property and have edited one more. Every January, I lead a course called “New Media in NYC” that introduces students to the teeming world of Manhattan’s media industries. Before coming to UVA, I taught courses at Wesleyan University, New York University, the University of Amsterdam, and Columbia University. 

M/W 3:30pm - 4:45pm
EGMT 1520: Doing Fieldwork

EGMT 1520: Doing Fieldwork

How can scientists study the messiness of real life? What sort of knowledge can we gain outside the traditional laboratory? And how do we analyze data gathered “in the field”? This course invites you to consider these questions while introducing you to the many faces of fieldwork. We’ll look at the principles behind the practice, as well as the array of methods that put those principles to work in any given field setting.

 

Although field methods vary across the social and natural sciences, they have some basic things in common: Much (often most) of the evidence fieldworkers collect is qualitative. The field experience is not, strictly speaking, reproducible. And the boundaries of “the field” are always fuzzy. Yet despite these complications, fieldwork remains a vibrant and indispensable way of coming to know and make sense of the world. And while sometimes it might seem as messy as real life itself, it involves thick, systematic observation of a living, breathing community, generally by participating in that community in purposeful ways. Inherently, this calls on researchers to think carefully, holistically and empathetically about their own relationship to the field and about its inhabitants, whether human or nonhuman. The work you do in this course will be deeply collaborative, and will familiarize you with fieldwork not just by reading about it, but by doing some fieldwork of your own.

Instructed by

Armengol

Roberto
Postdoctoral Fellow

I’m an anthropologist who studies contemporary cultures and societies. When I’m not designing and teaching Engagements, I research and write about what I call “the people’s socialism” in Cuba — the way self-employed workers on the island compete with and support one another in new kinds of entrepreneurship that complicate our simple views about the “amoral market.” I’m also working toward a new project on sustainable cultures.

Anthropology is all about the human condition, in all its staggering variation. While some of my colleagues dig up relics and remains in search of bygone eras, most of us live in the now — among the people we study. We observe their values and customs, with empathy. We delight in difference, and ask what we hold in common. We cultivate the practice of knowing by experience, and move others with stories of that experience well told. We foster wonderment in the human spirit, and our work sits in that sense at the crossroads of all the disciplines.

I came to the Engagements hoping to light a spark in young people for that same kind of learning and doing. In my classes, students visit local landmarks and debate the histories that haunt us. They interview the unseen faces in their own neighborhoods. They simulate the way natural disasters get written on a social landscape. This is what deep learning is about: questioning our commonsense notions and exploring alternative ways of being with dogged devotion to the real, navigating hopeful arguments for the possible.

M/W 12:30pm - 1:45pm
EGMT 1520: How Has Evolution Shaped Who We Are?

EGMT 1520: How Has Evolution Shaped Who We Are?

All humans are 99.5% genetically similar to any other human yet there is tremendous variation among us.  Why is there variation in skin color?  Why do most of us suffer from altitude sickness but there are people in the Andes and the Himalayas who live at extreme elevations?  How does malaria explain why, for over 30 years, all the finalists in the men’s Olympic 100-meters had a recent ancestry in Sub-Saharan West Africa?  To understand variation we need to understand how evolution has shaped us and how the environment has influenced our evolution.

We will use empirical approaches to understand patterns of variation in appearance, in physiology, and in (athletic) performance among individuals across the world.  The questions that we will address are important, not only to understand diversity among individuals, but also because the foundational approaches that you will develop in this class will provide you with skills to understand how science is done.  You will learn to think like a scientist and to interpret data.  In the future when you read in the New York Times about the latest discoveries, you will be able put these discoveries into context and make your own evaluation about the validity of new findings

Instructed by

Roach

Debbie
Professor of Biology

I studied science in college, but I loved taking history and English courses also. As a biology professor, I enjoy talking to my colleagues outside of the sciences to compare notes about approaches they use in their classrooms to engage students. Different fields of study offer unique approaches to understanding our world, and this provides me with new ways to approach questions and to share my enthusiasm for these questions with my students.

In my Engagements class, yes, we will consider some really cool questions from biology. Even more importantly, however, you will learn approaches that will help you to evaluate empirical evidence, to interpret data and show you how to articulate problems in an empirical framework. My hope is that you will be able to use these empirical approaches in your future classes, no matter what field you decide to major in.

As a biologist, I am interested in understanding the wonders of our natural world. My primary research questions focus on aging – do all animals and plants grow old and show signs of aging, like humans, or can some species escape aging? (There are some that do escape!) I use the tools of evolutionary biology and ecology to address these questions, and I teach courses on evolution, ecology, and aging in the Department of Biology. 

T/R 2:00 - 3:15
EGMT 1520: Poverty Counts - Understanding Measurement and Meaning through Poverty

EGMT 1520: Poverty Counts - Understanding Measurement and Meaning through Poverty

The United States' definition of "poverty" dates to 1963, when Social Security administration economist Mollie Orshansky used the Department of Agriculture's "Thrifty Food Plan" to calculate the amount of economic deprivation in the U.S. But Orshansky never intended for her calculation to become the official poverty line, and it's been challenged by critics on the left and the right ever since. Orshansky's calculation has persisted, however, because (re)defining poverty is both complex and controversial. Like categories such as "race" and "disability," poverty is a socially constructed concept. When we say someone is "poor," what do we mean? Do we mean that his or her income falls below an absolute threshold (a dollar amount) or a relative one (such as a percentage of the median income)? Moreover, what do we mean by "income"? Should we even define poverty in material terms? In answering these questions and related ones, this course will ask you to consider the theoretical and empirical issues involved in operationalizing socially constructed concepts such as poverty. Through critical engagement with the interdisciplinary poverty literature, both qualitative and quantitative, and hands-on research, you will gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of carrying out empirical social science.

Instructed by
M/W 5:00pm - 6:15pm
EGMT 1520: Thinking Like a Scientist

EGMT 1520: Thinking Like a Scientist

This course is concerned with how we acquire and use knowledge about the world to organize our thoughts and beliefs about complexities in nature. We will consider the many routes of knowledge acquisition and formulate a specific framework by which we may test the veracity of acquired knowledge. The course will consider foundational ideas in the history and philosophy of science, but aim to move beyond the philosophical to provide concrete examples of empiricism in our natural and social worlds. Students will share the challenge of discovering how strong beliefs are not always empirically justified and how our own morals, values and prior experiences may blind us to available evidence. Beyond recognition of the principles of science and articulation of the limitations of empirical approaches, we will develop strategies for evaluation and testing of important claims.

Instructed by

Morris

Jamie
Associate Professor of Social Neuroscience, Department of Psychology

Back in high school, before I knew what I wanted to do with my life, my father reminded me that no matter my chosen profession, I would always be a teacher. His belief was that communication is fundamental, and the sharing of knowledge is a core part of what makes us great. Now, as a member of the Department of Psychology’s faculty, I try to remember that I have a lot to offer my students, and that I have a lot to learn from them as well.

I was excited about the College Fellows’ opportunity to create courses that will serve as a foundation for incoming students. The idea of having a shared experience strikes me as something that will remain memorable for them as they later reflect upon their years at UVA. In my research, I apply scientific methods to measure and predict behavior. The principles that have emerged from centuries of psychology are central in our approach as educators. Behavior also plays a critical role in each of the Engagements introduced in the new curriculum.

Within the new Empirical & Scientific Engagement courses, I am interested to learn how my students have formed beliefs about the world and how these beliefs can change over time. I am interested in learning about the experiences of students as they enter college and grow over the first year. As a facilitator, my focus will be to let them explore and interact through more of an active process than the ones they experienced in high school.

T/R 9:30am - 10:45am

Fall Session Two: October 16 - December 5

EGMT 1520/1540: Knowledge You Can Trust

EGMT 1520/1540: Knowledge You Can Trust

According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans are losing trust in their institutions. On average, only 32% of Americans expressed a “great deal” or “quite alot” of confidence in key institutions. In the months following last year’s presidential election, this erosion of trust became a subject of national debate as stories about “fake news” dominated the headlines––could any newsource be trusted to provide truthful and trustworthy information? Could we, a public in search of the facts and truth, find real knowledge anywhere?

In this course, we will consider what it means to trust not only a person––a parent, a friend, a teacher––but also an institution, a community, or a profession. We will focus, in particular, on the ways in which a range of modern institutions––such as the state, media and journalism, scientific communities, religious institutions, and universities––create and share trustworthy knowledge. We will also consider the ethical and political consequences when the institutions that we have long relied on to provide us trustworthy knowledge face unprecedented challenges.

Over the course of fourteen weeks, we will consider these big but basic questions through an empirical and ethical investigation of the organization of knowledge: its sources of authority, legitimacy and credibility. We will consider the ways in which empirical forms of knowledge, especially knowledge based on statistical methods and practices, are central to the modern state, media and science. How do states gain knowledge about themselves? How does modern science rely on empirical methods to make its claims?  We will also consider what it means to be an ethical agent in light of the apparent breakdown in trust. What does it mean to be a member of a community, both locally and more globally, and how do you decide whom and what to trust? How do modern institutions relate to particular ethical traditions and how do individuals understand their own lives and unique traditions through these institutions? Our goal is to understand better the empirical basis of modern knowledge and its institutions as well as to reflect upon the kinds of ethical people these institutions help form. 

Instructed by

Wellmon

Chad
Co-Director of the College Fellows & Associate Professor of German Studies

I teach and write on European intellectual history, media theory, and the history of education and technology. My work ranges across centuries and ideas. In part, that’s because I get easily distracted by new books and new ideas, but it’s also because I simply love to learn from my students, my colleagues, and my books.

As co-director of the College Fellows Program, I consider the Engagements a dream come true. My work as chair of the General Education Reform Committee, which designed the new curriculum, inspired me to teach in the College Fellows Program. As a Fellow, I get to teach with and learn from some of UVA’s smartest and most talented faculty members, and I leave every Fellows meeting with a new book or a new thought. I get to share all those with students in their very first college class and show them that learning never ends and, regardless of your career, that you can devote your life to it.   

My teaching has been recognized with an All University Teaching Award, and my scholarship has been supported by awards and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. I’ve written essays on everything from Google’s search engines and Facebook’s algorithms to virtue in the modern university and the history of reading. My five published books include Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in an Era of Print Saturation (forthcoming, 2017), and Organizing Enlightenment: Information Overload and the Invention of the Modern Research University (2015).

 

,

Vaidhyanathan

Siva
Robertson Professor of Modern Media Studies

My scholarly work on digital media informs everything I teach in the Department of Media Studies. I could not write about copyright, privacy, security, and how we discover information if I stayed in one area of study. I have to deploy tools and knowledge from history, economics, law, sociology, anthropology, literature, music, computer science, statistics, linguistics, and the visual arts. I teach the same way, leading my students to deeper veins of knowledge within the disciplines. I find deep joy in learning from others, making connections across fields of ideas, and communicating clearly with broad audiences. If I succeed in the classroom, it’s because I show students that they can experience that joy as well. 

I chose to teach an Engagements course because I am deeply committed to promoting the vast opportunities, resources, and conversations that exist only in America’s great public research universities. I reject the idea that small, liberal arts colleges provide better educational environments. I champion the idea that research university faculty must cross intellectual boundaries and invite students of all levels into their paths of discovery.

For a decade, I have been teaching in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and I have taught also at the University of Virginia School of Law. I have written five books on internet culture or intellectual property and have edited one more. Every January, I lead a course called “New Media in NYC” that introduces students to the teeming world of Manhattan’s media industries. Before coming to UVA, I taught courses at Wesleyan University, New York University, the University of Amsterdam, and Columbia University. 

M/W 3:30 - 4:45
EGMT 1520: Doing Fieldwork

EGMT 1520: Doing Fieldwork

How can scientists study the messiness of real life? What sort of knowledge can we gain outside the traditional laboratory? And how do we analyze data gathered “in the field”? This course invites you to consider these questions while introducing you to the many faces of fieldwork. We’ll look at the principles behind the practice, as well as the array of methods that put those principles to work in any given field setting.

 

Although field methods vary across the social and natural sciences, they have some basic things in common: Much (often most) of the evidence fieldworkers collect is qualitative. The field experience is not, strictly speaking, reproducible. And the boundaries of “the field” are always fuzzy. Yet despite these complications, fieldwork remains a vibrant and indispensable way of coming to know and make sense of the world. And while sometimes it might seem as messy as real life itself, it involves thick, systematic observation of a living, breathing community, generally by participating in that community in purposeful ways. Inherently, this calls on researchers to think carefully, holistically and empathetically about their own relationship to the field and about its inhabitants, whether human or nonhuman. The work you do in this course will be deeply collaborative, and will familiarize you with fieldwork not just by reading about it, but by doing some fieldwork of your own.

Instructed by

Armengol

Roberto
Postdoctoral Fellow

I’m an anthropologist who studies contemporary cultures and societies. When I’m not designing and teaching Engagements, I research and write about what I call “the people’s socialism” in Cuba — the way self-employed workers on the island compete with and support one another in new kinds of entrepreneurship that complicate our simple views about the “amoral market.” I’m also working toward a new project on sustainable cultures.

Anthropology is all about the human condition, in all its staggering variation. While some of my colleagues dig up relics and remains in search of bygone eras, most of us live in the now — among the people we study. We observe their values and customs, with empathy. We delight in difference, and ask what we hold in common. We cultivate the practice of knowing by experience, and move others with stories of that experience well told. We foster wonderment in the human spirit, and our work sits in that sense at the crossroads of all the disciplines.

I came to the Engagements hoping to light a spark in young people for that same kind of learning and doing. In my classes, students visit local landmarks and debate the histories that haunt us. They interview the unseen faces in their own neighborhoods. They simulate the way natural disasters get written on a social landscape. This is what deep learning is about: questioning our commonsense notions and exploring alternative ways of being with dogged devotion to the real, navigating hopeful arguments for the possible.

T/R 1100-1215
EGMT 1520: How Has Evolution Shaped Who We Are?

EGMT 1520: How Has Evolution Shaped Who We Are?

All humans are 99.5% genetically similar to any other human yet there is tremendous variation among us.  Why is there variation in skin color?  Why do most of us suffer from altitude sickness but there are people in the Andes and the Himalayas who live at extreme elevations?  How does malaria explain why, for over 30 years, all the finalists in the men’s Olympic 100-meters had a recent ancestry in Sub-Saharan West Africa?  To understand variation we need to understand how evolution has shaped us and how the environment has influenced our evolution.

We will use empirical approaches to understand patterns of variation in appearance, in physiology, and in (athletic) performance among individuals across the world.  The questions that we will address are important, not only to understand diversity among individuals, but also because the foundational approaches that you will develop in this class will provide you with skills to understand how science is done.  You will learn to think like a scientist and to interpret data.  In the future when you read in the New York Times about the latest discoveries, you will be able put these discoveries into context and make your own evaluation about the validity of new findings

Instructed by

Roach

Debbie
Professor of Biology

I studied science in college, but I loved taking history and English courses also. As a biology professor, I enjoy talking to my colleagues outside of the sciences to compare notes about approaches they use in their classrooms to engage students. Different fields of study offer unique approaches to understanding our world, and this provides me with new ways to approach questions and to share my enthusiasm for these questions with my students.

In my Engagements class, yes, we will consider some really cool questions from biology. Even more importantly, however, you will learn approaches that will help you to evaluate empirical evidence, to interpret data and show you how to articulate problems in an empirical framework. My hope is that you will be able to use these empirical approaches in your future classes, no matter what field you decide to major in.

As a biologist, I am interested in understanding the wonders of our natural world. My primary research questions focus on aging – do all animals and plants grow old and show signs of aging, like humans, or can some species escape aging? (There are some that do escape!) I use the tools of evolutionary biology and ecology to address these questions, and I teach courses on evolution, ecology, and aging in the Department of Biology. 

T/R 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1520: Poverty Counts - Understanding Measurement and Meaning through Poverty

EGMT 1520: Poverty Counts - Understanding Measurement and Meaning through Poverty

The United States' definition of "poverty" dates to 1963, when Social Security administration economist Mollie Orshansky used the Department of Agriculture's "Thrifty Food Plan" to calculate the amount of economic deprivation in the U.S. But Orshansky never intended for her calculation to become the official poverty line, and it's been challenged by critics on the left and the right ever since. Orshansky's calculation has persisted, however, because (re)defining poverty is both complex and controversial. Like categories such as "race" and "disability," poverty is a socially constructed concept. When we say someone is "poor," what do we mean? Do we mean that his or her income falls below an absolute threshold (a dollar amount) or a relative one (such as a percentage of the median income)? Moreover, what do we mean by "income"? Should we even define poverty in material terms? In answering these questions and related ones, this course will ask you to consider the theoretical and empirical issues involved in operationalizing socially constructed concepts such as poverty. Through critical engagement with the interdisciplinary poverty literature, both qualitative and quantitative, and hands-on research, you will gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of carrying out empirical social science.

Instructed by
M/W 5:00pm - 6:15pm
EGMT 1520: Thinking Like a Scientist

EGMT 1520: Thinking Like a Scientist

This course is concerned with how we acquire and use knowledge about the world to organize our thoughts and beliefs about complexities in nature. We will consider the many routes of knowledge acquisition and formulate a specific framework by which we may test the veracity of acquired knowledge. The course will consider foundational ideas in the history and philosophy of science, but aim to move beyond the philosophical to provide concrete examples of empiricism in our natural and social worlds. Students will share the challenge of discovering how strong beliefs are not always empirically justified and how our own morals, values and prior experiences may blind us to available evidence. Beyond recognition of the principles of science and articulation of the limitations of empirical approaches, we will develop strategies for evaluation and testing of important claims.

Instructed by

Morris

Jamie
Associate Professor of Social Neuroscience, Department of Psychology

Back in high school, before I knew what I wanted to do with my life, my father reminded me that no matter my chosen profession, I would always be a teacher. His belief was that communication is fundamental, and the sharing of knowledge is a core part of what makes us great. Now, as a member of the Department of Psychology’s faculty, I try to remember that I have a lot to offer my students, and that I have a lot to learn from them as well.

I was excited about the College Fellows’ opportunity to create courses that will serve as a foundation for incoming students. The idea of having a shared experience strikes me as something that will remain memorable for them as they later reflect upon their years at UVA. In my research, I apply scientific methods to measure and predict behavior. The principles that have emerged from centuries of psychology are central in our approach as educators. Behavior also plays a critical role in each of the Engagements introduced in the new curriculum.

Within the new Empirical & Scientific Engagement courses, I am interested to learn how my students have formed beliefs about the world and how these beliefs can change over time. I am interested in learning about the experiences of students as they enter college and grow over the first year. As a facilitator, my focus will be to let them explore and interact through more of an active process than the ones they experienced in high school.

M/W 9:30-10:45am

Spring 2018

Spring Session One: January 17 - March 13

EGMT 1520: Doing Fieldwork

EGMT 1520: Doing Fieldwork

How can scientists study the messiness of real life? What sort of knowledge can we gain outside the traditional laboratory? And how do we analyze data gathered “in the field”? This course invites you to consider these questions while introducing you to the many faces of fieldwork. We’ll look at the principles behind the practice, as well as the array of methods that put those principles to work in any given field setting.

 

Although field methods vary across the social and natural sciences, they have some basic things in common: Much (often most) of the evidence fieldworkers collect is qualitative. The field experience is not, strictly speaking, reproducible. And the boundaries of “the field” are always fuzzy. Yet despite these complications, fieldwork remains a vibrant and indispensable way of coming to know and make sense of the world. And while sometimes it might seem as messy as real life itself, it involves thick, systematic observation of a living, breathing community, generally by participating in that community in purposeful ways. Inherently, this calls on researchers to think carefully, holistically and empathetically about their own relationship to the field and about its inhabitants, whether human or nonhuman. The work you do in this course will be deeply collaborative, and will familiarize you with fieldwork not just by reading about it, but by doing some fieldwork of your own.

Instructed by

Armengol

Roberto
Postdoctoral Fellow

I’m an anthropologist who studies contemporary cultures and societies. When I’m not designing and teaching Engagements, I research and write about what I call “the people’s socialism” in Cuba — the way self-employed workers on the island compete with and support one another in new kinds of entrepreneurship that complicate our simple views about the “amoral market.” I’m also working toward a new project on sustainable cultures.

Anthropology is all about the human condition, in all its staggering variation. While some of my colleagues dig up relics and remains in search of bygone eras, most of us live in the now — among the people we study. We observe their values and customs, with empathy. We delight in difference, and ask what we hold in common. We cultivate the practice of knowing by experience, and move others with stories of that experience well told. We foster wonderment in the human spirit, and our work sits in that sense at the crossroads of all the disciplines.

I came to the Engagements hoping to light a spark in young people for that same kind of learning and doing. In my classes, students visit local landmarks and debate the histories that haunt us. They interview the unseen faces in their own neighborhoods. They simulate the way natural disasters get written on a social landscape. This is what deep learning is about: questioning our commonsense notions and exploring alternative ways of being with dogged devotion to the real, navigating hopeful arguments for the possible.

T/R 9:30am - 10:45am
EGMT 1520: If Genetics is the Solution, What's the Problem?

EGMT 1520: If Genetics is the Solution, What's the Problem?

How can we cure sickle cell disease?  Why don’t snakes have legs?  How do we make a seedless (insert your favorite fruit or vegetable here)?  How do we bypass egg allergies by genetically modifying chickens?  What contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire?  Was Thomas Jefferson the father of Sally Hemings’s children?  Is violent behavior a genetic disease?

These are all analytical questions/problems that have been addressed through genetic/DNA analysis.  We’ll use examples like these to explore how our increasingly sophisticated understanding of genomes and the genetic basis of life can be used to approach a wide variety of puzzles or problems.  In each case, we’ll examine how investigators framed a specific scientific question, what analytical approach was designed to address that question, what results were produced by the analyses, and what conclusions could be drawn from those results.  Wherever possible, we’ll consider any related ethical dilemmas that continue to arise, as our rapidly expanding genetic knowledge impacts both individuals and society.  And, best of all:  You’ll learn some genetics along the way!

Instructed by

Cronmiller

Claire
Professor of Biology

I deeply believe in both the value of a liberal arts education and in our responsibility as educators to engage students actively in their own learning.  These convictions have guided me to where I am today as a biology professor, having taught a range of courses, including biology major courses from introductory to advanced levels, as well as a University Seminar for first-year students. 

The opportunity to help craft a curriculum that’s committed to both the liberal arts and to engaging with students in a STEM learning experience is very exciting. Pedagogically, I hope to apply scientific teaching principles to the design of my new Engagements course. The rationale here is that teaching science should reflect the very nature of science. That is, it should embrace the process of discovery. My approach to scientific teaching combines active learning strategies with a broad range of teaching methods and activities that can engage students with diverse backgrounds and learning style preferences.

My research interests and passion have always focused on the field of genetics, and I can’t think of a more exciting and contemporary topic for an Engagements course. There are so many fundamental topics that could be considered for developing students’ abilities to understand and evaluate scientific discoveries and theories, while also addressing broader societal issues/implications:  Finding human disease genes, pre-symptomatic genetic diagnosis, gene therapy, genes and behavior, the nature/uses of human genome information, GMOs, the pros/cons of personal genome testing, etc. I’m looking forward to exploring the possibilities!

M/W 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1520: Making Truth Claims - The Power & Limits of Empirical Reasoning

EGMT 1520: Making Truth Claims - The Power & Limits of Empirical Reasoning

What makes a truth claim powerful and persuasive? In our everyday lives, most of us rely on at least some version of empirical reasoning to advance our own truth claims and assess others. For example, a person might say “Everyone is either male or female” because that person has never met anyone who isn’t and so s/he imagines the world is fully represented by male and female people. However, someone with different experience may assess this claim as ridiculous and obviously untrue. This is an example of rudimentary empirical reasoning – we have an idea of how things work in our heads and we check it against the “real world.” This is a central tenet of the scientific method – we test our theories against empirical data to see if they are supported. But we all know examples of “bad” science, or disputed “facts,” or questions that empirical data don’t seem to help answer. In this course, we will think about the process and evaluation of empirical observations and scientific reasoning. Through activities and discussion students will grapple with question such as:  What are the strengths of these knowledge systems and what might undermine them or make them less relevant? How do we turn the “real world” into data and what problems does that cause? What are the similarities and differences in empirical reasoning about the natural world and the social world?

Instructed by

Corse

Sarah
Associate Professor of Sociology

The College’s new general education curriculum offers a great opportunity to get involved in teaching incoming students as they make the transition to college. In the last five years, most of my teaching has been with upper-level majors and graduate students, and I miss the intellectual excitement generated by new students. The pre-disciplinary Engagements offer a space to (re)discover intellectual play, to think broadly – even a bit wildly. The pre-disciplinary focus also facilitates big questions and a sense of possibilities, allowing, I hope, for an intensity that is sometimes lacking in the classroom.

Sociology is a discipline that few students encounter in high school, but it shares with many other disciplines an interest in patterns and in understanding how and why people do the things that they do. I’m excited about the chance to think through what this means in “big picture” terms. I see lots of possibility in asking questions about what “we” think knowledge is or how we decide what is even knowable. Different disciplines, and sub-disciplines, have different answers to these questions, so wrestling with them from multiple vantage points is really helpful.

The Engagements also offer a chance to think about how we learn and what a classroom is. I’m excited by the chance to incorporate different forms of learning, e.g., community-based or visual, into the standard formats of reading and discussion. The pre-disciplinary breadth and innovative character of the Engagements facilitate teachers-as-learners and students-as-teachers reversals, opening a space for building real learning communities.

MW 5:00pm - 6:15pm
EGMT 1520: Making Truth Claims - The Power & Limits of Empirical Reasoning

EGMT 1520: Making Truth Claims - The Power & Limits of Empirical Reasoning

What makes a truth claim powerful and persuasive? In our everyday lives, most of us rely on at least some version of empirical reasoning to advance our own truth claims and assess others. For example, a person might say “Everyone is either male or female” because that person has never met anyone who isn’t and so s/he imagines the world is fully represented by male and female people. However, someone with different experience may assess this claim as ridiculous and obviously untrue. This is an example of rudimentary empirical reasoning – we have an idea of how things work in our heads and we check it against the “real world.” This is a central tenet of the scientific method – we test our theories against empirical data to see if they are supported. But we all know examples of “bad” science, or disputed “facts,” or questions that empirical data don’t seem to help answer. In this course, we will think about the process and evaluation of empirical observations and scientific reasoning. Through activities and discussion students will grapple with question such as:  What are the strengths of these knowledge systems and what might undermine them or make them less relevant? How do we turn the “real world” into data and what problems does that cause? What are the similarities and differences in empirical reasoning about the natural world and the social world?

Instructed by

Corse

Sarah
Associate Professor of Sociology

The College’s new general education curriculum offers a great opportunity to get involved in teaching incoming students as they make the transition to college. In the last five years, most of my teaching has been with upper-level majors and graduate students, and I miss the intellectual excitement generated by new students. The pre-disciplinary Engagements offer a space to (re)discover intellectual play, to think broadly – even a bit wildly. The pre-disciplinary focus also facilitates big questions and a sense of possibilities, allowing, I hope, for an intensity that is sometimes lacking in the classroom.

Sociology is a discipline that few students encounter in high school, but it shares with many other disciplines an interest in patterns and in understanding how and why people do the things that they do. I’m excited about the chance to think through what this means in “big picture” terms. I see lots of possibility in asking questions about what “we” think knowledge is or how we decide what is even knowable. Different disciplines, and sub-disciplines, have different answers to these questions, so wrestling with them from multiple vantage points is really helpful.

The Engagements also offer a chance to think about how we learn and what a classroom is. I’m excited by the chance to incorporate different forms of learning, e.g., community-based or visual, into the standard formats of reading and discussion. The pre-disciplinary breadth and innovative character of the Engagements facilitate teachers-as-learners and students-as-teachers reversals, opening a space for building real learning communities.

TR 12:30 - 1:45pm
EGMT 1520: Thrifting: A Case Study for Empirical Inquiry

EGMT 1520: Thrifting: A Case Study for Empirical Inquiry

At semester’s end at any American University peruse the dumpsters, dorm hallways and suite common rooms and you are sure to see mounds of castaway objects, once deemed of highest importance to the life and welfare of it’s owners. Eventually some of these objects, especially clothing, will find their way into a thrift-store, or on-line via second-hand sales or will be remade into new fashionable objects. Who buys and sells second-hand clothes and why? Thrifting may seem a trivial issue but even when they disagree as to its specific functions and meanings, scholars across a range of disciplines agree that it is of  increasing economic, political, cultural and personal importance in contemporary communities in the U.S. and globally. We will use the case study as an empirically grounded approach to investigate the real-world contexts of thrifting. The case study can be a powerful in-depth approach using multiple forms of empirical evidence to research complex issues, objects or activities when the phenomena is not well described and where there are multiple interpretations and points of view. Students will learn about the strengths and limitations of different types of empirical case study designs. They will then design a case study research project, explore related scholarly and popular literature, collect empirical evidence, and interpret their findings about some specific aspect of thrifting. The course will involve the students and professor in exploring how a case study method applied to a specific social practice can be a rich source for empirical inquiry into our social world, how we experience it, how it shapes our cultural identities and how it is structured across local and global sites. 

Instructed by

Fraser

Gertrude
Associate Professor of Anthropology

My research focuses on medical anthropology and race and gender in organizations. I like to teach courses which take a commonly assumed human universal phenomenon – girlhood, death and dying, health care – and critically explore with my students the different cultural shape and meanings found across and within societies of these seemingly familiar human experiences.

A recent class on the Anthropology of Girlhood discussed the ways that rural girls and boys are provided very different options as they think about their lives as adults. Boys are encouraged to stay local in the masculine rural, while girls envision lives lived globally in feminized urban cosmopolitan settings. Students paired the discussion with their own retrospective reflections of how their “possible selves,” were and are shaped by cultural logics that are gendered and stratified.

It is not unusual for me to invite undergraduates to work on my research projects or to develop their own. If you ask students who have taken a course with me, they will tell you that I encourage and expect that they want to contribute to the conversation. They may also have noticed that I am genuinely gleeful when someone finally understands a complicated argument or brings new insights from their personal experience or complementary concepts learned in another course.

Having an infusion of different disciplines and perspectives dropped into the anthropological fundamentals of the subject material keeps me and, I hope, my students continually learning and engaged. When someone tells me that they shared an article we read together with a parent or friend, that is high praise as our work in the classroom pushes out to new audiences and contexts.

 

T/R 5:00pm - 6:15pm

Spring Session Two: March 14 - May 1

EGMT 1520: If Genetics is the Solution, What's the Problem?

EGMT 1520: If Genetics is the Solution, What's the Problem?

How can we cure sickle cell disease?  Why don’t snakes have legs?  How do we make a seedless (insert your favorite fruit or vegetable here)?  How do we bypass egg allergies by genetically modifying chickens?  What contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire?  Was Thomas Jefferson the father of Sally Hemings’s children?  Is violent behavior a genetic disease?

These are all analytical questions/problems that have been addressed through genetic/DNA analysis.  We’ll use examples like these to explore how our increasingly sophisticated understanding of genomes and the genetic basis of life can be used to approach a wide variety of puzzles or problems.  In each case, we’ll examine how investigators framed a specific scientific question, what analytical approach was designed to address that question, what results were produced by the analyses, and what conclusions could be drawn from those results.  Wherever possible, we’ll consider any related ethical dilemmas that continue to arise, as our rapidly expanding genetic knowledge impacts both individuals and society.  And, best of all:  You’ll learn some genetics along the way!

Instructed by

Cronmiller

Claire
Professor of Biology

I deeply believe in both the value of a liberal arts education and in our responsibility as educators to engage students actively in their own learning.  These convictions have guided me to where I am today as a biology professor, having taught a range of courses, including biology major courses from introductory to advanced levels, as well as a University Seminar for first-year students. 

The opportunity to help craft a curriculum that’s committed to both the liberal arts and to engaging with students in a STEM learning experience is very exciting. Pedagogically, I hope to apply scientific teaching principles to the design of my new Engagements course. The rationale here is that teaching science should reflect the very nature of science. That is, it should embrace the process of discovery. My approach to scientific teaching combines active learning strategies with a broad range of teaching methods and activities that can engage students with diverse backgrounds and learning style preferences.

My research interests and passion have always focused on the field of genetics, and I can’t think of a more exciting and contemporary topic for an Engagements course. There are so many fundamental topics that could be considered for developing students’ abilities to understand and evaluate scientific discoveries and theories, while also addressing broader societal issues/implications:  Finding human disease genes, pre-symptomatic genetic diagnosis, gene therapy, genes and behavior, the nature/uses of human genome information, GMOs, the pros/cons of personal genome testing, etc. I’m looking forward to exploring the possibilities!

M/W 11:00am - 12:15pm
EGMT 1520: Thrifting: A Case Study for Empirical Inquiry

EGMT 1520: Thrifting: A Case Study for Empirical Inquiry

At semester’s end at any American University peruse the dumpsters, dorm hallways and suite common rooms and you are sure to see mounds of castaway objects, once deemed of highest importance to the life and welfare of it’s owners. Eventually some of these objects, especially clothing, will find their way into a thrift-store, or on-line via second-hand sales or will be remade into new fashionable objects. Who buys and sells second-hand clothes and why? Thrifting may seem a trivial issue but even when they disagree as to its specific functions and meanings, scholars across a range of disciplines agree that it is of  increasing economic, political, cultural and personal importance in contemporary communities in the U.S. and globally. We will use the case study as an empirically grounded approach to investigate the real-world contexts of thrifting. The case study can be a powerful in-depth approach using multiple forms of empirical evidence to research complex issues, objects or activities when the phenomena is not well described and where there are multiple interpretations and points of view. Students will learn about the strengths and limitations of different types of empirical case study designs. They will then design a case study research project, explore related scholarly and popular literature, collect empirical evidence, and interpret their findings about some specific aspect of thrifting. The course will involve the students and professor in exploring how a case study method applied to a specific social practice can be a rich source for empirical inquiry into our social world, how we experience it, how it shapes our cultural identities and how it is structured across local and global sites. 

Instructed by

Fraser

Gertrude
Associate Professor of Anthropology

My research focuses on medical anthropology and race and gender in organizations. I like to teach courses which take a commonly assumed human universal phenomenon – girlhood, death and dying, health care – and critically explore with my students the different cultural shape and meanings found across and within societies of these seemingly familiar human experiences.

A recent class on the Anthropology of Girlhood discussed the ways that rural girls and boys are provided very different options as they think about their lives as adults. Boys are encouraged to stay local in the masculine rural, while girls envision lives lived globally in feminized urban cosmopolitan settings. Students paired the discussion with their own retrospective reflections of how their “possible selves,” were and are shaped by cultural logics that are gendered and stratified.

It is not unusual for me to invite undergraduates to work on my research projects or to develop their own. If you ask students who have taken a course with me, they will tell you that I encourage and expect that they want to contribute to the conversation. They may also have noticed that I am genuinely gleeful when someone finally understands a complicated argument or brings new insights from their personal experience or complementary concepts learned in another course.

Having an infusion of different disciplines and perspectives dropped into the anthropological fundamentals of the subject material keeps me and, I hope, my students continually learning and engaged. When someone tells me that they shared an article we read together with a parent or friend, that is high praise as our work in the classroom pushes out to new audiences and contexts.

 

M/W 5:00pm - 6:15pm

EGMT 1530: Engaging Differences

Fall 2017

Fall Session One: August 22 - October 13

EGMT 1510/1530: Making the Invisible Visible

EGMT 1510/1530: Making the Invisible Visible

What do cultural artifacts—monuments, songs, books, films, TV shows, paintings, folk art, and so on—reveal about our cultures? And what are their limitations? In considering these questions, we will ask whether and to what extent engaging aesthetics and difference are complementary endeavors. Addressing these questions will require us to consider aesthetics and human difference from a number of angles. We will ask how the positions we take when reading—both physical and ideological—influence our interpretations, and the kinds of arguments monuments make to us based upon their positioning and how they ask us to approach them. Along these lines, we will also explore the concept and practice of audience and what it means to approach aesthetics in the public realm. How is reading or viewing shaped by those around us? What’s the difference between an audience in a movie theater, stage production, museum, or class? Why do different venues require different forms of spectatorship? Similarly, imagine the same cultural artifact, such as a song, in varied contexts or performed by different kinds of people. These and other concerns will animate the course as we study the way that cultural artifacts produced in particular historical moments are subject to current and future interpretation.

Instructed by

Woolfork

Lisa
Associate Professor of English

The College Fellows program appealed to me because I am committed to pedagogical notions that fuel successful humanities courses: rigor, spirited inquiry, and techniques that open up spaces for collaborative learning. I believe that the best teaching combines the inspiration of art, sometimes painstaking craft, and a dash of magic – those indiscernible elements of classroom interaction that elevate what could have been flat dialogue into experiences that reside in memory long after the class ends. I like to think that students find my classes memorable because I challenge them to engage the subject material in a variety of forms, because I value them and respect their contributions, and because I prioritize the learning enterprise that we’ve committed to embark upon together.

The Engagements provide an opportunity to extend my teaching of African-American literature and culture beyond the scope of the specific field and into the general terrain of understanding difference. For my courses, this will involve a macroscopic view of how racial difference was (and is) constructed in American life. Students entering one of my classes quickly realize that they will be responsible for much of their own learning; as a result, they learn to expand their academic capacity, to take risks, and extend their intellectual reach. As an associate professor of English, I try to create a challenging, engaging and exciting environment that promotes rigor. I seek an atmosphere in which everyone feels free to speak, as well as a space in which students critically connect with the course materials rather than speak solely from personal experience or anecdotes.

,

Goldblatt

Laura
Posdoctoral Fellow

I worked as an English teacher at a failing high school in the Mississippi Delta before arriving at the University of Virginia. Nearly all of my high-school students were of color and qualified for free or reduced price lunch: I can count the exceptions to this rule on a single hand. More than half of the female students in my classes graduated from or left high school with at least one child, and my daily headcount too often depended upon sentences in juvenile detention, or worse.

Suffice it to say that the student body at the University of Virginia, an elite public institution that largely educates the children of professionals, has little in common with those who helped me craft my earliest and most abiding pedagogical principles. Despite these differences, both experiences have shown me that good teaching does not depend upon academic level and that the classroom can serve as a powerful laboratory for participatory democracy.

Due to these experiences, the hands-on, collaborative, and wildly ambitious pedagogical imagination at the core of the Engagements proposal drew me to the program. Two main goals guide my teaching. On the pedagogical side, using the tenets of cultural and literary study, I urge my students to view aesthetic objects as entangled in a complex web of meanings, historical contexts, and relationships that require consideration from multiple perspectives and methodologies. But for me, teaching also has material consequences on my students’ lives and the lives of those with whom they interact.

Beyond the content I convey, I aim to teach my students to think critically and creatively about the local and global systems in which they are imbedded while also urging them to consider possibilities to be realized outside these systems. I consider my courses a success when my students acquire the ability to consider the different viewpoints that can be brought to bear on cultural artifacts and to resist the urge to overlook the way something is said—its packaging—when considering its message. Most of all, I hope my classes will give them the courage to speak.

T/R 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1530: Debating Islams

EGMT 1530: Debating Islams

This Engagement is designed to enhance the understanding of religious diversity and conflict within our global world order. We will examine through the lens of religious difference questions of theology and political ideology, nationalism, and culture and law in Islam and the Muslim world. We will assess together how these categories are constructed in shaping and defining global as well as local religious identity today. The course also will encourage students to develop an awareness and understanding of religious difference and conflict through a series of case studies examining the relationship between Islam and political ideology, the nature of religious difference and violence, and the question of the “clash of civilizations.” Lastly, in terms of this Engagement’s “shared experience,” this course includes the following: A visiting lecture from a policy maker working on the intersection of religion and politics at the U.S. Department of State, particularly with respect to the “Islamic world” and the nature of American foreign policy and public diplomacy; and an on-site visit to the University of Virginia’s Special Collections Library to examine its holdings of religious texts, including manuscripts of polyglot Bibles, Korans, and Thomas Jefferson’s “Bible.”

Instructed by

Rahim

Ahmed al-
Assistant Professor, Director of the Program in Medieval Studies

I am truly excited to teach an Engagements course on religious difference. The opportunity to have a conversation with first-year students about the context of religion and religious politics in our global world order seems at this moment in human history to be quite timely.

My scholarship and teaching focus mainly on the intellectual traditions of medieval Islamic civilization and on the modern ideologies of political Islam until the present, including the history of Arabic philosophy and Islamic theology, competing ethical traditions within the Islamic world, and the impact of Western colonialism and imperialism on Islamic thought and the construction of Muslim identities, from the Middle East to South Asia.

I have been teaching both undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia since completing my Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at Yale University in 2009. I also currently serve as the Director of the Program in Medieval Studies. This program draws from an interdisciplinary community of students and faculty from across disciplines in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, united by a common interest in the diverse aspects of the global medieval past.

Course Name: Title: 
M/W 5:00pm - 6:15pm
EGMT 1530: Race, Racism, Colony, and Nation

EGMT 1530: Race, Racism, Colony, and Nation

What do the American Revolution and Black Lives Matter have in common? What happened between the 1776 declaration that “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” and the 1857 Supreme Court ruling that the black man had "no rights which the white man was bound to respect?” In what ways can the 1950s era civil rights slogan, “I Am A Man,” be considered a declaration? What’s required to connect Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson or Baltimore to colonial resistance to the king sending “swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance?”[1]

 

As a component of a series of scholarly engagements, this course is committed to cultivating an approach to human differences that can serve as a basis for critical inquiry and civic participation. This course is concerned with the ways in which racial differences shape American history, life, and culture.  In particular, we will frame our questions using the metaphor of the colony and the nation. The prevailing story of America is one of transformation from a colony into one nation, as its people transformed from subjects to citizens. Yet, the transformative properties of American democracy were racially precise: white freedom co-existing with/based upon black subjection. How does racial difference inform our view of America today? How might the American Revolution be considered incomplete? What aspects of our racial divide can be explained by the colony versus nation metaphor? How did/do ethics, science, media and creative expression reflect the idea that our nation is not so “indivisible” after all?

 

These are the type of questions and conflicts that interest this course. Through close reading, shared experience, small group work, and other assignments, this course encourages you to craft, share, and discard your interpretations of the ever-growing collection of cultural narratives and social experiences marked by white supremacy, racial difference and/or bias.


[1] The Declaration of Independence.

Instructed by

Woolfork

Lisa
Associate Professor of English

The College Fellows program appealed to me because I am committed to pedagogical notions that fuel successful humanities courses: rigor, spirited inquiry, and techniques that open up spaces for collaborative learning. I believe that the best teaching combines the inspiration of art, sometimes painstaking craft, and a dash of magic – those indiscernible elements of classroom interaction that elevate what could have been flat dialogue into experiences that reside in memory long after the class ends. I like to think that students find my classes memorable because I challenge them to engage the subject material in a variety of forms, because I value them and respect their contributions, and because I prioritize the learning enterprise that we’ve committed to embark upon together.

The Engagements provide an opportunity to extend my teaching of African-American literature and culture beyond the scope of the specific field and into the general terrain of understanding difference. For my courses, this will involve a macroscopic view of how racial difference was (and is) constructed in American life. Students entering one of my classes quickly realize that they will be responsible for much of their own learning; as a result, they learn to expand their academic capacity, to take risks, and extend their intellectual reach. As an associate professor of English, I try to create a challenging, engaging and exciting environment that promotes rigor. I seek an atmosphere in which everyone feels free to speak, as well as a space in which students critically connect with the course materials rather than speak solely from personal experience or anecdotes.

T/R 8:00am - 9:15am
EGMT 1530: The Individual and Society

EGMT 1530: The Individual and Society

In this course we ask big questions, perhaps among the biggest.  Who am I?  How do I come to be who I am?  How do I know myself?  Can I know myself?  What makes me who I am?  Am I responsible for my own life?  What are my relationships to others?  What are my relationships to my society (societies)?  What are my rights?  What are my obligations?  Does who I am in private say more about me than what I do in public? Can I live a moral life surrounded by immorality?   Should there be a safety net in a society of individuals? If we are indeed individuals, or can be, how do we forge our lives, in our interests and in those of others, toward the public good?

This course considers these big questions in order to help us better understand the richness and complexity of individuals and communities. We will reflect on the historical impacts of society on individuals and consider how individuals begin to form societies – or even more important, communities. In particular, we will consider how we as individuals encounter one another in our differences  and what it might mean to pursue a common good.

Instructed by

Braun

Tico
Associate Professor of History

I came from Colombia and Mexico to teach the liberal arts in the United States, the nation that knows them best. I have been involved with the liberal arts in my specialized undergraduate courses on Latin American history for more three decades at the University of Virginia. How do hierarchical and deeply conservative societies, we ask, seek to build enduring order? 

The Engagements offer me the opportunity to teach the liberal arts more broadly as ways in which our American and international students can think about themselves and their places in this nation’s democracy and in their expanding globalized world. I view the Engagements as a once-in-a-lifetime classroom opportunity to bring together the often-conflicting views of liberals and conservatives about the central issues of our past, present and future.  A liberal arts education seeks discourse and debate across different ideologies, and it aims to help us understand better those who seem to have ideas that may be different from our own, and thereby to also know ourselves more deeply. 

To make this experience come alive in my first course on Engaging Difference, we will ask about the places of the individual in various societies, in the past and in our contemporary world. This is perhaps one of our richest and deepest concerns, as we create different and overlapping ideas about our individual obligations to others and to the making of a good society. 

M/W 8:00am - 9:15am

Fall Session Two: October 16 - December 5

EGMT 1510/1530: Making the Invisible Visible

EGMT 1510/1530: Making the Invisible Visible

What do cultural artifacts—monuments, songs, books, films, TV shows, paintings, folk art, and so on—reveal about our cultures? And what are their limitations? In considering these questions, we will ask whether and to what extent engaging aesthetics and difference are complementary endeavors. Addressing these questions will require us to consider aesthetics and human difference from a number of angles. We will ask how the positions we take when reading—both physical and ideological—influence our interpretations, and the kinds of arguments monuments make to us based upon their positioning and how they ask us to approach them. Along these lines, we will also explore the concept and practice of audience and what it means to approach aesthetics in the public realm. How is reading or viewing shaped by those around us? What’s the difference between an audience in a movie theater, stage production, museum, or class? Why do different venues require different forms of spectatorship? Similarly, imagine the same cultural artifact, such as a song, in varied contexts or performed by different kinds of people. These and other concerns will animate the course as we study the way that cultural artifacts produced in particular historical moments are subject to current and future interpretation.

Instructed by

Woolfork

Lisa
Associate Professor of English

The College Fellows program appealed to me because I am committed to pedagogical notions that fuel successful humanities courses: rigor, spirited inquiry, and techniques that open up spaces for collaborative learning. I believe that the best teaching combines the inspiration of art, sometimes painstaking craft, and a dash of magic – those indiscernible elements of classroom interaction that elevate what could have been flat dialogue into experiences that reside in memory long after the class ends. I like to think that students find my classes memorable because I challenge them to engage the subject material in a variety of forms, because I value them and respect their contributions, and because I prioritize the learning enterprise that we’ve committed to embark upon together.

The Engagements provide an opportunity to extend my teaching of African-American literature and culture beyond the scope of the specific field and into the general terrain of understanding difference. For my courses, this will involve a macroscopic view of how racial difference was (and is) constructed in American life. Students entering one of my classes quickly realize that they will be responsible for much of their own learning; as a result, they learn to expand their academic capacity, to take risks, and extend their intellectual reach. As an associate professor of English, I try to create a challenging, engaging and exciting environment that promotes rigor. I seek an atmosphere in which everyone feels free to speak, as well as a space in which students critically connect with the course materials rather than speak solely from personal experience or anecdotes.

,

Goldblatt

Laura
Posdoctoral Fellow

I worked as an English teacher at a failing high school in the Mississippi Delta before arriving at the University of Virginia. Nearly all of my high-school students were of color and qualified for free or reduced price lunch: I can count the exceptions to this rule on a single hand. More than half of the female students in my classes graduated from or left high school with at least one child, and my daily headcount too often depended upon sentences in juvenile detention, or worse.

Suffice it to say that the student body at the University of Virginia, an elite public institution that largely educates the children of professionals, has little in common with those who helped me craft my earliest and most abiding pedagogical principles. Despite these differences, both experiences have shown me that good teaching does not depend upon academic level and that the classroom can serve as a powerful laboratory for participatory democracy.

Due to these experiences, the hands-on, collaborative, and wildly ambitious pedagogical imagination at the core of the Engagements proposal drew me to the program. Two main goals guide my teaching. On the pedagogical side, using the tenets of cultural and literary study, I urge my students to view aesthetic objects as entangled in a complex web of meanings, historical contexts, and relationships that require consideration from multiple perspectives and methodologies. But for me, teaching also has material consequences on my students’ lives and the lives of those with whom they interact.

Beyond the content I convey, I aim to teach my students to think critically and creatively about the local and global systems in which they are imbedded while also urging them to consider possibilities to be realized outside these systems. I consider my courses a success when my students acquire the ability to consider the different viewpoints that can be brought to bear on cultural artifacts and to resist the urge to overlook the way something is said—its packaging—when considering its message. Most of all, I hope my classes will give them the courage to speak.

T/R 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1530: Debating Islams

EGMT 1530: Debating Islams

This Engagement is designed to enhance the understanding of religious diversity and conflict within our global world order. We will examine through the lens of religious difference questions of theology and political ideology, nationalism, and culture and law in Islam and the Muslim world. We will assess together how these categories are constructed in shaping and defining global as well as local religious identity today. The course also will encourage students to develop an awareness and understanding of religious difference and conflict through a series of case studies examining the relationship between Islam and political ideology, the nature of religious difference and violence, and the question of the “clash of civilizations.” Lastly, in terms of this Engagement’s “shared experience,” this course includes the following: A visiting lecture from a policy maker working on the intersection of religion and politics at the U.S. Department of State, particularly with respect to the “Islamic world” and the nature of American foreign policy and public diplomacy; and an on-site visit to the University of Virginia’s Special Collections Library to examine its holdings of religious texts, including manuscripts of polyglot Bibles, Korans, and Thomas Jefferson’s “Bible.”

Instructed by

Rahim

Ahmed al-
Assistant Professor, Director of the Program in Medieval Studies

I am truly excited to teach an Engagements course on religious difference. The opportunity to have a conversation with first-year students about the context of religion and religious politics in our global world order seems at this moment in human history to be quite timely.

My scholarship and teaching focus mainly on the intellectual traditions of medieval Islamic civilization and on the modern ideologies of political Islam until the present, including the history of Arabic philosophy and Islamic theology, competing ethical traditions within the Islamic world, and the impact of Western colonialism and imperialism on Islamic thought and the construction of Muslim identities, from the Middle East to South Asia.

I have been teaching both undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia since completing my Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at Yale University in 2009. I also currently serve as the Director of the Program in Medieval Studies. This program draws from an interdisciplinary community of students and faculty from across disciplines in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, united by a common interest in the diverse aspects of the global medieval past.

Course Name: Title: 
M/W 5:00pm - 6:15pm
EGMT 1530: The Individual and Society

EGMT 1530: The Individual and Society

In this course we ask big questions, perhaps among the biggest.  Who am I?  How do I come to be who I am?  How do I know myself?  Can I know myself?  What makes me who I am?  Am I responsible for my own life?  What are my relationships to others?  What are my relationships to my society (societies)?  What are my rights?  What are my obligations?  Does who I am in private say more about me than what I do in public? Can I live a moral life surrounded by immorality?   Should there be a safety net in a society of individuals? If we are indeed individuals, or can be, how do we forge our lives, in our interests and in those of others, toward the public good?

This course considers these big questions in order to help us better understand the richness and complexity of individuals and communities. We will reflect on the historical impacts of society on individuals and consider how individuals begin to form societies – or even more important, communities. In particular, we will consider how we as individuals encounter one another in our differences  and what it might mean to pursue a common good.

Instructed by

Braun

Tico
Associate Professor of History

I came from Colombia and Mexico to teach the liberal arts in the United States, the nation that knows them best. I have been involved with the liberal arts in my specialized undergraduate courses on Latin American history for more three decades at the University of Virginia. How do hierarchical and deeply conservative societies, we ask, seek to build enduring order? 

The Engagements offer me the opportunity to teach the liberal arts more broadly as ways in which our American and international students can think about themselves and their places in this nation’s democracy and in their expanding globalized world. I view the Engagements as a once-in-a-lifetime classroom opportunity to bring together the often-conflicting views of liberals and conservatives about the central issues of our past, present and future.  A liberal arts education seeks discourse and debate across different ideologies, and it aims to help us understand better those who seem to have ideas that may be different from our own, and thereby to also know ourselves more deeply. 

To make this experience come alive in my first course on Engaging Difference, we will ask about the places of the individual in various societies, in the past and in our contemporary world. This is perhaps one of our richest and deepest concerns, as we create different and overlapping ideas about our individual obligations to others and to the making of a good society. 

M/W 9:30am - 10:45am

Spring 2018

Spring Session One: January 17 - March 13

EGMT 1510/1530: New Media Art in the Age of Global Networks

EGMT 1510/1530: New Media Art in the Age of Global Networks

If art has always had a role to play in mediating relationships between human beings, what artistic and social possibilities are emerging with the new media in the mix — from internet art and interactive sound art, to fully immersive virtual realities and AI’s that dream? Do computer technologies and global networks promote the democratization of artistic production, distribution, and reception? Or do they reinforce or even amplify imbalances of power and of access to resources that already exist? Do present-day configurations of art, technology, and media culture allow us to gain empathy for and insight into the experiences of different people and communities? Or do they obscure differences by requiring us to conform to the logics of our tools and techniques? Do computers expand creative possibilities and transform what's possible in art? Or do they, instead, undermine the artist's imagination, originality, and artistry? After all, how do computers change art-making?

In this course, we will explore these questions and others through encounters with a variety of new media artworks and practices, made by people working in a variety of different cultures and social situations. We will use new media as a way to respond to course content — and to make new, propositional works.

Instructed by

Coffey

Ted
Associate Professor of Music

I teach subjects at the intersection of music, culture, and technology. I make acoustic and electronic chamber music, sound installations, and songs, and much of my practice involves collaboration with artists working in other media.

I was drawn to the College Fellows to enrich and refine my teaching, especially through community with other scholars thinking through new perspectives, ideas, and methods. When I consider “engaging aesthetics” as one of the themes for the Engagements courses we’ve designed, to me it implies appreciating and evolving an ancient, profoundly human way of reasoning, one distinct from and not reducible to other ways of reasoning. Both in the apprehension and in the poetic practices of art, things can be demonstrably true without being quantifiable. In fact, we may not even be able to specify what quanta are relevant. Yet even where haphazard proliferation of ‘facts’ effects white noise, art maintains its power to speak, to cut through, to tell stories that we recognize as true.

This is part of why the arts are fundamental rather than ornamental to human experience. The other part has to do with what education fundamentally is: the transformation of areas of knowledge and practice once unfamiliar into that which we hold dear, full of logic, specificity and care. As more of the world is transformed in this way, we gain traction toward humility and intellectual honesty, less inclined to prejudge our fellows and worlds, more inclined and able to commune with them. 

,

Kasra

Mona
Assistant Professor of Digital Media Design, Department of Drama

I believe the Engagements courses offer a unique and transformative educational experience that fosters independent learning, active participation, and critical and reflective thinking. My scholarly work and creative practice is centered on transdisciplinary exploration and critical examination of the confluence of visual communication and emerging media in the 21st century, and my pedagogy reflects my artistic practice and scholarship. I believe in empowering students to understand the sociopolitical and cultural implications of technology and to experiment with the ways by which new media can enhance and reimagine narrative, performance, and personal and creative forms of expression.

I strive to equip students with strong foundations in media literacy, theory, and practice while introducing them to emerging media as spaces for creation, reflection, and speculation. As an assistant professor of digital media design in the College’s Department of Drama, I work to continuously find new ways to connect technology to students’ creative ingenuity and help them develop critical perspectives on new technologies and artistic practices.

I apply an interdisciplinary framework to my research, combining semiotics, visual studies, media theory, and cultural studies to examine the power and impact of online images upon cross-cultural and cross-political life in the networked age. I have exhibited work in numerous exhibitions and have programmed, curated, and served as a juror for several film festivals and art exhibitions. In 2016, I served as the conference chair at ACM SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest, most influential annual conference on the theory and practice of computer graphics and interactive techniques.

T/R 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1530: America Unequal: Inequalities and the American Promise, From the Founders to the Past

EGMT 1530: America Unequal: Inequalities and the American Promise, From the Founders to the Past

The United States Declaration of Independence proclaimed “all men are created equal.” However, from the country’s earliest days, some Americans found that this promise of equality did not apply to them, either in theory or in practice. This course explores the various inequalities – economic, racial, gender, and sexual, among others – that have defined the American experience. The existence of these inequalities, both legal and informal, has both undermined the American promise of equality and opportunity for some and enabled prosperity and the “American Dream” for others. This course will examine this paradox from an interdisciplinary, historical perspective with an eye towards understanding the state of American inequality today. As participants in “America Unequal,” you will critically examine your individual American experience in relation to both the different experiences of others and the historical and social forces that shape all our experiences, albeit in different ways. In doing so, you will consider the meaning(s) of “equality,” as well as related ideas such as “fairness” and “opportunity,” and consider the ways in which our ideas about equality have aligned and conflicted with the reality of the American experience for various categories of people. Additionally, you will consider how the categories that shape our experiences are themselves socially constructed and historically contingent. “America Unequal” challenges you to consider the implications of inequality in both the public and private spheres, including the workplace, the home, the courtroom, and the voting booth. In doing so, you will examine how our individual actions and public polices have both enabled and constrained the ideal of equality as expressed in the Declaration, as well as how both culture and policy have changed over time and by what means. Finally, you will be asked to examine remaining barriers to equality for all and how they might be removed in service of creating, in words of the Constitution’s preamble, “a more perfect union.”

Instructed by
T/R 12:30pm - 1:45pm
EGMT 1530: Debating Islams

EGMT 1530: Debating Islams

This Engagement is designed to enhance the understanding of religious diversity and conflict within our global world order. We will examine through the lens of religious difference questions of theology and political ideology, nationalism, and culture and law in Islam and the Muslim world. We will assess together how these categories are constructed in shaping and defining global as well as local religious identity today. The course also will encourage students to develop an awareness and understanding of religious difference and conflict through a series of case studies examining the relationship between Islam and political ideology, the nature of religious difference and violence, and the question of the “clash of civilizations.” Lastly, in terms of this Engagement’s “shared experience,” this course includes the following: A visiting lecture from a policy maker working on the intersection of religion and politics at the U.S. Department of State, particularly with respect to the “Islamic world” and the nature of American foreign policy and public diplomacy; and an on-site visit to the University of Virginia’s Special Collections Library to examine its holdings of religious texts, including manuscripts of polyglot Bibles, Korans, and Thomas Jefferson’s “Bible.”

Instructed by

Rahim

Ahmed al-
Assistant Professor, Director of the Program in Medieval Studies

I am truly excited to teach an Engagements course on religious difference. The opportunity to have a conversation with first-year students about the context of religion and religious politics in our global world order seems at this moment in human history to be quite timely.

My scholarship and teaching focus mainly on the intellectual traditions of medieval Islamic civilization and on the modern ideologies of political Islam until the present, including the history of Arabic philosophy and Islamic theology, competing ethical traditions within the Islamic world, and the impact of Western colonialism and imperialism on Islamic thought and the construction of Muslim identities, from the Middle East to South Asia.

I have been teaching both undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia since completing my Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at Yale University in 2009. I also currently serve as the Director of the Program in Medieval Studies. This program draws from an interdisciplinary community of students and faculty from across disciplines in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, united by a common interest in the diverse aspects of the global medieval past.

Course Name: Title: 
M/W 3:30pm - 4:45pm
EGMT 1530: Race, Racism, Colony, and Nation

EGMT 1530: Race, Racism, Colony, and Nation

What do the American Revolution and Black Lives Matter have in common? What happened between the 1776 declaration that “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” and the 1857 Supreme Court ruling that the black man had "no rights which the white man was bound to respect?” In what ways can the 1950s era civil rights slogan, “I Am A Man,” be considered a declaration? What’s required to connect Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson or Baltimore to colonial resistance to the king sending “swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance?”[1]

 

As a component of a series of scholarly engagements, this course is committed to cultivating an approach to human differences that can serve as a basis for critical inquiry and civic participation. This course is concerned with the ways in which racial differences shape American history, life, and culture.  In particular, we will frame our questions using the metaphor of the colony and the nation. The prevailing story of America is one of transformation from a colony into one nation, as its people transformed from subjects to citizens. Yet, the transformative properties of American democracy were racially precise: white freedom co-existing with/based upon black subjection. How does racial difference inform our view of America today? How might the American Revolution be considered incomplete? What aspects of our racial divide can be explained by the colony versus nation metaphor? How did/do ethics, science, media and creative expression reflect the idea that our nation is not so “indivisible” after all?

 

These are the type of questions and conflicts that interest this course. Through close reading, shared experience, small group work, and other assignments, this course encourages you to craft, share, and discard your interpretations of the ever-growing collection of cultural narratives and social experiences marked by white supremacy, racial difference and/or bias.


[1] The Declaration of Independence.

Instructed by

Woolfork

Lisa
Associate Professor of English

The College Fellows program appealed to me because I am committed to pedagogical notions that fuel successful humanities courses: rigor, spirited inquiry, and techniques that open up spaces for collaborative learning. I believe that the best teaching combines the inspiration of art, sometimes painstaking craft, and a dash of magic – those indiscernible elements of classroom interaction that elevate what could have been flat dialogue into experiences that reside in memory long after the class ends. I like to think that students find my classes memorable because I challenge them to engage the subject material in a variety of forms, because I value them and respect their contributions, and because I prioritize the learning enterprise that we’ve committed to embark upon together.

The Engagements provide an opportunity to extend my teaching of African-American literature and culture beyond the scope of the specific field and into the general terrain of understanding difference. For my courses, this will involve a macroscopic view of how racial difference was (and is) constructed in American life. Students entering one of my classes quickly realize that they will be responsible for much of their own learning; as a result, they learn to expand their academic capacity, to take risks, and extend their intellectual reach. As an associate professor of English, I try to create a challenging, engaging and exciting environment that promotes rigor. I seek an atmosphere in which everyone feels free to speak, as well as a space in which students critically connect with the course materials rather than speak solely from personal experience or anecdotes.

T/R 9:30-10:45
EGMT 1530: Real or Fake? The Politics of Authenticity

EGMT 1530: Real or Fake? The Politics of Authenticity

Why do we say that “real men don’t cry” or that “real women have curves”? Who gets to cook pho and tacos, and who gets to eat them? What does it mean to be called, or even to call yourself, black or white or Asian or Latinx or Native American? Does shopping at Wal-Mart make you working class, or wearing Prada make you upper class? Can one change one’s racial, gender, or class identity, or are such identities given by birth? And can sexuality, religion, or disability be identities, since many people may change their sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or disability status over time? Who gets to police these identities? And what is at stake in these battles—what do we win (or lose) in deciding who is “real” and who is “fake”? This course will explore these questions by investigating various controversies involving authenticity and identity politics. We will draw our examples from law, politics, music, food, cinema, sports, literature, and other realms of U.S. culture and society from the 19th to the 21st centuries.

Instructed by

Chong

Sylvia
Associate Professor of English

I view the Engagements courses as an extension of my ongoing study of race and ethnicity in the U.S. Before joining the College Fellows, I had already taught general courses in Asian American Studies, in American Studies in general, and on particular topics within these fields such as racial performance, censorship, the Vietnam War, and American exceptionalism. I wanted to bring ideas from these upper level courses to a broader audience.

Because of my training as a film and media studies scholar, I always draw on examples from movies, television, the internet, popular music, and the news media. I think these cultural materials help us imagine the beliefs and attitudes of people unlike ourselves, whether separated from us by time, by place, or by race, gender, sexuality, class, or disability. Even though we are surrounded by popular and visual culture, we don’t often think critically about these texts, and the combination of film/media studies and race/ethnic studies gives us many tools for rigorously engaging with them.

I hope to relate to students in the Engagements courses not only by connecting with the kinds of culture they already know and care about, but also by introducing them to new images, sounds, and ideas that will help them understand the world around them, at UVA and at large. I want students to feel personally connected to the ideas we encounter, and at the same time, to challenge their notions about what makes up our identities and how these identities came about, historically, politically, and socially.

T/R 3:30pm - 4:45pm
EGMT 1530: The Individual and Society

EGMT 1530: The Individual and Society

In this course we ask big questions, perhaps among the biggest.  Who am I?  How do I come to be who I am?  How do I know myself?  Can I know myself?  What makes me who I am?  Am I responsible for my own life?  What are my relationships to others?  What are my relationships to my society (societies)?  What are my rights?  What are my obligations?  Does who I am in private say more about me than what I do in public? Can I live a moral life surrounded by immorality?   Should there be a safety net in a society of individuals? If we are indeed individuals, or can be, how do we forge our lives, in our interests and in those of others, toward the public good?

This course considers these big questions in order to help us better understand the richness and complexity of individuals and communities. We will reflect on the historical impacts of society on individuals and consider how individuals begin to form societies – or even more important, communities. In particular, we will consider how we as individuals encounter one another in our differences  and what it might mean to pursue a common good.

Instructed by

Braun

Tico
Associate Professor of History

I came from Colombia and Mexico to teach the liberal arts in the United States, the nation that knows them best. I have been involved with the liberal arts in my specialized undergraduate courses on Latin American history for more three decades at the University of Virginia. How do hierarchical and deeply conservative societies, we ask, seek to build enduring order? 

The Engagements offer me the opportunity to teach the liberal arts more broadly as ways in which our American and international students can think about themselves and their places in this nation’s democracy and in their expanding globalized world. I view the Engagements as a once-in-a-lifetime classroom opportunity to bring together the often-conflicting views of liberals and conservatives about the central issues of our past, present and future.  A liberal arts education seeks discourse and debate across different ideologies, and it aims to help us understand better those who seem to have ideas that may be different from our own, and thereby to also know ourselves more deeply. 

To make this experience come alive in my first course on Engaging Difference, we will ask about the places of the individual in various societies, in the past and in our contemporary world. This is perhaps one of our richest and deepest concerns, as we create different and overlapping ideas about our individual obligations to others and to the making of a good society. 

M/W 8:00am - 9:15am
EGMT 1530: What is Inequality and Why Should We Worry About It?

EGMT 1530: What is Inequality and Why Should We Worry About It?

This Engagement course is designed to explore how economic inequalities shape human differences and social conflicts nationally and globally, and whether they are compatible with the common good and democratic rule. According to Oxfam “almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population” and the wealth of that one percent totals approximately $110 trillion, which in turn amounts to “65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.”  Are these disparities so extreme, and the lives of the haves versus the have-nots so fundamentally different, that it becomes a stretch to speak of a common humanity?  Do income and wealth inequalities exacerbate other types of inequalities based on gender and race, and how do they affect human health and dignity?  Are they an invitation to new forms of authoritarianism and a world of violent conflicts?  Or, are current levels of inequality the just and legitimate rewards for entrepreneurial, innovating, and risk-taking behavior? In short, are economic disparities the logical and inevitable consequence of the contradictory processes of wealth creation and poverty reduction, and are they justifiable and ultimately sustainable?

Students will explore these questions by investigating various controversies involving the nature, and potential costs or benefits of inequalities. We will draw our examples from the experiences of both the advanced industrialized nations and the “global south.”  We will also examine what analytical approaches scholars have used to study the social, economic, and political consequences of inequalities. 

Instructed by

Fatton

Robert
Julia A. Cooper Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs

I have always preferred teaching at the undergraduate level. I also feel that my new research project on the relationship between inequality and “exceptionalism” will help me create Engagements courses that give students the possibility of critically appreciating their own situation in the world.

Inequalities have dramatically increased over the past three decades. According to Oxfam, “almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.” As a political scientist, I am interested in questions of power and legitimacy.  Not surprisingly, I seek to understand not only whether this level of inequality is justifiable, but also whether it is sustainable? Is it an invitation to a Hobbesian world of violent conflicts? Indeed, are these disparities so extreme, and the lives of the haves versus the have-nots so fundamentally different, that it becomes a stretch to speak of a common humanity? 

This question leads me to my second theme, “exceptionalism.”  As I conceive it, exceptionalism is the belief that a particular group of people is inherently unique. While exceptionalism can and has degenerated into xenophobic or racist forms of exclusion, it can paradoxically claim a form of cultural distinctiveness based on universalism. In short, exceptionalism can both undermine and exalt a human commonality. Studying inequality and “exceptionalism” will encourage students to question their own ideas and assumptions about the world; in the process, they will hopefully understand that seeking good “answers” to major problems requires a complicated and ongoing quest for knowledge.

Originally from Haiti, I have taught at UVA since 1981. I chaired the Department of Politics from 1997 to 2004 and have also served as the Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. My most recent book. published in 2014, is Haiti: Trapped in the Outer Periphery.  

M/W 11:00am - 12:15pm

Spring Session Two: March 14 - May 1

EGMT 1510/1530: New Media Art in the Age of Global Networks

EGMT 1510/1530: New Media Art in the Age of Global Networks

If art has always had a role to play in mediating relationships between human beings, what artistic and social possibilities are emerging with the new media in the mix — from internet art and interactive sound art, to fully immersive virtual realities and AI’s that dream? Do computer technologies and global networks promote the democratization of artistic production, distribution, and reception? Or do they reinforce or even amplify imbalances of power and of access to resources that already exist? Do present-day configurations of art, technology, and media culture allow us to gain empathy for and insight into the experiences of different people and communities? Or do they obscure differences by requiring us to conform to the logics of our tools and techniques? Do computers expand creative possibilities and transform what's possible in art? Or do they, instead, undermine the artist's imagination, originality, and artistry? After all, how do computers change art-making?

In this course, we will explore these questions and others through encounters with a variety of new media artworks and practices, made by people working in a variety of different cultures and social situations. We will use new media as a way to respond to course content — and to make new, propositional works.

Instructed by

Coffey

Ted
Associate Professor of Music

I teach subjects at the intersection of music, culture, and technology. I make acoustic and electronic chamber music, sound installations, and songs, and much of my practice involves collaboration with artists working in other media.

I was drawn to the College Fellows to enrich and refine my teaching, especially through community with other scholars thinking through new perspectives, ideas, and methods. When I consider “engaging aesthetics” as one of the themes for the Engagements courses we’ve designed, to me it implies appreciating and evolving an ancient, profoundly human way of reasoning, one distinct from and not reducible to other ways of reasoning. Both in the apprehension and in the poetic practices of art, things can be demonstrably true without being quantifiable. In fact, we may not even be able to specify what quanta are relevant. Yet even where haphazard proliferation of ‘facts’ effects white noise, art maintains its power to speak, to cut through, to tell stories that we recognize as true.

This is part of why the arts are fundamental rather than ornamental to human experience. The other part has to do with what education fundamentally is: the transformation of areas of knowledge and practice once unfamiliar into that which we hold dear, full of logic, specificity and care. As more of the world is transformed in this way, we gain traction toward humility and intellectual honesty, less inclined to prejudge our fellows and worlds, more inclined and able to commune with them. 

,

Kasra

Mona
Assistant Professor of Digital Media Design, Department of Drama

I believe the Engagements courses offer a unique and transformative educational experience that fosters independent learning, active participation, and critical and reflective thinking. My scholarly work and creative practice is centered on transdisciplinary exploration and critical examination of the confluence of visual communication and emerging media in the 21st century, and my pedagogy reflects my artistic practice and scholarship. I believe in empowering students to understand the sociopolitical and cultural implications of technology and to experiment with the ways by which new media can enhance and reimagine narrative, performance, and personal and creative forms of expression.

I strive to equip students with strong foundations in media literacy, theory, and practice while introducing them to emerging media as spaces for creation, reflection, and speculation. As an assistant professor of digital media design in the College’s Department of Drama, I work to continuously find new ways to connect technology to students’ creative ingenuity and help them develop critical perspectives on new technologies and artistic practices.

I apply an interdisciplinary framework to my research, combining semiotics, visual studies, media theory, and cultural studies to examine the power and impact of online images upon cross-cultural and cross-political life in the networked age. I have exhibited work in numerous exhibitions and have programmed, curated, and served as a juror for several film festivals and art exhibitions. In 2016, I served as the conference chair at ACM SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest, most influential annual conference on the theory and practice of computer graphics and interactive techniques.

T/R 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1530: America Unequal: Inequalities and the American Promise, From the Founders to the Past

EGMT 1530: America Unequal: Inequalities and the American Promise, From the Founders to the Past

The United States Declaration of Independence proclaimed “all men are created equal.” However, from the country’s earliest days, some Americans found that this promise of equality did not apply to them, either in theory or in practice. This course explores the various inequalities – economic, racial, gender, and sexual, among others – that have defined the American experience. The existence of these inequalities, both legal and informal, has both undermined the American promise of equality and opportunity for some and enabled prosperity and the “American Dream” for others. This course will examine this paradox from an interdisciplinary, historical perspective with an eye towards understanding the state of American inequality today. As participants in “America Unequal,” you will critically examine your individual American experience in relation to both the different experiences of others and the historical and social forces that shape all our experiences, albeit in different ways. In doing so, you will consider the meaning(s) of “equality,” as well as related ideas such as “fairness” and “opportunity,” and consider the ways in which our ideas about equality have aligned and conflicted with the reality of the American experience for various categories of people. Additionally, you will consider how the categories that shape our experiences are themselves socially constructed and historically contingent. “America Unequal” challenges you to consider the implications of inequality in both the public and private spheres, including the workplace, the home, the courtroom, and the voting booth. In doing so, you will examine how our individual actions and public polices have both enabled and constrained the ideal of equality as expressed in the Declaration, as well as how both culture and policy have changed over time and by what means. Finally, you will be asked to examine remaining barriers to equality for all and how they might be removed in service of creating, in words of the Constitution’s preamble, “a more perfect union.”

Instructed by
M/W 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1530: Debating Islams

EGMT 1530: Debating Islams

This Engagement is designed to enhance the understanding of religious diversity and conflict within our global world order. We will examine through the lens of religious difference questions of theology and political ideology, nationalism, and culture and law in Islam and the Muslim world. We will assess together how these categories are constructed in shaping and defining global as well as local religious identity today. The course also will encourage students to develop an awareness and understanding of religious difference and conflict through a series of case studies examining the relationship between Islam and political ideology, the nature of religious difference and violence, and the question of the “clash of civilizations.” Lastly, in terms of this Engagement’s “shared experience,” this course includes the following: A visiting lecture from a policy maker working on the intersection of religion and politics at the U.S. Department of State, particularly with respect to the “Islamic world” and the nature of American foreign policy and public diplomacy; and an on-site visit to the University of Virginia’s Special Collections Library to examine its holdings of religious texts, including manuscripts of polyglot Bibles, Korans, and Thomas Jefferson’s “Bible.”

Instructed by

Rahim

Ahmed al-
Assistant Professor, Director of the Program in Medieval Studies

I am truly excited to teach an Engagements course on religious difference. The opportunity to have a conversation with first-year students about the context of religion and religious politics in our global world order seems at this moment in human history to be quite timely.

My scholarship and teaching focus mainly on the intellectual traditions of medieval Islamic civilization and on the modern ideologies of political Islam until the present, including the history of Arabic philosophy and Islamic theology, competing ethical traditions within the Islamic world, and the impact of Western colonialism and imperialism on Islamic thought and the construction of Muslim identities, from the Middle East to South Asia.

I have been teaching both undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia since completing my Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at Yale University in 2009. I also currently serve as the Director of the Program in Medieval Studies. This program draws from an interdisciplinary community of students and faculty from across disciplines in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, united by a common interest in the diverse aspects of the global medieval past.

Course Name: Title: 
M/W 6:30pm - 7:45pm
EGMT 1530: Real or Fake? The Politics of Authenticity

EGMT 1530: Real or Fake? The Politics of Authenticity

Why do we say that “real men don’t cry” or that “real women have curves”? Who gets to cook pho and tacos, and who gets to eat them? What does it mean to be called, or even to call yourself, black or white or Asian or Latinx or Native American? Does shopping at Wal-Mart make you working class, or wearing Prada make you upper class? Can one change one’s racial, gender, or class identity, or are such identities given by birth? And can sexuality, religion, or disability be identities, since many people may change their sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or disability status over time? Who gets to police these identities? And what is at stake in these battles—what do we win (or lose) in deciding who is “real” and who is “fake”? This course will explore these questions by investigating various controversies involving authenticity and identity politics. We will draw our examples from law, politics, music, food, cinema, sports, literature, and other realms of U.S. culture and society from the 19th to the 21st centuries.

Instructed by

Chong

Sylvia
Associate Professor of English

I view the Engagements courses as an extension of my ongoing study of race and ethnicity in the U.S. Before joining the College Fellows, I had already taught general courses in Asian American Studies, in American Studies in general, and on particular topics within these fields such as racial performance, censorship, the Vietnam War, and American exceptionalism. I wanted to bring ideas from these upper level courses to a broader audience.

Because of my training as a film and media studies scholar, I always draw on examples from movies, television, the internet, popular music, and the news media. I think these cultural materials help us imagine the beliefs and attitudes of people unlike ourselves, whether separated from us by time, by place, or by race, gender, sexuality, class, or disability. Even though we are surrounded by popular and visual culture, we don’t often think critically about these texts, and the combination of film/media studies and race/ethnic studies gives us many tools for rigorously engaging with them.

I hope to relate to students in the Engagements courses not only by connecting with the kinds of culture they already know and care about, but also by introducing them to new images, sounds, and ideas that will help them understand the world around them, at UVA and at large. I want students to feel personally connected to the ideas we encounter, and at the same time, to challenge their notions about what makes up our identities and how these identities came about, historically, politically, and socially.

T/R 2:00pm - 3:15pm
EGMT 1530: The Individual and Society

EGMT 1530: The Individual and Society

In this course we ask big questions, perhaps among the biggest.  Who am I?  How do I come to be who I am?  How do I know myself?  Can I know myself?  What makes me who I am?  Am I responsible for my own life?  What are my relationships to others?  What are my relationships to my society (societies)?  What are my rights?  What are my obligations?  Does who I am in private say more about me than what I do in public? Can I live a moral life surrounded by immorality?   Should there be a safety net in a society of individuals? If we are indeed individuals, or can be, how do we forge our lives, in our interests and in those of others, toward the public good?

This course considers these big questions in order to help us better understand the richness and complexity of individuals and communities. We will reflect on the historical impacts of society on individuals and consider how individuals begin to form societies – or even more important, communities. In particular, we will consider how we as individuals encounter one another in our differences  and what it might mean to pursue a common good.

Instructed by

Braun

Tico
Associate Professor of History

I came from Colombia and Mexico to teach the liberal arts in the United States, the nation that knows them best. I have been involved with the liberal arts in my specialized undergraduate courses on Latin American history for more three decades at the University of Virginia. How do hierarchical and deeply conservative societies, we ask, seek to build enduring order? 

The Engagements offer me the opportunity to teach the liberal arts more broadly as ways in which our American and international students can think about themselves and their places in this nation’s democracy and in their expanding globalized world. I view the Engagements as a once-in-a-lifetime classroom opportunity to bring together the often-conflicting views of liberals and conservatives about the central issues of our past, present and future.  A liberal arts education seeks discourse and debate across different ideologies, and it aims to help us understand better those who seem to have ideas that may be different from our own, and thereby to also know ourselves more deeply. 

To make this experience come alive in my first course on Engaging Difference, we will ask about the places of the individual in various societies, in the past and in our contemporary world. This is perhaps one of our richest and deepest concerns, as we create different and overlapping ideas about our individual obligations to others and to the making of a good society. 

T/R 9:30am - 10:45am
EGMT 1530: What is Inequality and Why Should We Worry About It?

EGMT 1530: What is Inequality and Why Should We Worry About It?

This Engagement course is designed to explore how economic inequalities shape human differences and social conflicts nationally and globally, and whether they are compatible with the common good and democratic rule. According to Oxfam “almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population” and the wealth of that one percent totals approximately $110 trillion, which in turn amounts to “65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.”  Are these disparities so extreme, and the lives of the haves versus the have-nots so fundamentally different, that it becomes a stretch to speak of a common humanity?  Do income and wealth inequalities exacerbate other types of inequalities based on gender and race, and how do they affect human health and dignity?  Are they an invitation to new forms of authoritarianism and a world of violent conflicts?  Or, are current levels of inequality the just and legitimate rewards for entrepreneurial, innovating, and risk-taking behavior? In short, are economic disparities the logical and inevitable consequence of the contradictory processes of wealth creation and poverty reduction, and are they justifiable and ultimately sustainable?

Students will explore these questions by investigating various controversies involving the nature, and potential costs or benefits of inequalities. We will draw our examples from the experiences of both the advanced industrialized nations and the “global south.”  We will also examine what analytical approaches scholars have used to study the social, economic, and political consequences of inequalities. 

Instructed by

Fatton

Robert
Julia A. Cooper Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs

I have always preferred teaching at the undergraduate level. I also feel that my new research project on the relationship between inequality and “exceptionalism” will help me create Engagements courses that give students the possibility of critically appreciating their own situation in the world.

Inequalities have dramatically increased over the past three decades. According to Oxfam, “almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.” As a political scientist, I am interested in questions of power and legitimacy.  Not surprisingly, I seek to understand not only whether this level of inequality is justifiable, but also whether it is sustainable? Is it an invitation to a Hobbesian world of violent conflicts? Indeed, are these disparities so extreme, and the lives of the haves versus the have-nots so fundamentally different, that it becomes a stretch to speak of a common humanity? 

This question leads me to my second theme, “exceptionalism.”  As I conceive it, exceptionalism is the belief that a particular group of people is inherently unique. While exceptionalism can and has degenerated into xenophobic or racist forms of exclusion, it can paradoxically claim a form of cultural distinctiveness based on universalism. In short, exceptionalism can both undermine and exalt a human commonality. Studying inequality and “exceptionalism” will encourage students to question their own ideas and assumptions about the world; in the process, they will hopefully understand that seeking good “answers” to major problems requires a complicated and ongoing quest for knowledge.

Originally from Haiti, I have taught at UVA since 1981. I chaired the Department of Politics from 1997 to 2004 and have also served as the Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. My most recent book. published in 2014, is Haiti: Trapped in the Outer Periphery.  

T/R 8:00am - 9:15am

EGMT 1540: Ethical Engagement

Fall 2017

Fall Session One: August 22 - October 13

EGMT 1520/1540: Knowledge You Can Trust

EGMT 1520/1540: Knowledge You Can Trust

According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans are losing trust in their institutions. On average, only 32% of Americans expressed a “great deal” or “quite alot” of confidence in key institutions. In the months following last year’s presidential election, this erosion of trust became a subject of national debate as stories about “fake news” dominated the headlines––could any newsource be trusted to provide truthful and trustworthy information? Could we, a public in search of the facts and truth, find real knowledge anywhere?

In this course, we will consider what it means to trust not only a person––a parent, a friend, a teacher––but also an institution, a community, or a profession. We will focus, in particular, on the ways in which a range of modern institutions––such as the state, media and journalism, scientific communities, religious institutions, and universities––create and share trustworthy knowledge. We will also consider the ethical and political consequences when the institutions that we have long relied on to provide us trustworthy knowledge face unprecedented challenges.

Over the course of fourteen weeks, we will consider these big but basic questions through an empirical and ethical investigation of the organization of knowledge: its sources of authority, legitimacy and credibility. We will consider the ways in which empirical forms of knowledge, especially knowledge based on statistical methods and practices, are central to the modern state, media and science. How do states gain knowledge about themselves? How does modern science rely on empirical methods to make its claims?  We will also consider what it means to be an ethical agent in light of the apparent breakdown in trust. What does it mean to be a member of a community, both locally and more globally, and how do you decide whom and what to trust? How do modern institutions relate to particular ethical traditions and how do individuals understand their own lives and unique traditions through these institutions? Our goal is to understand better the empirical basis of modern knowledge and its institutions as well as to reflect upon the kinds of ethical people these institutions help form. 

Instructed by

Wellmon

Chad
Co-Director of the College Fellows & Associate Professor of German Studies

I teach and write on European intellectual history, media theory, and the history of education and technology. My work ranges across centuries and ideas. In part, that’s because I get easily distracted by new books and new ideas, but it’s also because I simply love to learn from my students, my colleagues, and my books.

As co-director of the College Fellows Program, I consider the Engagements a dream come true. My work as chair of the General Education Reform Committee, which designed the new curriculum, inspired me to teach in the College Fellows Program. As a Fellow, I get to teach with and learn from some of UVA’s smartest and most talented faculty members, and I leave every Fellows meeting with a new book or a new thought. I get to share all those with students in their very first college class and show them that learning never ends and, regardless of your career, that you can devote your life to it.   

My teaching has been recognized with an All University Teaching Award, and my scholarship has been supported by awards and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. I’ve written essays on everything from Google’s search engines and Facebook’s algorithms to virtue in the modern university and the history of reading. My five published books include Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in an Era of Print Saturation (forthcoming, 2017), and Organizing Enlightenment: Information Overload and the Invention of the Modern Research University (2015).

 

,

Vaidhyanathan

Siva
Robertson Professor of Modern Media Studies

My scholarly work on digital media informs everything I teach in the Department of Media Studies. I could not write about copyright, privacy, security, and how we discover information if I stayed in one area of study. I have to deploy tools and knowledge from history, economics, law, sociology, anthropology, literature, music, computer science, statistics, linguistics, and the visual arts. I teach the same way, leading my students to deeper veins of knowledge within the disciplines. I find deep joy in learning from others, making connections across fields of ideas, and communicating clearly with broad audiences. If I succeed in the classroom, it’s because I show students that they can experience that joy as well. 

I chose to teach an Engagements course because I am deeply committed to promoting the vast opportunities, resources, and conversations that exist only in America’s great public research universities. I reject the idea that small, liberal arts colleges provide better educational environments. I champion the idea that research university faculty must cross intellectual boundaries and invite students of all levels into their paths of discovery.

For a decade, I have been teaching in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and I have taught also at the University of Virginia School of Law. I have written five books on internet culture or intellectual property and have edited one more. Every January, I lead a course called “New Media in NYC” that introduces students to the teeming world of Manhattan’s media industries. Before coming to UVA, I taught courses at Wesleyan University, New York University, the University of Amsterdam, and Columbia University. 

M/W 3:30pm - 4:45pm
EGMT 1540: Can a Text Be Ethical?

EGMT 1540: Can a Text Be Ethical?

The reliance on texts for ethical guidance is a widespread human phenomenon.  From the Code of Hammurabi to UVa’s Honor Code, texts have been used both to dictate what is right and wrong and to inspire individuals to seek out and enact the good. In this course, we will examine the use of written documents in determining what is ethical through case studies involving just one example: the New Testament.  We will examine four specific moments in history in which the New Testament played a primary role in ethical decision-making, asking in each instance the following questions:

 

  • Did the multiple individuals involved agree about the text’s interpretation? If not, how did the disagreement play out? Did a particular interpretation “win”? Was that, in your opinion, the “correct” interpretation?
  • Why did the text play a role? Did the text have the same authoritative and/or ethical status to everyone involved?
  • Was the outcome actually ethical?  Did the text lead, in your opinion, to ethical actions?

Our investigations of these historical moments will inform reflection on ourselves as ethical agents. To what extent have texts guided our actions in the past? Are there texts that we find ethically authoritative and/or helpful? As we inevitably face moments where we must make ethical decisions, what role, if any, will such texts play? What lessons can we learn from the roles texts have played in the past?

Instructed by

Spittler

Janet
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

I am fascinated by the diversity of early Christianity. My research focuses on Christian literature from the first-to-fourth centuries CE, both New Testament texts and “apocryphal” texts (that is, works not included in the Bible). Our earliest Christian literature shows Christians disagreeing with and debating each other, and these texts allow us to see the development of Christian thought. It was a process that unfolded slowly over centuries, and it cannot be fully understood outside of its historical and cultural context.

My interest in teaching one of the new Ethical Engagement courses is rooted in these interests and the challenge of ethical questions. They are never simple, and moreover, they are frequently rooted in and shaped by historical and cultural contexts that are very difficult to understand completely. My training as an historian of religions charts a good course for engaging ethical questions. How should we behave? How should we treat one another? What does it mean to live a “good life”? These are questions that many (though not all) religions have addressed directly throughout recorded history.

I hope to cultivate an atmosphere in which students can speak honestly and authentically about the questions and issues that matter most. I expect each class to be a diverse group, representing a wide range of religious and cultural perspectives. We will disagree with each other on issues big and small, but our goal is not agreement! Our goal is to grapple with ethical questions and to begin to think consciously of ourselves as ethical agents in our community and the world.

T/R 11:00am - 12:15pm
EGMT 1540: Can a Text Be Ethical?

EGMT 1540: Can a Text Be Ethical?

The reliance on texts for ethical guidance is a widespread human phenomenon.  From the Code of Hammurabi to UVa’s Honor Code, texts have been used both to dictate what is right and wrong and to inspire individuals to seek out and enact the good. In this course, we will examine the use of written documents in determining what is ethical through case studies involving just one example: the New Testament.  We will examine four specific moments in history in which the New Testament played a primary role in ethical decision-making, asking in each instance the following questions:

 

  • Did the multiple individuals involved agree about the text’s interpretation? If not, how did the disagreement play out? Did a particular interpretation “win”? Was that, in your opinion, the “correct” interpretation?
  • Why did the text play a role? Did the text have the same authoritative and/or ethical status to everyone involved?
  • Was the outcome actually ethical?  Did the text lead, in your opinion, to ethical actions?

Our investigations of these historical moments will inform reflection on ourselves as ethical agents. To what extent have texts guided our actions in the past? Are there texts that we find ethically authoritative and/or helpful? As we inevitably face moments where we must make ethical decisions, what role, if any, will such texts play? What lessons can we learn from the roles texts have played in the past?

Instructed by

Spittler

Janet
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

I am fascinated by the diversity of early Christianity. My research focuses on Christian literature from the first-to-fourth centuries CE, both New Testament texts and “apocryphal” texts (that is, works not included in the Bible). Our earliest Christian literature shows Christians disagreeing with and debating each other, and these texts allow us to see the development of Christian thought. It was a process that unfolded slowly over centuries, and it cannot be fully understood outside of its historical and cultural context.

My interest in teaching one of the new Ethical Engagement courses is rooted in these interests and the challenge of ethical questions. They are never simple, and moreover, they are frequently rooted in and shaped by historical and cultural contexts that are very difficult to understand completely. My training as an historian of religions charts a good course for engaging ethical questions. How should we behave? How should we treat one another? What does it mean to live a “good life”? These are questions that many (though not all) religions have addressed directly throughout recorded history.

I hope to cultivate an atmosphere in which students can speak honestly and authentically about the questions and issues that matter most. I expect each class to be a diverse group, representing a wide range of religious and cultural perspectives. We will disagree with each other on issues big and small, but our goal is not agreement! Our goal is to grapple with ethical questions and to begin to think consciously of ourselves as ethical agents in our community and the world.

M/W 9:30am - 10:45am
EGMT 1540: Mortality & Morality - The Ethics of Death

EGMT 1540: Mortality & Morality - The Ethics of Death

This course introduces students to modes of ethical inquiry and reflection through an investigation of an issue of universal human concern: death and dying. In the words of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, “There's nothing certain in a man's life except this: That he must lose it.” Beyond death’s inevitability, its sheer facticity, however, is there anything else to be said about it? Much, indeed. In this course, students will learn to see death and dying as an important lens for understanding morality and ethics, in terms of both individual dilemmas and choices, and social practices and institutions. For as Peter Berger has noted, “Every society is, in the last resort, [human beings] banded together in the face of death.” 

Over our seven weeks together, students will interrogate, articulate, and critically analyze their fundamental assumptions about the nature of death and human postures toward it. They will investigate individual and social practices of death and mourning. They will consider their beliefs about a “good death” and what it might mean to “die well” in conversation with voices from different eras and perspectives. We will explore specific questions such as: is death really all that bad? (Epicurus didn’t think so). Would personal immortality be preferable? (As it turns out, various religious traditions, philosophers and “transhumanists” disagree). What difference does the knowledge of death have for the living—for how we approach life, build culture, and organize community and institutions? How has the experience of dying changed in the modern age, and how does this affect our understanding of the goals of medicine and the ethics of killing and letting-die? And, how does all of this relate to our everyday lives? How might we deal with loss (if, and when, the time comes)? What will we teach our kids about death (if, and when, the time comes)? Our answers to these questions, students will come to see, reflect deep-seated and often inarticulate beliefs about human nature, moral agency, and the good life.

Instructed by
M/W 9:30am - 10:45am

Fall Session Two: October 16 - December 5

EGMT 1520/1540: Knowledge You Can Trust

EGMT 1520/1540: Knowledge You Can Trust

According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans are losing trust in their institutions. On average, only 32% of Americans expressed a “great deal” or “quite alot” of confidence in key institutions. In the months following last year’s presidential election, this erosion of trust became a subject of national debate as stories about “fake news” dominated the headlines––could any newsource be trusted to provide truthful and trustworthy information? Could we, a public in search of the facts and truth, find real knowledge anywhere?

In this course, we will consider what it means to trust not only a person––a parent, a friend, a teacher––but also an institution, a community, or a profession. We will focus, in particular, on the ways in which a range of modern institutions––such as the state, media and journalism, scientific communities, religious institutions, and universities––create and share trustworthy knowledge. We will also consider the ethical and political consequences when the institutions that we have long relied on to provide us trustworthy knowledge face unprecedented challenges.

Over the course of fourteen weeks, we will consider these big but basic questions through an empirical and ethical investigation of the organization of knowledge: its sources of authority, legitimacy and credibility. We will consider the ways in which empirical forms of knowledge, especially knowledge based on statistical methods and practices, are central to the modern state, media and science. How do states gain knowledge about themselves? How does modern science rely on empirical methods to make its claims?  We will also consider what it means to be an ethical agent in light of the apparent breakdown in trust. What does it mean to be a member of a community, both locally and more globally, and how do you decide whom and what to trust? How do modern institutions relate to particular ethical traditions and how do individuals understand their own lives and unique traditions through these institutions? Our goal is to understand better the empirical basis of modern knowledge and its institutions as well as to reflect upon the kinds of ethical people these institutions help form. 

Instructed by

Wellmon

Chad
Co-Director of the College Fellows & Associate Professor of German Studies

I teach and write on European intellectual history, media theory, and the history of education and technology. My work ranges across centuries and ideas. In part, that’s because I get easily distracted by new books and new ideas, but it’s also because I simply love to learn from my students, my colleagues, and my books.

As co-director of the College Fellows Program, I consider the Engagements a dream come true. My work as chair of the General Education Reform Committee, which designed the new curriculum, inspired me to teach in the College Fellows Program. As a Fellow, I get to teach with and learn from some of UVA’s smartest and most talented faculty members, and I leave every Fellows meeting with a new book or a new thought. I get to share all those with students in their very first college class and show them that learning never ends and, regardless of your career, that you can devote your life to it.   

My teaching has been recognized with an All University Teaching Award, and my scholarship has been supported by awards and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. I’ve written essays on everything from Google’s search engines and Facebook’s algorithms to virtue in the modern university and the history of reading. My five published books include Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in an Era of Print Saturation (forthcoming, 2017), and Organizing Enlightenment: Information Overload and the Invention of the Modern Research University (2015).

 

,

Vaidhyanathan

Siva
Robertson Professor of Modern Media Studies

My scholarly work on digital media informs everything I teach in the Department of Media Studies. I could not write about copyright, privacy, security, and how we discover information if I stayed in one area of study. I have to deploy tools and knowledge from history, economics, law, sociology, anthropology, literature, music, computer science, statistics, linguistics, and the visual arts. I teach the same way, leading my students to deeper veins of knowledge within the disciplines. I find deep joy in learning from others, making connections across fields of ideas, and communicating clearly with broad audiences. If I succeed in the classroom, it’s because I show students that they can experience that joy as well. 

I chose to teach an Engagements course because I am deeply committed to promoting the vast opportunities, resources, and conversations that exist only in America’s great public research universities. I reject the idea that small, liberal arts colleges provide better educational environments. I champion the idea that research university faculty must cross intellectual boundaries and invite students of all levels into their paths of discovery.

For a decade, I have been teaching in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and I have taught also at the University of Virginia School of Law. I have written five books on internet culture or intellectual property and have edited one more. Every January, I lead a course called “New Media in NYC” that introduces students to the teeming world of Manhattan’s media industries. Before coming to UVA, I taught courses at Wesleyan University, New York University, the University of Amsterdam, and Columbia University. 

M/W 3:30 - 4:45
EGMT 1540: Can a Text Be Ethical?

EGMT 1540: Can a Text Be Ethical?

The reliance on texts for ethical guidance is a widespread human phenomenon.  From the Code of Hammurabi to UVa’s Honor Code, texts have been used both to dictate what is right and wrong and to inspire individuals to seek out and enact the good. In this course, we will examine the use of written documents in determining what is ethical through case studies involving just one example: the New Testament.  We will examine four specific moments in history in which the New Testament played a primary role in ethical decision-making, asking in each instance the following questions:

 

  • Did the multiple individuals involved agree about the text’s interpretation? If not, how did the disagreement play out? Did a particular interpretation “win”? Was that, in your opinion, the “correct” interpretation?
  • Why did the text play a role? Did the text have the same authoritative and/or ethical status to everyone involved?
  • Was the outcome actually ethical?  Did the text lead, in your opinion, to ethical actions?

Our investigations of these historical moments will inform reflection on ourselves as ethical agents. To what extent have texts guided our actions in the past? Are there texts that we find ethically authoritative and/or helpful? As we inevitably face moments where we must make ethical decisions, what role, if any, will such texts play? What lessons can we learn from the roles texts have played in the past?

Instructed by

Spittler

Janet
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

I am fascinated by the diversity of early Christianity. My research focuses on Christian literature from the first-to-fourth centuries CE, both New Testament texts and “apocryphal” texts (that is, works not included in the Bible). Our earliest Christian literature shows Christians disagreeing with and debating each other, and these texts allow us to see the development of Christian thought. It was a process that unfolded slowly over centuries, and it cannot be fully understood outside of its historical and cultural context.

My interest in teaching one of the new Ethical Engagement courses is rooted in these interests and the challenge of ethical questions. They are never simple, and moreover, they are frequently rooted in and shaped by historical and cultural contexts that are very difficult to understand completely. My training as an historian of religions charts a good course for engaging ethical questions. How should we behave? How should we treat one another? What does it mean to live a “good life”? These are questions that many (though not all) religions have addressed directly throughout recorded history.

I hope to cultivate an atmosphere in which students can speak honestly and authentically about the questions and issues that matter most. I expect each class to be a diverse group, representing a wide range of religious and cultural perspectives. We will disagree with each other on issues big and small, but our goal is not agreement! Our goal is to grapple with ethical questions and to begin to think consciously of ourselves as ethical agents in our community and the world.

M/W 8:00am - 9:15am
EGMT 1540: Mortality & Morality - The Ethics of Death

EGMT 1540: Mortality & Morality - The Ethics of Death

This course introduces students to modes of ethical inquiry and reflection through an investigation of an issue of universal human concern: death and dying. In the words of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, “There's nothing certain in a man's life except this: That he must lose it.” Beyond death’s inevitability, its sheer facticity, however, is there anything else to be said about it? Much, indeed. In this course, students will learn to see death and dying as an important lens for understanding morality and ethics, in terms of both individual dilemmas and choices, and social practices and institutions. For as Peter Berger has noted, “Every society is, in the last resort, [human beings] banded together in the face of death.” 

Over our seven weeks together, students will interrogate, articulate, and critically analyze their fundamental assumptions about the nature of death and human postures toward it. They will investigate individual and social practices of death and mourning. They will consider their beliefs about a “good death” and what it might mean to “die well” in conversation with voices from different eras and perspectives. We will explore specific questions such as: is death really all that bad? (Epicurus didn’t think so). Would personal immortality be preferable? (As it turns out, various religious traditions, philosophers and “transhumanists” disagree). What difference does the knowledge of death have for the living—for how we approach life, build culture, and organize community and institutions? How has the experience of dying changed in the modern age, and how does this affect our understanding of the goals of medicine and the ethics of killing and letting-die? And, how does all of this relate to our everyday lives? How might we deal with loss (if, and when, the time comes)? What will we teach our kids about death (if, and when, the time comes)? Our answers to these questions, students will come to see, reflect deep-seated and often inarticulate beliefs about human nature, moral agency, and the good life.

Instructed by
T/R 8:00am - 9:15am
EMGT 1540: What is Engaged Citizenship

EMGT 1540: What is Engaged Citizenship

If citizenship gives us rights, can it also make demands of us? What would it mean to acquiesce to these demands, if so, and what to refuse them? Such questions about the ethics and requirements of engaged citizenship were central to the founding of the University of Virginia and increasingly serve as a rallying cry for the importance of the liberal arts tradition. But what is engaged citizenship and what does it require of us? In this class, we will consider varying frameworks for the ethics of engaged citizenship—education, self-reflection, presence (or showing up)—to struggle with the relationship of the self to society within the University community and beyond. Why do we increasingly know more about certain aspects of our food supply and so little about others? What are the implications of this visibility and invisibility for our behavior towards each other? Does citizenship require us to confront those who we perceive as challenging our values, and, if so, can that ever be anything other than a coercive and oppressive act? Is citizenship a communal agreement or an individual one? Does it bind us together or separate us? When is violence justified, if ever? Under what circumstances should we bend or discard our citizenly duty? Through class excursions, readings, journaling activities, viewings, and course presentations we will experiment with the ethical implications of the various positions we take—including inaction—when we respond to the world around and inside of us.

Instructed by

Goldblatt

Laura
Posdoctoral Fellow

I worked as an English teacher at a failing high school in the Mississippi Delta before arriving at the University of Virginia. Nearly all of my high-school students were of color and qualified for free or reduced price lunch: I can count the exceptions to this rule on a single hand. More than half of the female students in my classes graduated from or left high school with at least one child, and my daily headcount too often depended upon sentences in juvenile detention, or worse.

Suffice it to say that the student body at the University of Virginia, an elite public institution that largely educates the children of professionals, has little in common with those who helped me craft my earliest and most abiding pedagogical principles. Despite these differences, both experiences have shown me that good teaching does not depend upon academic level and that the classroom can serve as a powerful laboratory for participatory democracy.

Due to these experiences, the hands-on, collaborative, and wildly ambitious pedagogical imagination at the core of the Engagements proposal drew me to the program. Two main goals guide my teaching. On the pedagogical side, using the tenets of cultural and literary study, I urge my students to view aesthetic objects as entangled in a complex web of meanings, historical contexts, and relationships that require consideration from multiple perspectives and methodologies. But for me, teaching also has material consequences on my students’ lives and the lives of those with whom they interact.

Beyond the content I convey, I aim to teach my students to think critically and creatively about the local and global systems in which they are imbedded while also urging them to consider possibilities to be realized outside these systems. I consider my courses a success when my students acquire the ability to consider the different viewpoints that can be brought to bear on cultural artifacts and to resist the urge to overlook the way something is said—its packaging—when considering its message. Most of all, I hope my classes will give them the courage to speak.

T/R 3:30pm - 4:45pm

Spring 2018

Spring Session One: January 17 - March 13

EGMT 1540: Does Reading Literature Make Us More Ethical? Really?

EGMT 1540: Does Reading Literature Make Us More Ethical? Really?

From antiquity onwards it has often been claimed that literature can have an ethical effect upon the reader; in short, that literary works can change us for the better, but also, perhaps, for the worse. In this class we’ll explore those claims in depth, examining a diverse set of ethical commitments both within literary works and in arguments about them from the ancient world to the present. We will ask what kinds of ethical commitments those might be: truths or useful lies, imaginative leaps, models for life?

Does reading literature increase empathy for others? Make us inhabit modes of life different from our own? Conversely, can it corrupt us or produce problematic desires? If so, does that lead to different action in the world? What is the distinction between ‘real experience’ and knowledge gained from the page? We will consider arguments about how literary works afford explorations of ethics in ways that non-literary modes cannot, and how thinkers have characterized the relation between ethics and literature in differing historical and cultural contexts, from Plato and Aristotle through to contemporary arguments about animal rights, violence, and reading literature as a public good. We’ll also look at historical instances where literature has been seen as having a direct effect upon social change and attitudes in, for example, the abolition of slavery, and we’ll explore contemporary case studies, such as the extension of certain rights and obligations to animals, asking, for example, whether a story or poem can turn you into a vegetarian. Finally, we will ask whether certain types of imaginative writing alone possess the potential to generate ethical change. Does reading literature, in the media-rich world of today, still retain distinct or unique ethical power?

Instructed by
T/R 8:00am - 9:15am
EGMT 1540: Mortality & Morality - The Ethics of Death

EGMT 1540: Mortality & Morality - The Ethics of Death

This course introduces students to modes of ethical inquiry and reflection through an investigation of an issue of universal human concern: death and dying. In the words of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, “There's nothing certain in a man's life except this: That he must lose it.” Beyond death’s inevitability, its sheer facticity, however, is there anything else to be said about it? Much, indeed. In this course, students will learn to see death and dying as an important lens for understanding morality and ethics, in terms of both individual dilemmas and choices, and social practices and institutions. For as Peter Berger has noted, “Every society is, in the last resort, [human beings] banded together in the face of death.” 

Over our seven weeks together, students will interrogate, articulate, and critically analyze their fundamental assumptions about the nature of death and human postures toward it. They will investigate individual and social practices of death and mourning. They will consider their beliefs about a “good death” and what it might mean to “die well” in conversation with voices from different eras and perspectives. We will explore specific questions such as: is death really all that bad? (Epicurus didn’t think so). Would personal immortality be preferable? (As it turns out, various religious traditions, philosophers and “transhumanists” disagree). What difference does the knowledge of death have for the living—for how we approach life, build culture, and organize community and institutions? How has the experience of dying changed in the modern age, and how does this affect our understanding of the goals of medicine and the ethics of killing and letting-die? And, how does all of this relate to our everyday lives? How might we deal with loss (if, and when, the time comes)? What will we teach our kids about death (if, and when, the time comes)? Our answers to these questions, students will come to see, reflect deep-seated and often inarticulate beliefs about human nature, moral agency, and the good life.

Instructed by
T/R 11:00am - 12:15pm
EGMT 1540: Mortality & Morality - The Ethics of Death

EGMT 1540: Mortality & Morality - The Ethics of Death

This course introduces students to modes of ethical inquiry and reflection through an investigation of an issue of universal human concern: death and dying. In the words of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, “There's nothing certain in a man's life except this: That he must lose it.” Beyond death’s inevitability, its sheer facticity, however, is there anything else to be said about it? Much, indeed. In this course, students will learn to see death and dying as an important lens for understanding morality and ethics, in terms of both individual dilemmas and choices, and social practices and institutions. For as Peter Berger has noted, “Every society is, in the last resort, [human beings] banded together in the face of death.” 

Over our seven weeks together, students will interrogate, articulate, and critically analyze their fundamental assumptions about the nature of death and human postures toward it. They will investigate individual and social practices of death and mourning. They will consider their beliefs about a “good death” and what it might mean to “die well” in conversation with voices from different eras and perspectives. We will explore specific questions such as: is death really all that bad? (Epicurus didn’t think so). Would personal immortality be preferable? (As it turns out, various religious traditions, philosophers and “transhumanists” disagree). What difference does the knowledge of death have for the living—for how we approach life, build culture, and organize community and institutions? How has the experience of dying changed in the modern age, and how does this affect our understanding of the goals of medicine and the ethics of killing and letting-die? And, how does all of this relate to our everyday lives? How might we deal with loss (if, and when, the time comes)? What will we teach our kids about death (if, and when, the time comes)? Our answers to these questions, students will come to see, reflect deep-seated and often inarticulate beliefs about human nature, moral agency, and the good life.

Instructed by
M/W 12:30pm - 1:45pm
EGMT 1540: What Isn't For Sale? And What Shouldn't Be?

EGMT 1540: What Isn't For Sale? And What Shouldn't Be?

There are many things in life we value, and which it seems unproblematic to buy or sell: houses, sweaters, and ice cream, for example.  But there are other things we value, which it seems impossible to buy or sell: love, moral goodness, or happiness, for example.  And there are still others which we can buy or sell, but might think we should not: kidneys, sexual or reproductive labor, ideas, or spiritual goods, for example.

Students in this engagement will consider whether there is anything that it is either impossible or wrong to sell.  We will focus on examples from a wide variety of domains and draw on readings from philosophy, religious studies, and fiction.  Our aim throughout will be to understand more clearly the value of the particular goods in question and the role such goods might play in making our own lives good and meaningful.

Instructed by

Stangl

Rebecca
Associate Professor of Philosophy

Moral philosophy is my passion, but I strongly believe that ethics is not the sole province of professional philosophers. It is not the sole province of professionals insofar as every reflective human being faces the central ethical question of how best to live, and it is not the sole province of philosophers insofar as we have much to learn from other disciplines about the nature and possibility of value.  My work is therefore situated squarely within the discipline of moral philosophy while at the same time reaching beyond it. 

My particular academic focus is on virtue ethics and bioethics, and my recent articles have appeared in such journals as EthicsPhilosophical Quarterly, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, and The Hastings Center Report, as well as edited volumes from Oxford. My current book project – a Neo-Aristotelian account of heroic virtue, ordinary virtue, and the relation between them – is a work of analytic philosophy that also draws on insights from biography, literature, and social psychology.  

What excites me about teaching is drawing from this general approach to ethics to encourage a robust ethical discussion among students. In 2012, I was a recipient of UVA’s All-University Teaching Award.  I welcome the opportunity to reach an even wider audience of students within the intellectual environment that the College Fellows program seeks to cultivate.

M/W 2:00pm - 3:15pm

Spring Session Two: March 14 - May 1

EGMT 1540: Can a Text Be Ethical?

EGMT 1540: Can a Text Be Ethical?

The reliance on texts for ethical guidance is a widespread human phenomenon.  From the Code of Hammurabi to UVa’s Honor Code, texts have been used both to dictate what is right and wrong and to inspire individuals to seek out and enact the good. In this course, we will examine the use of written documents in determining what is ethical through case studies involving just one example: the New Testament.  We will examine four specific moments in history in which the New Testament played a primary role in ethical decision-making, asking in each instance the following questions:

 

  • Did the multiple individuals involved agree about the text’s interpretation? If not, how did the disagreement play out? Did a particular interpretation “win”? Was that, in your opinion, the “correct” interpretation?
  • Why did the text play a role? Did the text have the same authoritative and/or ethical status to everyone involved?
  • Was the outcome actually ethical?  Did the text lead, in your opinion, to ethical actions?

Our investigations of these historical moments will inform reflection on ourselves as ethical agents. To what extent have texts guided our actions in the past? Are there texts that we find ethically authoritative and/or helpful? As we inevitably face moments where we must make ethical decisions, what role, if any, will such texts play? What lessons can we learn from the roles texts have played in the past?

Instructed by

Spittler

Janet
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

I am fascinated by the diversity of early Christianity. My research focuses on Christian literature from the first-to-fourth centuries CE, both New Testament texts and “apocryphal” texts (that is, works not included in the Bible). Our earliest Christian literature shows Christians disagreeing with and debating each other, and these texts allow us to see the development of Christian thought. It was a process that unfolded slowly over centuries, and it cannot be fully understood outside of its historical and cultural context.

My interest in teaching one of the new Ethical Engagement courses is rooted in these interests and the challenge of ethical questions. They are never simple, and moreover, they are frequently rooted in and shaped by historical and cultural contexts that are very difficult to understand completely. My training as an historian of religions charts a good course for engaging ethical questions. How should we behave? How should we treat one another? What does it mean to live a “good life”? These are questions that many (though not all) religions have addressed directly throughout recorded history.

I hope to cultivate an atmosphere in which students can speak honestly and authentically about the questions and issues that matter most. I expect each class to be a diverse group, representing a wide range of religious and cultural perspectives. We will disagree with each other on issues big and small, but our goal is not agreement! Our goal is to grapple with ethical questions and to begin to think consciously of ourselves as ethical agents in our community and the world.

T/R 11:00am - 12:15pm
EGMT 1540: Does Reading Literature Make Us More Ethical? Really?

EGMT 1540: Does Reading Literature Make Us More Ethical? Really?

From antiquity onwards it has often been claimed that literature can have an ethical effect upon the reader; in short, that literary works can change us for the better, but also, perhaps, for the worse. In this class we’ll explore those claims in depth, examining a diverse set of ethical commitments both within literary works and in arguments about them from the ancient world to the present. We will ask what kinds of ethical commitments those might be: truths or useful lies, imaginative leaps, models for life?

Does reading literature increase empathy for others? Make us inhabit modes of life different from our own? Conversely, can it corrupt us or produce problematic desires? If so, does that lead to different action in the world? What is the distinction between ‘real experience’ and knowledge gained from the page? We will consider arguments about how literary works afford explorations of ethics in ways that non-literary modes cannot, and how thinkers have characterized the relation between ethics and literature in differing historical and cultural contexts, from Plato and Aristotle through to contemporary arguments about animal rights, violence, and reading literature as a public good. We’ll also look at historical instances where literature has been seen as having a direct effect upon social change and attitudes in, for example, the abolition of slavery, and we’ll explore contemporary case studies, such as the extension of certain rights and obligations to animals, asking, for example, whether a story or poem can turn you into a vegetarian. Finally, we will ask whether certain types of imaginative writing alone possess the potential to generate ethical change. Does reading literature, in the media-rich world of today, still retain distinct or unique ethical power?

Instructed by
T/R 11:00am - 12:15pm
EGMT 1540: What Isn't Chosen, and Why?

EGMT 1540: What Isn't Chosen, and Why?

Do we want to be free? If so, does the language of "choice" advance and/or hinder our efforts at freedom?

We will look at understandings of choice from several different modes of thinking - economics, psychology, cultural studies, and philosophy - and ask a simple question: Are there any aspects of a full human life that are not, ideally, intentionally and explicitly chosen? Do we choose our vocation? Do we choose our identity? Do we choose religious belief or unbelief? Do we choose those we love? Do we choose our children? Do we choose to be born or how we die? Are ther aspects of human life that a description focused on "choice" mis-describes, or simply misses?

In asking these questions, we'll use resources drawn from multiple ways of thinking to investigate:

  • different definitions of choice and descriptions of its functioning;
  • the several understandings of the human in society that these accounts imply, enable, enhance and/or hinder;
  • the strengths and weaknesses of each account of choice and its place in human life;
  • the possibility that some features of human life go entirely un-thought in these accounts of choice, features that you feel as a palpable lack in these accounts.
Instructed by

Mathewes

Charles
Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies

I was born in the United States, but I spent the rest of my childhood overseas, in Saudi Arabia. Because of that, I’ve always thought that profound religious difference and serious geopolitical concern were alive and interrelated. 

I eventually became fascinated with religious ethics, because I am interested in how people think about how and why they behave as they do in their lives, how they might behave better, and why they might care to so improve. I have a special interest in evil: in how humans have imagined what it means for people to “go bad,” in what that fact says about the cosmos, and in what responses we might be obliged to make to those insights.

I am drawn to the College Fellows centrally because of the Fellows’ interdisciplinary ambition. It is both interesting and fun to work together with colleagues to create a kind of education that is more than the sum of its parts, and that tries to spark conversations across disciplinary boundaries and semester segments. Liberal education’s traditional intellectual flexibility, and its diversity in courses of study, should be retained; but we want to amplify those strengths with a direct holistic attention to the overall shaping of the individual, as both a person with vivid convictions and a citizen with civic obligations.

I enjoy working with students to engage their interests in thinkers, writers and complicated philosophical and religious topics. I delight in those moments when a class “spills over” the syllabus’s explicit boundaries, and we begin to engage matters far beyond the themes on the syllabus; in those moments, we confront matters of surprisingly immediate concern to people in the class, or just go so deeply into the topics of our study that we uncover surprising and heretofore unnoticed (even by me) insights. 

T/R 12:30pm - 1:45pm
EGMT 1540: What Isn't For Sale? And What Shouldn't Be?

EGMT 1540: What Isn't For Sale? And What Shouldn't Be?

There are many things in life we value, and which it seems unproblematic to buy or sell: houses, sweaters, and ice cream, for example.  But there are other things we value, which it seems impossible to buy or sell: love, moral goodness, or happiness, for example.  And there are still others which we can buy or sell, but might think we should not: kidneys, sexual or reproductive labor, ideas, or spiritual goods, for example.

Students in this engagement will consider whether there is anything that it is either impossible or wrong to sell.  We will focus on examples from a wide variety of domains and draw on readings from philosophy, religious studies, and fiction.  Our aim throughout will be to understand more clearly the value of the particular goods in question and the role such goods might play in making our own lives good and meaningful.

Instructed by

Stangl

Rebecca
Associate Professor of Philosophy

Moral philosophy is my passion, but I strongly believe that ethics is not the sole province of professional philosophers. It is not the sole province of professionals insofar as every reflective human being faces the central ethical question of how best to live, and it is not the sole province of philosophers insofar as we have much to learn from other disciplines about the nature and possibility of value.  My work is therefore situated squarely within the discipline of moral philosophy while at the same time reaching beyond it. 

My particular academic focus is on virtue ethics and bioethics, and my recent articles have appeared in such journals as EthicsPhilosophical Quarterly, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, and The Hastings Center Report, as well as edited volumes from Oxford. My current book project – a Neo-Aristotelian account of heroic virtue, ordinary virtue, and the relation between them – is a work of analytic philosophy that also draws on insights from biography, literature, and social psychology.  

What excites me about teaching is drawing from this general approach to ethics to encourage a robust ethical discussion among students. In 2012, I was a recipient of UVA’s All-University Teaching Award.  I welcome the opportunity to reach an even wider audience of students within the intellectual environment that the College Fellows program seeks to cultivate.

T/R 5:00pm - 6:15pm
EMGT 1540: What is Engaged Citizenship

EMGT 1540: What is Engaged Citizenship

If citizenship gives us rights, can it also make demands of us? What would it mean to acquiesce to these demands, if so, and what to refuse them? Such questions about the ethics and requirements of engaged citizenship were central to the founding of the University of Virginia and increasingly serve as a rallying cry for the importance of the liberal arts tradition. But what is engaged citizenship and what does it require of us? In this class, we will consider varying frameworks for the ethics of engaged citizenship—education, self-reflection, presence (or showing up)—to struggle with the relationship of the self to society within the University community and beyond. Why do we increasingly know more about certain aspects of our food supply and so little about others? What are the implications of this visibility and invisibility for our behavior towards each other? Does citizenship require us to confront those who we perceive as challenging our values, and, if so, can that ever be anything other than a coercive and oppressive act? Is citizenship a communal agreement or an individual one? Does it bind us together or separate us? When is violence justified, if ever? Under what circumstances should we bend or discard our citizenly duty? Through class excursions, readings, journaling activities, viewings, and course presentations we will experiment with the ethical implications of the various positions we take—including inaction—when we respond to the world around and inside of us.

Instructed by

Goldblatt

Laura
Posdoctoral Fellow

I worked as an English teacher at a failing high school in the Mississippi Delta before arriving at the University of Virginia. Nearly all of my high-school students were of color and qualified for free or reduced price lunch: I can count the exceptions to this rule on a single hand. More than half of the female students in my classes graduated from or left high school with at least one child, and my daily headcount too often depended upon sentences in juvenile detention, or worse.

Suffice it to say that the student body at the University of Virginia, an elite public institution that largely educates the children of professionals, has little in common with those who helped me craft my earliest and most abiding pedagogical principles. Despite these differences, both experiences have shown me that good teaching does not depend upon academic level and that the classroom can serve as a powerful laboratory for participatory democracy.

Due to these experiences, the hands-on, collaborative, and wildly ambitious pedagogical imagination at the core of the Engagements proposal drew me to the program. Two main goals guide my teaching. On the pedagogical side, using the tenets of cultural and literary study, I urge my students to view aesthetic objects as entangled in a complex web of meanings, historical contexts, and relationships that require consideration from multiple perspectives and methodologies. But for me, teaching also has material consequences on my students’ lives and the lives of those with whom they interact.

Beyond the content I convey, I aim to teach my students to think critically and creatively about the local and global systems in which they are imbedded while also urging them to consider possibilities to be realized outside these systems. I consider my courses a success when my students acquire the ability to consider the different viewpoints that can be brought to bear on cultural artifacts and to resist the urge to overlook the way something is said—its packaging—when considering its message. Most of all, I hope my classes will give them the courage to speak.

T/R 6:30pm - 7:45pm