From evil clowns to ultimate questions

November 3, 2017
A question mark inside a light bulb

The U’s popular freshman seminars give students a chance to dive into intriguing subjects in intimate, discussion-based classes. Here are 10 tantalizing offerings for 2017-18 (with partial course descriptions in italics) that should drive anyone’s curiosity ... or make you wish you were a freshman!

The Symbolic Meanings of Money and Property (Journalism and Mass Communication)

Do you ever wonder why some people run away from money, while most people chase after it? Or why some people who could afford better buy their clothes at Savers while others (who maybe can't afford it) prefer to shop at Gucci or Armani? … Understanding the symbolic messages money sends to people is the key to learning how to answer these questions.

Beyond the Suburbs: Living and Working in Rural America (Design, Housing, and Apparel)

In this class, we'll explore various myths and realities of life beyond the suburbs. We'll discover what is unique about rural places. We will examine who lives in rural America and how they make a living. … From cowboys to downhill skiers, from tourists to farmers and foresters, life in rural America is wildly varied and fascinating.

Witches, Ghosts, and Evil Clowns (Art History)

From ancient images through popular culture and social media, our art, stories, and beliefs have been filled with figures of fear. … Yet we are drawn to them, depicting and playing with them, and taking on their guises to scare ourselves for fun. This course will investigate these figures of fear, using approaches from art history, folklore, anthropology, and other fields.

Black Reality Television (African American and African Studies)

For some people the proliferation of black reality television has been welcome, while for others it has been a major cause for concern, particularly given the complex history of black representation in U.S. public culture. In this course, we will consider what is at stake in the cultural battles over black reality television.

What is Time? (Physics)

The precise meaning and use of the concept of time has evoked serious study and debate among the most able of human thinkers for more than 2,000 years. We will review several of the current perspectives as well as some of this history of the concept of time from the points of view of philosophers, biologists, psychologists, and physicists 

Psychological Perspectives on Women and Work (Psychology)

Are you male or female? Your answer to this simple question will influence your experiences in the workplace. … This seminar will provide students with an important perspective on their upcoming experiences as members of the workforce 

The Changing Face of Community and Connectedness (Psychology)

People find community and connectedness in all kinds of different groups and through all kinds of different mediums. Yet, some remain isolated and others feel alone despite seemingly being connected. Crucially, whether people find community and connectedness and with whom they find it has profound impacts on their lives.

Nothing (Astrophysics)

Following the Bard, in this seminar we will make much ado about "nothing." From the birth of the Universe ex-nihilo, to the philosophies that find meaning in nothing, to the tangled history of zero over the centuries … In our journey through the teeming vacuum, "nothing" is sacred, and will be both ventured and gained.

Curing Cancer (College of Biological Sciences)

The objective of this seminar is to develop a basic understanding of the molecular origins of cancer, how it is currently treated, and the exciting efforts to develop new, more effective anti-cancer drugs. … Each class session will involve interactive discussions and a lively exchange of thoughts and idea

The Ultimate Questions (Astrophysics)

Why are we here? Not here at the U, or even on Earth, but why do intelligent beings even exist in the Universe? How did it all begin? And how is it going to end? … Of course, we won’t answer any of these questions, but their exploration makes for a fascinating journey.