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Courses

Fall 2016

Tuesdays, October 4, 11, 18, 25, November 1

Extreme Situations in America Today

Every day we are confronted with splits - chasms - between ourselves and our fellow Americans. We have asked four Union faculty members and the pastor of the First Reformed Church to help us understand how we got to this point and what possibilities there are for reuniting the country. Our schedule will begin with Professor Eshragh Motahar who will explain why incomes are high for so many and low for so many others. The Rev. Dr. William Levering will talk about the religious right, which so often seems to be in a different cultural space.  Professor Emeritus of political science Terry Weiner wants us to understand the far left, its perils and values. Professor Lori Marso is interested in racial divides and why we can't seem to achieve a truly respectful society.  Finally, Professor Tom Lobe, senior lecturer and a scholar of the Middle East and various aspects of Islam, will help us understand what the radicals hope to achieve and why they seem to hate the West so much.

Coordinator: Joan Ham

9:30 to 11:30 AM                                                                          Reamer Auditorium

Tuesdays, October 4, 11, 18, 25, November 1 & 15

2016 Elections

Many strange and interesting things going on in this year’s presidential primaries will have been resolved by the election.  Union College professor and UCALL regular Cliff Brown will help us understand them and what they mean for the future of politics and the country.  That, plus the run-up to the election and then an analysis of the outcome and its future implications, will make another illuminating UCALL politics course.

Coordinator:  Jim Comly

1:30 to 3:30 PM                                             Reamer Auditorium          

Wednesdays, October 5, 12, 19, 26, November 2

Exploring the Ancient World

Ancient Greece had a profound effect on the Roman Empire, which in turn spread Greco-Roman culture through many parts of the Mediterranean region and Europe.  This seminal culture was the cradle of our modern Western culture. In this course we will explore a number of fascinating aspects of the Ancient World; some no doubt will surprise you.  UCALL veteran speaker Greg Sauer will travel with us along the Silk Road where East meets West, describing forgotten empires; jade and silk; paper and printing; lucerne and wine; poetry and religion; water wheels and plague; crossbows and more.  Bruce Maston, M.D., J.D., claims that Nero won more gold medals than Michael Phelps!  Bruce will regale us with his research into the Ancient Olympics, which included one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  Union associate professor Stacie Raucci will take us on a cinematic journey through ancient Greco-Roman cities, a favorite topic of Hollywood for years.  Using film clips and analysis, she will explore how ancient sites have been revised for our modern eyes.  Union professor Mark Toher will describe the violent conquests of Alexander the Great, but also explain how Alexander opened up new horizons in geography, medicine, anthropology, engineering, art, architecture and even philosophy and religion, profoundly affecting ancient Greece and Rome.  Union professor Hans-Friedrich Mueller will describe the hazards of travel in the ancient world: Inns were dirty and dangerous; forests sheltered brigands; ships often sank.  He will explain how people traveled, where they went, and why they chose to leave home at all.

Coordinator:  Jim Burns

9:30 to 11:30 AM                                                                             Reamer Auditorium

Perseverance Will Conquer All: A History of Union College

This course will examine the long and complex history of Union College.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “there is properly no history, only biography.”  In other words, the truthfulness of a candid examination of the life of an idea, person, nation or institution alone defines history’s value to the present generation.  Union lecturer in history Denis Brennan began teaching with Emerson’s quote at the heart of his own teaching philosophy.  Recently, he began offering a course on the history of Union College for undergraduates – in fact, at the request of some undergraduates. While he considers himself still an apprentice who has much to learn and many more hours to spend in Schaffer Library’s Special Collections, he will present a series of discussions that illuminate Union’s biography.  Since 1795, there have been wars, economic expansions and depressions, internal and external political conflicts and social revolutions. Through it all, Union College has not just survived but endured, while striving, although perhaps not always succeeding, to remain true to the progressive ideals of its founding.  It is a journey of both triumphs and failures but a journey worthy of today’s Union College.

Coordinator:  Phil Adams

12:30 to 2:30 PM                                                                                Reamer Auditorium

Thursdays, October 6, 13, 20, 27, November 3

Opera:  Failures at First, Successes Forever

Professor Emeritus Josef Schmee, UCALL’s favorite opera expert, will show us how history is littered with operas that failed at their first performance. Censors, critics and audiences are often unprepared for the new music or the story of the opera. Rival operatic camps make sure that their raucous noise suffocates any possibility for success. Inept singers kill the joy in their part and the entire opera. Carmen, one of the most popular operas today, did not meet the expectation of its audience and failed. Many of the greatest operatic minds had to suffer such failures during their careers. In this course we will discuss some of the most popular operas in the repertoire today: Beethoven’s Fidelio, Rossini’s Barber of Seville, Verdi’s La Traviata, Mussorgski’s Boris Godunov, and a moderate failure at its premiere, Puccini’s Tosca.

Coordinator:  Manny Aven

9:30 to 11:30 AM                                                                           Reamer Auditorium

Calamities:  Infectious and Chemical, Caused by Nature or Humans

In this course, three scientists will share their observations and experiences about calamities that befall us. What are some of the causes, how has society dealt with them and how can we anticipate the next disaster?  Terry Briggs, M.D., Ph.D., retired deputy commissioner of the Albany County Health Department and practitioner in the specialty of infectious diseases, will start the series with a discussion of memorable experiences with disease outbreak investigations over 17 years as a county communicable disease chief.  In the second lecture, Dr. Terry Briggs will give an overview of the history of the polio vaccine, a public health triumph, which did not come about without political strife and big egos. Robert Briggs, Ph.D., retired from the Wadsworth Laboratory of the New York State Department of Health, will in two lectures discuss the Chemical Calamities at Minamata and Love Canal.  How did calamity arise from the interplay of public interest, business needs and government's conflicting responsibilities to provide for both?  How was it possible that in very different societies these tragic situations did come about for very similar reasons?   These questions and their answers will be addressed.  Union College Professor Emeritus Twitty Styles will end the series by sharing his lifelong fascination with parasites. Professor Styles is interested in the impact of climate change on parasitic and infectious diseases as well as the consequences for human health and socio-economics. What more can be found in Pandora’s Box and what may be the implications for us of new mutations?

Coordinator:  Jenny Overeynder

12:30 to 2:30 PM                                                                         Reamer Auditorium

Union College students are welcome to attend any of the UCALL sessions, on a space available basis, free of charge.