Union Where You Are: Plans for 2020-21

Minervas Online

Our world has become more complex, and the big questions we face are increasingly difficult to answer. Union's world-class faculty from a variety of disciplines have created Minervas Online, a suite of interdisciplinary courses designed to help students understand the complexity of and develop solutions to large-scale societal challenges.

These courses are taught by a single faculty member, team-taught by faculty in different disciplines, or taught by multiple faculty across the College. Alumni, artists, activists, scientists, and local and global community members will be included as speakers to provide their unique perspectives on the particular societal challenge.

Returning students will be able to register for Minervas Online courses via WebAdvising during the summer add-drop period.

Fall 2020 Minervas Online Include:

Environmental Challenges and Social Responsibility: Today We Answer for Tomorrow (MIN 200)
Prof. Bidoshi

T/Th: 10:55 a.m.-12:40 p.m.

Course description: The impact of human actions on the environment is indisputable. Indeed, the change in the environment itself is a direct result of human action; through our actions we destroy habitats and endanger our very own future. In this course we examine environmental problems in Russia and the United States and consider what one can do today to answer for tomorrow. We take an interdisciplinary approach to one of our greatest challenges, our world’s environmental crisis.

Topics we will cover include: waste production, water pollution, air pollution, deforestation, natural resource use (and abuse) and environmental disasters. We tackle these problems from multiple points of view, with lectures by faculty experts in the fields of biology, chemistry, environmental engineering, geology and history, as well as community members who work for an NGO, a national park and in industry. This course fulfills major requirements in the following programs: environmental science, environmental policy, history, and Russian and East European studies. It also carries the following Common Curriculum credits: Language and Culture (LCC) and Humanities (HUM).

Critical Perspectives and Action on Inequality, Power and Privilege (MIN 201)
Profs. Butler and Esiaka

T/Th: 5-7 p.m.

Course description: This interdisciplinary minds-on, hands-on course explores critical perspectives and action on matters of inequality, power and privilege. The course focuses on how inequality, power and privilege affect the behaviors of people in local, national and international contexts, with particular emphasis on the Union community. All members of the campus community are invited to enroll. Each participant will gain a working knowledge of theoretical and methodological concepts and controversies surrounding inequality, power and privilege and design an individual action plan for change. The course features interactions with notable authors, and national and local activists, including President David Harris.

There are choices that teachers and students make when confronting intellectually and emotionally challenging content – such as whether to create a "safe space" or a "brave space." Deep learning requires a balance of challenge and discomfort along with support and affirmation, so a safe space – one that protects participants from risk or discomfort – is not right for this course. Therefore, we commit to making this class a brave space, where we will have difficult conversations and poignant moments of introspection to enable us to curate action plans to address inequality, power and privilege. The course counts toward sociology and psychology majors/minors, gender, sexuality and women’s studies, Africana studies and American studies, and will carry Gen Ed credit.

Race, Justice and Police Reform (MIN 202)
Prof. Samet

M/W/F: 10:30-11:35 a.m.

Course description: Few topics have thrust themselves into the spotlight of 21st century politics more urgently than police reform. Democratic movements across the globe are questioning police power and demanding greater police accountability. What is driving these demands? What aspects of policing are broken? How might we go about making repairs? This course introduces students to debates about policing and police reform. It draws on a wealth of interdisciplinary and comparative material – from anthropology, criminology, history, Latin American studies, legal studies, political science, race studies and sociology – to provide students with a policy relevant background on police reform in the United States.

Students can expect to come away from the course with an empirically sound understanding of contemporary police practice and a nuanced appreciation for a range of proposed reforms. They should also be prepared to engage openly in difficult conversations about persistent patterns of racial and economic injustice. The course is divided into three parts that deal with the past, present and future of policing and police reform. Part one introduces students to theories of policing and examines the subtle yet sweeping change to the practice of policing in the U.S. since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Part two adopts a social scientific perspective on unequal patterns of policing and a humanistic understanding of how this affects the lives of millions of Americans. The third part looks at U.S. movements for police reform and some of the solutions under consideration. This course will count as an elective for anthropology majors and minors and will carry LCC credit.

Climate Change: Knowledge Empowers Action (MIN 203)
Profs. Frey, Wang and Klein

M/W/F 10:30-11:35 a.m.; additional mentoring meetings by appointment

Course Description: Climate change is arguably one of the most pressing issues in modern society, with potential for global disruption and destabilization. This course will provide foundational knowledge about climate change from multiple perspectives, including faculty, alumni and climate entrepreneurs and activists, to empower students to educate and advocate for change. We need to understand the science of climate change – what causes it and how do we know? What are natural climate patterns, and how have humans affected them? We need to understand how to measure and quantify climate change and climate-related risks. How do we interpret data and project various possible futures? How do we construct and assess climate models and address uncertainties?

Finally, we need to understand the ramifications of climate change on our planet and humankind. What strategies can we adopt, as individuals and as a society, to mitigate the effects of climate change? What are the socio-political and economic implications of various policies? Over the course of the term, with mentoring by faculty and digital scholarship experts, teams of students will create educational programs or advocacy campaigns for specific audiences (e.g. schools, government, voters) through a variety of media forms. This course will carry SET, QMR and SOCS credit.

Section 01: Frey, Wang, Klein
Section 02: Wang, Klein, Frey
Section 03: Klein, Frey, Wang

Human's Guide to Artificial Intelligence (MIN 204)
Profs. Cortez, Striegnitz, Stablein, Bergamshai Ganapini and Pease

T/Th: 5:15-7 p.m.

Course description: All of us are interacting with Artificial Intelligence (AI) on a daily basis, perhaps without being aware of it. Many of you will be using AI in your careers to make decisions that will shape your own and other people’s lives. And some of you will be developing AI systems. This course invites you to join faculty from five different disciplines in an exploration of artificial intelligence and its human context.

Together, we will build a general understanding of the underlying technologies, see a range of applications, grapple with the ethics and societal impacts of AI, observe how humans perceive and interact with AI, and use literature and film to help us envision where future developments might go. This course will carry SOCS credit.

The Pandemic Performance (MIN 205)
Profs. Mannion, Cawley, Belz and Liu

M/W/F: 11:45 a.m.-12:50 p.m.

Course description: This course will explore the evolution of live performance post COVID-19 as we look toward what the future holds for the performing arts. Topics may include the reasons for and benefits of engaging in live performance, how COVID-19 exposed weaknesses in the American model of economics in the arts, environmental impacts of creating transitory art, diversity and inclusion issues in the arts being exposed by the Black Lives Matter movement, current technologies and innovations that are reshaping how we make and consume art, and what the future may hold for orchestra, theater, dance and opera.

Speakers from diverse backgrounds will join us for discussions regarding both the global and local arts communities. Students will use these ideas to actively create art, interpreted through the lens of social distancing. This course will count as an elective for theater and music majors and minors and will carry HUM credit.

Countering Homophobia: Critical Queer Culture (MIN 303)
Prof. Mitchell

T/Th: 1:55 p.m. - 3:40 p.m.

Course Description: In "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action," Audre Lorde asks, "What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day… still in silence?" This class will focus on the development, meaning and significance of queer cultural objects. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) writers and artists across all disciplines have long contributed to what we might call "queer culture." Tellingly, the word "queer" can be used as a noun, a verb and an adjective; as a class, we will both identify queer cultural producers and their objects/artifacts as well as critique queer cultural discourses.

Right now, anti-queer hate crimes are steadily on the rise and the consumption, circulation and understanding of queer peoples and queer cultures work together as one way of combatting homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Through close, critical attention to diverse, transhistorical, cross-cultural prose and poetry, films and television, and art, we will actively and intentionally develop our own engagement with queerness. Particular attention will be paid to queer of color critique, centering the experiences of and the cultural objects produced by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color). This class, which carries HUL/HUM/WAC credit, counts specifically for gender, sexuality and women's studies major and minor programs, but will be accessible to students outside of GSWS, as well.