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University Seminar Descriptions


Division of Student Success focuses on your successful transition into the Maryville community. Maryville has a comprehensive and integrated approach to assisting you in your academic, financial, and personal transition to Maryville. One of the many exciting opportunities for you as a first-year student is the University Seminar course which all first-year students enroll in during their first semester.

Maryville’s University Seminar is more than a required course – it provides a distinctive opportunity to work closely with your peers and instructor on an important topic of mutual interest. All seminars focus on three goals: critical thinking, community, and communication. In each seminar, students and faculty explore a topic of common interest while meeting the goals through writing, oral presentations, research, critical reading of texts, and conversations. Each seminar is limited to 18 students to create a true “seminar” in which faculty can engage you and every student in the exploration of ideas.

University Seminar Sections for Fall 2016

After the Zombie Apocalypse
(START Registration Page Title: Zombie Apocalypse)
Kyra Krakos and John Marino

This course will use the thought experiment of the premise that the popular “zombie apocalypse” has taken place. Within that construct, students will examine their ideas about survival, ethics, quality of life, communication, core beliefs, and social mores. Parallels and discussions will be drawn to other times of crashed society constructs in history as a way of exploring human responses. The course will be structured around a weekly critical thinking problem to be researched, discussed, and solved in small groups. Students will be assessed on both presentations and written assignments. Challenges will be designed to both mentally, emotionally, and physically challenge the students’ perceptions of their culture and their own internal ideas. When the zombie apocalypse happens, who are the walking dead?

Animals in the Humanities: Literature, History, and Film
(START Registration Page Title: Animals in the Humanities)
Jess Bowers

Do animals think? Do they have emotions? Do they deserve our respect? Our protection? Do some animals deserve more than others? Are humans animals? Throughout history, humans have traditionally determined what it means to be “human” by distinguishing what it is that separates us from the “animal.” Examining literature, film, and critical scholarship, this class will explore how humans have portrayed non-humans over the centuries. Class work may include animal-centric creative writing, film, and multimedia, using in-class observation of live animals, observational sessions at the St. Louis Zoo, on-campus “nature writes,” and other immersive activities for inspiration.

Anything Your Team Can Do, Mine Can Do Better: Rivalries in Sports
(START Registration Page Title: Rivalries in Sports)
Brian Gardner

What is the greatest rivalry in sports? Can you defend your answer with statistics, historical facts, and even your own fandom? This course will examine the evolution of sports and the rivalries that exist. How do fans become their own community and create their own culture? Why do some athletic teams have a fan base after years of losing; however, other teams cannot get a fan base unless they are winning? And how can sports, rivalries, and competition help students to understand their own self and development?

Bedtime Stories After the End of the World
(START Registration Page Title: Stories After)
Jesse Kavadlo

You know the story. A teen, coming of age in a dehumanized, conformist culture, discovers that he or she is different from his or her peers and, after overcoming his or her estrangement, must challenge and, sometimes, save his or her world. From The Hunger Games to Divergent to Uglies to Unwind and more, readers can’t seem to get enough. But why and how do these stories work? What can we say about these stories—and what do they say about us? And how do these stories speak especially to you, as recent high school students and new first-year college students?

From Hunger Games to Hip Hop:  Influences on Decision Making
(START Registration Page Title: Influence on Decision)
Suzanne Jones

How do you make decisions?  Gut instinct, advice from Mom and Dad, or a list of pros and cons?  Do social media, movies, television, music, celebrities, books, online resources, and current events impact your decisions?  How do you make good decisions with the pressure of all these influences?  If you don’t know now, you will after taking this course!  Critical thinking, communication skills, psychological self-awareness, and group dynamics will be explored in the context of decision making, conflict analysis and resolution, and leadership.  Illustrative materials include feature films, the 2015 Maryville Reads book, current research and journal articles, and guest speakers from the St. Louis area representing media, political, and community viewpoints.  Students will find iPad apps to enhance their learning, while in-class exercises and small group presentations will be prepared via this technology, too. 

Good Grief: Beyond Belief
(START Registration Page Title: Beyond Belief)
Stephen DiSalvo and Ryan McDonnell

What motivates us to be good? How do our spiritual/religious/personal beliefs influence the way we live out our human goodness? In this class, you will explore these questions and the basic tenants and beliefs of some of the major world religions as well as the views of some who do not affiliate with an organized faith tradition. Particular attention will be given to how those beliefs teach and promote human goodness. You will have the opportunity to learn about these topics through a variety of activities including presentations by instructors and guest speakers representing different beliefs, visual and on-line media, readings (such as excerpts from scriptures from various faith traditions), class discussion and projects, reflection, field trips, service projects and others.

Google Me! Technology and Our Lives
(START Registration Page Title: Google Me)
Sam Harris

We are inundated and influenced daily with technology. What most don’t realize, however, is that this influence on culture and society is not new, only more prevalent with the rise of the digital age. In an attempt to better understand and participate in today’s technological dependent society, we will examine technology from its very beginning to its current state to answer what role, if any, technology should play in our lives. In the end, we will be able to answer what is arguably the most significant question of our time. How do we use technology to become outstanding global citizens?

It’s All About Me…Wait? Who Am I
(START Registration Page Title: Who Am I)
Drew Stevens

Unease in your first year of college sometimes stems from anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life. Between fitting in, finding friends, and succeeding in the classroom, college can be turbulent. Frustration, loneliness, and fear are not something a Band-Aid (or a course) can cure, but finding your confidence, your status, your purpose can. This course will focus on you, by examine one’s journey of self-discovery and other examples from music, movies, poems, books, television so that you can discover who you are, why are you here and how you can be a force the world will always and forever acknowledge.

It’s Not You, It’s Me
(START Registration Page Title: It’s Not You)
Anna Kisting

As you join the Maryville community, you will form new, exciting, and sometimes complicated relationships. In this seminar, we will discuss the psychology of close relationships, both romantic and platonic. We will explore the role of friendship, the rules of attraction, and the influence of societal expectations. This class will use in-class activities, films, readings, group discussions, and assignments to explore your relationships with family, friends, romantic partners, and yourself.

Miley to Macklemore:  A Pop Culture Investigation of Gender and Sexuality
(START Registration Page Title: Gender and Sexuality)
Amy Howard

As of 2016, Facebook offers more than 58 gender identities for individuals to choose from; the continuum of sexuality is constantly expanding and shifting; and the daily prevalence of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer topics are flourishing on social media and in mainstream pop culture. In this course, we will break down the history of these human identity movements and examine different historical experiences, cultural expressions, and contemporary issues related to gender and identity, while analyzing our presently evolving history and current events as informed by popular culture and media.


Musical Connections

(START Registration Page Title: Musical Connections)
Laura Ross

Share your musical interests with others and gain greater insight into the music you enjoy. As a class, we will develop new skills in listening as we embark on a journey to understand the hidden meanings and techniques behind music composition, lyrics, and historical context. No prior musical knowledge necessary.

Nature: Friend, Foe or Food?
(START Registration Page Title: Nature)
Gabe Colbeck

Expanded efforts to live in close association with nature are evident in popular television programming and social media. In this course, we will explore episodes of recent popular television programs (e.g. “Mountain Men”), recent feeds from social media and recent magazine and newspaper articles. We will investigate and discuss how these topics tie in with nature, family, and friends. We will expound upon themes related to sustainability, community, ecology, hunting, fishing, trapping and farming. We will explore the scientific evidence for how our local ecosystems function (e.g. why are coyotes so pervasive?), and we will look at the practical side of living off of the land, including the how’s and why’s of hunting and fur trapping. We hope students will gain a new appreciation of the important and complex role that the natural world plays in strong and healthy human communities.

Pay It Forward: Giving 100%, 100% of the Time!
(START Registration Page Title: Pay It Forward)
Kelly Mock

As a college student, you have the power to create your own identity that can leave a lasting impact on those around you. Who will you be? What will you become? Have you ever stopped to think, “Could I be doing more for myself? my community? my world?” This course is designed to challenge you to consider how you contribute to the community and world around you. Have you ever tried to ‘Pay It Forward’? Through this course, you will explore what internal and external influences impact your decisions to get involved. You will be challenged to think about what you will do to insure you make the most of your time and college experience.

Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words
(START Registration Page Title: Picture’s Worth)
Kristin Wellinghoff

We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” In an era of multimedia, social media and technology, images enhance or even replace words, eliciting powerful emotions across cultures. How do images you see every day impact your perception of community, culture and communication? In this course we will explore the power of imagery through multimedia, examining images in art, media, advertising, politics, business, social media, religion and travel. Students will identify powerful images in the Maryville and St. Louis community through a campus scavenger hunt and field trip to the St. Louis Art & History Museums. Through films such as The Monuments Men, readings including Green Eggs & Ham and Humans of New York, a guest speaker from Apple and a team project, this course will explore the power of images in a modern age of technology and how they influence everyday life.

Pink Brain, Blue Brain: Using Gender to Analyze Leadership
(START Registration Page Title: Analyze Leadership)
Ally Crust

What does it mean to be a man or a woman in the world today? From the moment you were born, media and society have told you what it means to be male or female. This class will assist you in finding your inner strengths and leadership abilities at Maryville and beyond by analyzing gender roles and the history of gender in America. Students will use course readings, written analysis, interviews with successful female leaders and male feminists, movies, and more to learn how their role in the professional world, in the family, in the media, and at Maryville is shaped by perceptions of gender. By the end of this course, you will have the knowledge and skills to figure out who you are and who you want to become.

The Poverty Game
(START Registration Page Title: Poverty Game)
LaDonna Whitten

What it would be like to lose everything? Imagine giving up all of your worldly possessions and declare yourself impoverished. Even if you can go back to your current life at any given time, wouldn’t it be interesting to learn how those not as fortunate as you live and walk in their shoes? This course will help you to gain familiarity with social issues, addressing classic viewpoints on poverty, how poverty is measured, underlying causes of poverty, and characteristics of impoverished people and poverty polices. This course will also explore and afford students the opportunity to understand how the concept of poverty affects their chosen discipline or major. Overall, this course will present the pieces of the poverty puzzle and you will have to make the right moves.

The Pursuit of Happiness
(START Registration Page Title: Pursuit of Happiness)
Kristen Ely

Ever wonder what the secret to happiness is? What if there is no secret? In this course we will analyze positive psychology, what positive psychologists have learned about the good life, how it can be encouraged in your own lives, and some potential complications. Topics include happiness, self-esteem, empathy, friendship, goal setting, love, achievement, creativity, mindfulness, spirituality and humor. This class is an opportunity to re-evaluate your values, beliefs and assumptions, focusing on the aspects of a fulfilling and flourishing life.

Red vs. Blue: Decision 2016 and You
(START Registration Page Title: Red vs. Blue)
Alden Craddock

Who will be our next President? What issues will be the most important in determining the future course of our country? In this seminar, we will consider the 2016 Presidential election, by examining the issues, the candidates, and their campaigns as they unfold over the fall. You will learn how to make an informed decision, examine your own political identity, develop skills for discussing politics, and identify how you can be a more active citizen. The candidates in the 2016 Presidential Election will make this an exciting and entertaining seminar so join us and be among the first to know who is going to win and why!

Satire, Sarcasm, and Snark: Comedy as Social Discussion

(START Registration Page Title: Satire, Sarcasm, and Snark)
Anthony Santirojprapai

Satire and humor has always played an important role in society and politics. From Jonathan Swift to Stephen Colbert, artists have often turned to comedy and irony as a way of commenting on serious, “real-world” issues. Underneath the laughter and snark, there is always a deeper undercurrent of informative debate and discussion that is worth investigating. This course focuses on the power that satire has in illustrating important issues through a comedic lens. By analyzing such works of contemporary satire as The Daily Show, South Park, or The Onion, we will examine the role that this genre plays in not only making us laugh, but also informing us about the current social and political issues affecting the world around us.

Start Up Challenge: Maryville’s Shark Tank
(START Registration Page Title: START Up Challenge)
Ben Auton and Robert Tschopp

Are you the next Oprah Winfrey or Steve Jobs? In this class you will spend the semester learning about how to start a business and what makes a successful entrepreneur. We will learn about successful startups and business strategies to show you how a business goes from the garage to Wall Street, and study the most influential entrepreneurs of our time to understand how their passion and innovation changed the world. We will explore what resources are available to new business owners in the St. Louis community, and you will have the opportunity to hear from guest speakers and entrepreneurs to get first hand advice. For your final project you will go through the process of creating a startup pitch and business plan. It will be up to you to convince your classmates and a panel of business leaders that your idea is worth investing in. Is your idea good enough to survive Maryville’s Shark Tank?

Storytelling in a Digital Age
(START Registration Page Title: Storytelling)
Melissa Childers

Every great presenter, every master marketer, and every effective leader today is also a master storyteller. By crafting thoughtful, authentic stories you have the opportunity to build trust, command attention, spread your message, and inspire change. In this course, you will discover the art of self-expression. We will reflect on the films, blogs, web serials, and other interactive media created by today’s influencers in order to identify and evaluate the new forms of storytelling in our world today. Then you will put those lessons to use as you create digital stories using the multimedia tools of video, imagery, and music. The voice of an artful storyteller rises above the crowd, even in the overcrowded world of streaming media. What stories do you have to tell and how do you get your voice heard?

They’re Your Benjamins: How Will You Spend Them?
(START Registration Page Title: Your Benjamins)
Jeffrey Vaske

College is expensive, and every decision you make from the moment you step foot on campus as a First-Year student will have an impact on your bottom line. This course will explore what it takes to be financially successful as a college student in 2016. You will learn about personal finance, budgeting, and debt-management. You will be provided with a multitude of tips, tools, and strategies that will help put you on a sound financial (and academic) path. Specific emphasis will be placed on student-loan debt and how it will affect you, particularly after college. The best defense in the game of student-loan debt is an aggressive offense, and this course is your playbook! How well will you play the game?

World Travel: A Multicultural View
(START Registration Page Title: World Travel)
Dianna Catherine Fazio

Where do you want to travel? This course aims to stimulate fresh perspectives and critical thinking on local and world issues in a safe, friendly and inviting atmosphere. You will have the opportunity to share your domestic and international travels and learn about new and exciting places that you will want to add to your bucket list! As we travel virtually, we will learn more about ourselves and the world around us through an international lens.

You Are What You Eat!
(START Registration Page Title: What You Eat)
Leigh Deusinger and Peggy Lauer

Food is universal: everyone eats. Food is wonderful: it nourishes our bodies and spirits. Food is central to human politics and scientific endeavor. Where does your food come from? How does what you eat affect you and the communities around you? What are the current trends and debates about food production, preparation, and marketing in the US? Why does food cost so much? How do different faiths consider food? Is food about social justice? How is public education teaching students about food and where it comes from? What are the possible futures for food production in the US and world communities? How can you change the world every time you shop for dinner? Come learn about food through political, economic, social, artistic, and scientific lenses, and transform what you learn into an educational event for the Maryville community and beyond.