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University Seminar Descriptions


The Center for Academic Success and Life Coaching 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.

Living Learning Sections for Fall 2015

Students who select a Living-Learning Community section of University Seminar will be required to live in the designated residence hall for the specific seminar.

The ABC’s of Goodness: Altruism, Belief and Community
(Start Registration Page Title: ABCs of Goodness)
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.  Students in this seminar will live together in Mouton Hall.

The Dash—What will Your Legacy be?
(Start Registration Page Title: Your Legacy)
Lauren Mooshegian

“I read of a man who stood to speak/at the funeral of a friend./He referred to the dates on the tombstone/from the beginning…to the end./He noted that first came the date of birth/and spoke the following date with tears,/but he said what mattered most of all/was the dash between those years.”  Related to this poem, “The Dash” by Linda Ellis, what experiences are you filling your years with between the times you are born to the time of your death? Have you ever stopped and wondered what your legacy is or what you would like it to be? Life is a gift that we have and we should live it fully and purposefully. What choices are you making in your life and what guidelines help you make your choices. Do you have your own set of values, morals and beliefs? In this class we will explore how to build your legacy through leadership, community service and guest speakers sharing their own stories of how they have grown their legacy and what they would still like to accomplish. We will also work on creating a bucket list and goals for reaching items on the list. Students in this seminar will live together in Potter  Hall.

Other University Seminar Sections

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?

Anything Your Team Can Do, Mine Can Do Better: Rivalries in Sports
(Start Registration Page Title: Rivalries in Sports)
Brian Gardner and Kristen Ely

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?

Discover Your Passion
(Start Registration Page Title: Discover Your Passion)
Leilani Carver

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” (Confucius). But how do you find your passion? Perhaps you’re still deciding on a major, perhaps you’re wondering where the major you’ve chosen may lead to. When I was an undergraduate, I officially changed my major nine times.  I was smart, intellectually curious, and could be anything I wanted to be. Yet, I felt completely adrift and had no idea how to pick a major, let alone a career. With this University Seminar, I have created the class I wish had been available when I was in college. We will focus on self-discovery, how our culture has shaped who we have become, our family values and work values, and the types of careers available to us. The goal of this course is to translate your passions, strengths, and purpose into a major (and ultimately a career) that helps you reach your full potential.

From Hunger Games to Hip Hop:  Influences on Decision Making
(Start Registration Page Title: Influence on Decision)
Suzanne Jones and Karlla Dozier

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.

From Pets to Pests: An Exploration of Animal Welfare
(Start Registration Page Title: Animal Welfare)
Janet Roberts

Why do we squirm when we hear terms like animal euthanasia and dog fighting, but not hesitate to kill a wandering ant in the kitchen? Why do we ooh and ahh over baby animals, but categorize them as “good” and “bad” once they reach an adult age? Why are there so many protesters to testing on primates, when millions of rats are legally poked and prodded in animal research? The paradoxes that plague our interactions with other species are due to the fact that much of our thinking is a combination of instinct, learning, language, culture, intuition, and our reliance on mental shortcuts. In this course, we will confront moral quandaries in our relationships with animals, exploring controversial issues such as dog fighting, cock fighting, vegetarianism, hunting, circuses and zoos, pedigree breeding, breed specific legislation, and animal rescue.

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?

Image, Idol and Icon
(Start Registration Page Title: Image, Idol and Icon)
Todd Brenningmeyer

In 2012, more than 300 million photos were uploaded to Facebook daily. Images of births, deaths, daily life, political events and catastrophes inform our understanding of the world. While images are more abundant than ever before, the nature and function of imagery has not changed. Images remain the most effective medium for manipulating and inspiring an audience and given the visually saturated environment in which we live, the ability to read and critically assess an image is of great importance. In this course we will look at images and their ability to influence an audience and provide information. We will explore how images underscore our understanding of the world and how they are used to manipulate us into believing or perceiving what an artist, politician or corporation desires.

Imagined Worlds: Creating Science Fiction Stories
(Start Registration Page Title: Science Fiction)
Johannes Wich-Schwarz

In what direction is our world heading? What are the challenges facing our planet and human civilization? How can we express our concerns about this world and our visions of the future? In this seminar, we will explore these questions through the lens of science fiction stories. Science fiction asks who we are in the universe, explores alternative views of life, and helps us to reflect on our own viewpoints and opinions. We will read and discuss classic and contemporary SF short stories that envision a possible future world and deal with issues confronting our current world. In our own creative writing we will explore similar topics: opportunities and problems inherent in technology, questions of personal identity and communication, the threat of ecological disasters, notions of alien life, and so forth. In practicing these creative reflections, we will learn how to draft, develop, and share our stories of the future.

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.

Nature: Friend, Foe or Food?
(Start Registration Page Title: Nature)
Gabe Colbeck and Corey Baker

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.

A 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, journalism, 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 Social Network, 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 and Turan Mullins

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 Power of Design
(Start Registration Page Title: Power of Design)
Darlene Davison and Cherie Fister

Have you ever thought about the process by which your cell phone, laptop, alarm clock, backpack, and dorm room came to look and feel the way they are? Many college students contemplate the idea that they’ve spent their entire lives surrounded by the work of designers. And while you might not be a designer we are all clients for designers. In this seminar, we will explore the meaning of design and the design process that enables us to identify and explore complex problems and generate creative solutions that support human behavior. As one of our course films, Objectified, puts it, “What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves?”

 Starships, Wizards, and Hobbits…and Government!
(Start Registration Page Title: Starships, Wizards, and Hobbits)
Davis Brown

The best sci-fi and fantasy literature features masterful creations of other worlds, and in learning about those other worlds we can learn much about our own world. What is government like in Star Trek and the wizarding world? How do different “countries” relate to each other in the galaxy, and in Middle Earth? What contributes to the rise of tyrants like Sauron, Lord Voldemort, and Khan Noonien Singh, and how do societies respond to that? Do the many tragedies and near-tragedies in Star Trek and Harry Potter offer lessons for preserving our own civil liberties? What can all three works teach us about the ethics of war? Through the wisdom that science fiction and fantasy offers us, students may learn more about politics, philosophy, law, and government. Students in this section will live together in Potter Hall.

Travel, Discovery, and Transformation
(Start Registration Page Title: Travel, Discovery and Transformation)
Scott Angus

Are you ready for adventure? Have you always wanted to travel the world in a semester?  We will examine the transformative experience of travel through an exploration of global locations, cultures, and traditions. Using an international lens, we will become more aware of ourselves while we explore cross-cultural engagement and learn about the rest of the world. The world is calling you to see its wonders, so plan your must-see places to visit before you turn 30!

Unleash Yourself
(Start Registration Page Title: Unleash Yourself)
Steve Coxon

Want to solve global human rights issues? Wonder if you could start a successful business? Have ideas that could be the next great novel or film? The future belongs to the creative: Grab life by its little bunny ears and get in its face! Creativity is the most important 21st century skill set and is useful in every field. In this class you will create across disciplines. Respond to Fahrenheit 451, our Maryville Reads book, by creating your own utopia-gone-wrong as a stop-motion animation on your iPad, build and program a working LEGO robot to solve a real-world problem, tell your life story as an e-book, make a digital story to promote a business plan. Unleash your best products on the Internet and make your mark upon the world!

What Do You Stand For?
(Start Registration Page Title: What You Stand For)
Mark Chmiel

Students will take an exciting journey toward developing a strong, open, and diverse mindset for understanding social justice and how their thoughts guide them through life decisions.  An engaging teaching environment will build a community of active learners  in a mediated setting that will allow them to discuss and listen to varying viewpoints, diverse backgrounds, and formulations of opinions. The goal is to lead incoming Maryville first-year students to becoming high-end critical thinkers with a Maryville Alumni heart.  Throughout this journey, students will discover what they stand for?

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.