University Seminar Descriptions

The Center for Academic Success and First-Year Experience 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.


Starships, Wizards, and Hobbits! (And What They Teach Us About 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.


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?

Back to the Land: Duck Dynasty, Mountain Men and the Movement that Seeks Nature for Inspiration

(Start Registration Page Title: Nature for Inspiration)
Gabriel Colbeck and Corey Baker

Recent television programming has been associated with a rebirth of interest in living off of the land and the pursuance of a meaningful existence through tight relationships. In this course, we will explore episodes of recent popular television programs (“Duck Dynasty,” “Mountain Men,” “Swamp People,” and more) and their connections with nature, family, and friends. We will expound upon themes related to sustainability and community, and take an in-depth look at the biology of the plants and animals important to these themes; why, for example, do duck calls work? 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.

Big Ideas and Big Questions

(Start Registration Page Title: Big Ideas)
John Wickersham

Since my graduate school days, I have been deeply interested in the history of ideas. If one likens the history of ideas to a pudding, then I particularly like the raisins, the little dense clusters of human genius that are scattered along our road from the distant past to the very present. So, my course will be an examination of some of the most delicious of these raisins.  For example, there is Zeno’s paradox: is a tortoise faster than the fastest human runner? Or consider Plato’s puzzle: do we all live happily in a cave without knowing it? Then, too, there is Russell’s dilemma: Who shaves the barber who shaves all men who don’t shave themselves? You get the idea.  It will be an intellectually challenging ride, bumpy at times, but always thrilling. I hope that among our First-year class there will be a few students who want both to put stars into their minds and to project their minds into the stars.

Disability in the Media

(Start Registration Page Title: Disability in Media)
Shemya Vaughn

This class explores the media’s portrayal of lived experience of people with different types of disability. Students will watch films that use people with disabilities to portray characters living with disabilities, as well as films that use able-bodied actors to portray individuals with disabilities. They will see how the media influence the ways in which society affects individuals with disabilities, discuss the issues that people with disabilities face, and speak with individuals with disabilities.  We will also become acquainted with local agencies that provide services for people with disabilities and participate in advocacy efforts that encourage media to work for instead of against people with disabilities.

From Pests to Pets: 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?

Gotta Play The Game

(Start Registration Page Title: Play the Game)
Karen Fletcher

Games are changing who we are—and what we are capable of. There are many types of games: board games, card games, video games, computer games, and sport games. In this class, we will explore games of all types, “gamification” (applying game mechanics and techniques to non-game contexts), and “gameful” people. Why do games make us happy? What have game designers learned to keep us coming back to our favorite games? How are businesses and organizations using games to engage and motivate customers and employees? Why should the power of games be used for escapist entertainment alone? We will investigate these questions and consider how games make us better and how they can change the world.

Image, Idol and Icon

(Start Registration Page Title: Image, Idol, 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? What might the future bring? How can we express our own vision of the future? In this seminar, we will explore questions such as these through the lens of science fiction stories. Science fiction is more than spaceships and robots. It asks who we are in the universe, it explores alternative views of life, and it helps us to reflect critically on our own viewpoints and opinions. We will read a variety of classic and contemporary SF short stories which develop visions of a future world (sometimes scary, sometimes hopeful), and deal with issues confronting our current world. Apart from reading and discussing these stories, we will also do our own creative writing: we will spend time learning 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 and critically evaluate this information within the context of your own experiences, both romantic and platonic. We will explore the role of marriage and monogamy in society, the ability of men and women to be “just friends,” and the controversial concept of “The One.” This class will use articles, films, readings, in-class activities, group discussions, and assignments to critically assess these issues and to teach you how to communicate your conclusions effectively. Together, we’ll answer your questions about relationships and emotional intimacy while backing up our answers with evidence.

Making Meaning: Exploring World Religions

(Start Registration Page Title: Exploring World Religions)
Paul Mack

College students have questions about life and religion—“Is there a higher meaning to existence, and if so, what is it? If there isn’t, from what source do I derive purpose and truth? Who, where, or what is God?”—precisely because this is the first time in their lives that they can thoughtfully pose them and look for answers. In this course, students will think about different belief systems in order to understand differing spiritual worldviews and how they relate to their own questions and ideas.

Neighborhoods of St Louis

(Start Registration Page Title: Neighborhoods)
Rebecca Dohrman

Students in this class will use the city of St. Louis as their text. We will spend the semester studying the St. Louis region. On five different days, students will go on field trips to interesting landmarks in St. Louis, and students will hold on-site discussions about contemporary St. Louis and its people, landmarks, roads, and culture. The field trips will serve as a chance for the students to see the class readings come alive. Class readings will center on the history, theory, and models of urban growth and shifts over time.

Our Lives Are Our Message

(Start Registration Page Title: Our Lives’ Message)
Mark Chmiel

A reporter once asked Indian nonviolent activist Mohandas Gandhi what his message was. His response: “My life is my message.”  The same is true for each of us. How we spend our time, the ways we share our gifts, the people whom we care about, our dreams for the future—each day we give others messages about who we are and what we value. In this course, we will be introduced to people whose lives have been powerful messages of our human potential, for both personal and social transformation.  The operative question for us is: How can we become the change we want to see in this world? Students will become familiar with the see-judge-act model of social engagement as we learn from the lives of great activists, keep a personal journal of reflections, explore transformative civic and spiritual practices, and contribute our skills to the broader community.

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.

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. Pink Brain, Blue Brain: Using Gender to Analyze Leadership, 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 Playlist of Life

(Start Registration Page Title: Playlist of Life)
Jesse Kavadlo

Of course, college students love music. But what do they listen to? How do they listen to it? Why do they love it? What does their music mean, and how does it make meaning? And why do these questions matter? This class will help students to explore how music works for them, combining an individual, personal approach with aspects of language and literary studies, psychology, sociology, and musicology. How does music affect the lives of first-year college students—and how do their lives create meaning for music? What are the relationships between words and music, sounds and cultures, and music and the mind? Students will listen to and write about music, keep a journal of their listening experiences, and share songs and playlists with classmates.

The Power of Design

(START Registration Page Title) Power of Design
Darlene Davison

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?”

Search for Self through Community Service

(Start Registration Page Title: Search for Self)
Lisa W. Armbruster

This class will be focused on self-discovery through reading, interactive discussions, reflective journaling, and service learning.  We will seek to answer the following questions:  How can my process of self-discovery serve a larger purpose in my community? How can I create meaning in my life by living intentionally?  What tangible goals can I set to achieve and measure this?  And what do the results tell me about myself? Students will create and implement a service learning project during this class. Service learning combines community service with classroom instruction, focusing on critical, reflective thinking as well as personal and civic responsibility. Service learning programs involve students in activities that address local needs while developing their academic skills and commitment to their community.

What Do You Stand For?

(Start Registration Page Title: What You Stand For)
Ellie Wideman

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?

Where in the World Will You Travel? 30 Places to See Before You Turn 30

(Start Registration Page Title: World Travel)
Deborah Knaust OR Kristen Wellinghoff and Diana Fazio

The world is calling you to see its wonders, so plan your 30 must-see places to visit before your 30th birthday. Spend the decade of your 20′s experiencing natural and man-made marvels found in every corner of the planet—thriving global cities like London, Edinburgh, Paris, Rome, Venice, Madrid, Mumbai, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Tokyo, and Mexico City; modern human-constructed wonders like the Three Gorges Dam in China and the Aswan Dam in Egypt; awesome structures built in earlier times like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Roman Coliseum, and the great works of art and architecture; and natural phenomena like Iguaçu Falls, the Cloud Forest of Costa Rica, the first golf course at St. Andrews, and great rivers of the world. This course will help prepare you for your future journey by taking you on a virtual tour of various global locations and learning about cultures and traditions through an international lens. We will use film and video, historical and travel essays, pictures, and the Internet

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.

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