6 credits of Upper Division Seminars (3 credits each) are required for graduation.
Investing for a Sustainable Future
Craig Mayberry, Management
MW 10:00 – 11:20 am
This class will explore the idea of sustainable investing. Generally, investing your savings or retirement is based solely on trying to maximize return, but over the last couple of decades there has been more of an emphasis on socially responsible investing. The question this course will explore is what does that really mean?
Arctic Media: News, Culture, and Diplomacy
Derek Moscato, Journalism
TR 9:00 – 10:20 am
The Arctic, as a global region denoted by economic growth, ecological transformation, and increasingly dynamic international politics, presents a natural focal point for the impact of media and communication, including news, popular culture, diplomacy, and public communication. From global media’s coverage of the Arctic Council to reality television programs like Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch, renderings of the region in global media shift perceptions but can also sway policymakers and financial markets. As public relations campaigns by organizations like Greenpeace alongside multinational corporations demonstrate, they also have profound implications for climate change and the global ecological crisis. To this end, students will engage with Arctic media through a combination of in-class discussions, media presentations, guest lectures, and field trips. They will be encouraged to interface with various forms of Arctic media (such as television programs, documentaries, magazines, websites) outside of the classroom as well. Finally, students will be encouraged to see the Arctic not as a political or geographic “other” but as an extension of the ecological and societal challenges facing our planet today.
The United States and International Terrorism
Honors 352 (WP3)
Daniel Chard, History
TR 02:00 – 03:20 pm
What is “terrorism”? How should historians and other scholars research and write about political violence? With a student-driven focus on primary source investigation, this course examines the challenges and possibilities of researching terrorism in United States and international history since 1970. Reading assignments, films, and lectures will cover core themes in terrorism history and introduce students to theoretical, methodological, ethical, and political debates surrounding terrorism research. Students will explore a range of research methods and primary sources, including acquisition and interpretation of declassified intelligence agency documents, oral histories, and multimedia sources. Course requirements consist of weekly readings, a series of two-page research assignments, and a longer final paper answering the questions outlined at the beginning of this course description.
Bridging the History Gap: Reading The Obama Years
Honors 353 (WP3)
Richard Simon, Honors Program
MW 11:30 – 12:50 pm
When you were young, your country had its first black President. But you probably didn’t learn about that in your U.S. history class. Between where our high school history texts leave off and our own political awakenings in college lies a gap in our understanding of the recent history that most directly effects the events through which we are currently living. In this seminar, we will consider a variety of texts from the time of Barack Obama’s presidency; look at the promise, peril, achievement, and disappointment surrounding this remarkable period in history, and think about how those events led us to where we are today.
We will read a few core texts such as Michelle Obama’s current memoir Becoming; selected significant Barack Obama speeches, such as his 2007 address “A More Perfect Union” and his first inaugural address; works of cultural critique such as Ta Nehisi-Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power; and Obama Era creative works such as Jennifer Egan’s short story “Black Box”, Boots Riley’s film Sorry to Bother You, and Spike Lee’s film BlacKkKlansman. We may also look at some works about Reconstruction, between the end of the Civil War and the instatement of Jim Crow, in which African Americans were – briefly – politically ascendant in the American South. Thus, we will consider some of the longer causal threads and seek parallels in our deeper history that may provide guidance as we move forward.
Sustainable Plastics and Composite Materials
Honors 354 (WP1)
Mark Peyron, Plastics and Composites Engineering
TR 10:30 – 11:50am
This seminar will be a multi-disciplinary analysis of issues related to developing sustainable plastics and composite materials. The focus will be on technical challenges (including chemical, biological and processing factors, as well as sustainable design), but students will also investigate the impacts of economic issues and environmental science, policy and ethics. Proposed topics, case studies, etc. are outlined below. This seminar will include some lab content related to plastics recycling. These labs will be performed in the Plastics and Composites Engineering (PCE) spaces and materials science lab space.
Students will be organized into multi-disciplinary teams to explore this complex intellectual terrain. Topical research (including guest lectures by faculty at WWU) will be examined, and students will participate in and lead discussions of relevant research papers. The curriculum and pedagogy will be based on student-centered, research-based methods.
Reacting to the Past: Rousseau, Burke and the Revolution in France
Honors 355 (W3)
Amanda Eurich, History
TR 01:00 – 02:20 pm
The French Revolution was the founding event of modern democracy. In this seminar, you will have an opportunity to experience firsthand the excitement, complexity and political dynamics of this watershed moment in human history. We will use the role-playing strategies developed by the Reacting to the Past program at Barnard College NYC to explore how class, sexual, racial, and colonized identities were refracted through the lens of revolutionary discourse and change. You will mobilize the power of speech, print, images and subversive action to convince fellow citizens to embrace the political vision of your faction. AUX ARMES CITOYENS!
Food Security, Land Justice: Movements for Food Sovereignty in Changing Climates and Cultures
Honors 356 (WP3)
Anika Tilland-Stafford, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
T 2:30pm – 5:20 pm
As climate change challenges food production and globalized systems leave many without land, there exist strong movements where local communities secure food for their people. Food and land rest at the intersections of gender, disability, class, colonialism, and diaspora. The study of food sovereignty movements is therefore intertwined with the efforts of black, indigenous, and migrant communities to create non-exploitative and sustainable food production networks. In order for students to leave this course with concrete ways to support food security in their communities, the term will blend academic study with hosting and visiting communities working for food security and land justice in the local context. Students will have the opportunity to apply their own interest areas to course material and assignments.
Autism, Technology and the Brain
Fletcher Scott, Communication Sciences and Disorders
TR 12:00 – 1:20 pm
How has the world viewed this mysterious condition throughout history? Should autism be considered a disability or simply a different way of thinking and interacting with the world? How have people with autism navigated and influenced our world to become extraordinary scientists, artists and contributors in a variety of fields? Should we adapt our environments to more effectively include people with autism or should we continue down a path that enforces conformity? We will discuss these questions and others as we enter the always fascinating and sometimes confusing world of people with autism. In addition, we will examine how recent advances in technology and our understanding of the brain have allowed people with autism across the developmental spectrum to interact with the modern world. Overall themes of social justice and the neurodiversity movement will be discussed. Coursework will focus on the exploration of a variety of technologies and how they can lead to the development of meaningful supports and outcomes for people with autism.
Honors 350 (WP3)
Tom Moore, Liberal Studies and Honors Program
MW 02:00 – 03:20 pm
1968, or “The 60’s”
- The assassinations of President Kennedy, Malcom X, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
- The growing opposition to the War in Vietnam, which ended up costing 50,000 American service men and women dead and about 250,000 wounded; in addition there were approximately 1.2 million dead Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians.
- Race riots in every major American city as the nonviolent direct action program of Dr. King is (ironically) brought to its knees through violence.
- The emergence of Feminism (at first, not taken at all seriously) as a permanent political and cultural force.
- ‘Rock and roll’—in all it permutations—becoming the soundtrack of a culture.
What We’ll Do:
As one who lived through many of the above events, I propose a look back—if not in anger, then with a bewildered curiosity—at why the United States didn’t collapse. We’ll explore this with fiction and nonfiction texts, film and music. We will not, however, go to rock festivals and get stoned.
Honors 351 (WP3)
Lori Martindale, Honors Program
MWF 11:00 – 11:50 am
In this class, we will delve into Magical Realism, an international, artistic genre characterized by inclusion of the mythical with elements of folk lore and fairy tales into a blend of the realistic and fantastic in art and fiction. We will study international works of magical realism from Cuba, Chile, Columbia, Argentina, Mexico, America, Russia, the Czech Republic, England, and India. A few authors under study include prominent works by: Eowyn Ivey, Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar, Franz Kafka, Zadie Smith, and more. Students will work on critical responses and journal writing throughout the quarter, and a final researched paper or their own creative project.
Novel Ecologies: Literature of Environmental Justice
Honors 352 (WP3)
Lysa Rivera, English
TR 10:00 – 11:20 am
Who is most hurt by environmental degradation and abuse and who benefits? In this course we’ll examine what contemporary U.S. ethnic literature has to say about environmental racism, ecofeminism, and toxic colonialism. We’ll also think about the social construction of nature, globalization, food justice, and urban ecological issues by drawing amply from disciplines outside of English, including ecological criticism, environmental studies, and sociology.
In this class, a few guiding points of inquiry will be: What is the role of literature in the struggle for social change? How has the environmental justice movement in the United States animated writers of color, particularly women, and in what ways does their work reflect this? Is the imagination a radical space?
Because the content of this course exists at the intersection of literature and environmental justice, its reading list will be decidedly interdisciplinary, drawing from the humanities and the social sciences primarily. Students will likely have occasions to expand and build upon work and ideas they have generated in previous courses and are encouraged to bring any outside knowledge to the table in their projects and classroom discussions.
Studio/Lab: Reciprocal Histories of Art and Science
Katie Brian, Liberal Studies
MW 12:30 – 1:50 pm
There is no science without art, nor art without science.
Despite this, one could claim that a principle ambition of the last two centuries has been to construct a wall between the humanities and the sciences. From elementary schools to patterns of leisure, from the clothes we wear to the environments we inhabit, from common-sense notions of race and ability to the gendered conventions that structure intimacy—the battle of the disciplines penetrates the most mundane aspects of our lives.
Yet in concept, method, and application, the disciplines exist in an intrinsically symbiotic relationship. Each seeks to render the abstract knowable, and to confirm its existence in the material world. And each, in order to accomplish this aim, needs the other. Even more urgently, though, the disciplines need irreverent wanderers who are willing to ignore the intellectual claim-staking that created them.
And, so, irreverent wandering is our purpose. Call it excursion, if you will, or an ode to transdisciplinarity. Either way, the itinerary will include 1) etymological digression (what do we mean by ‘discipline’ and ‘knowledge’ anyway?; 2) historical reconnaissance (why did Enlightenment thinkers classify the ‘art of remembering’ as Science?, or, why was transdisciplinary work so trendy in the 1970s?); and genealogies of related objects (map, piano, table, record, stage). It will also, by necessity, include experimental practices* (what happens if we…?).
*experiments to be determined by the room.
America’s Vision of War: The History and Ethics of Conflict Photography in the United States
Honors 354 (WP3)
John Harris, Journalism
TR 12:00 – 01:20 pm
Americans have more access to photos of war and conflict than ever before. This seminar explores the history and ethics of conflict photography through readings and by examining images, mostly historical but contemporary as well when relevant. The purpose is to provide students with a better understanding of why they see the photos they do by studying the historical and ethical context in which they were published.
Spartans are Strange When You’re a Stranger
Honors 355 (WP3)
Tristan Goldman, Honors Program
MW 03:30 – 04:50 pm
Most of us have heard of the Spartans in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps you have seen the film 300 in which the ancient Spartans feature prominently. Perhaps you have played a very popular sci-fi video game in which the protagonist is part of a “Spartan” program to create super-soldiers. Perhaps you have played a popular action video game in which the protagonist is supposed to be a born and bred Spartan warrior hellbent on slaying the Greek divinities. You very well may have encountered Sparta or the Spartans in some other context entirely, maybe even in your sixth grade “ancient history” unit. You may have even heard that Spartan women have as fierce a reputation as Spartan men for their intelligence, bravery, and cunning. In any event, these ancient human beings have a legacy that stretches from their homeland in the Peloponnesus where they had their moment some 2,500 years ago all the way to today, a legacy which has consistently captured our imaginations. The Spartans have certainly left their mark. Their reputation has gone from being regarded as champions of liberty and republicanism to being proto-fascists and vicious oppressors; a strange combination for one and the same group of people, no? We’re going to be spending some time with the Spartans in an attempt to sort out this seeming contradiction. We’re going to do our best to appreciate who they really were, what they were trying to accomplish, and why. We are going, I hope, to revel in their strangeness, so that we might be able to capture a glimpse of possibilities we may have decided are impossibilities. A sense of astonishment is a terrible thing to waste.
Life as a Planetary Phenomenon
Melissa Rice and Robin Kodner, Geology Department & Biology Department
R 01:00-03:50 pm
Summary of seminar concept: The co-evolution of life on Earth and the planet itself are intricately-linked processes. Within our lifetimes, it is quite possible that the first detection of life beyond the Earth will be made, and we may begin to understand the role of life in the evolution of other worlds. If and when this discovery happens, it will fundamentally affect how humanity understands itself. In the meantime, we can refine our understanding of the co-evolutionary process on Earth, and the potential for life to exist elsewhere in the Universe by studying: (1) the origins of life on Earth and how evolutionary processes work, (2) the ranges of extreme environments where life can persist on Earth, (3) the ranges of environments on other planets and moons in our solar system that have the potential to support life, and (4) the huge variety of planets that exist around other stars in and outside our own galaxy.
Charity McAdams, Honors Program
TR 10:00 – 11:20 am
“…the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world” — Edgar Allan Poe
“I tremble at the power we have” — Morrissey
Art inspired by the death of young, beautiful, intelligent, and talented women, runs its course through artists as diverse as Tupac and John Keats, Morrissey and Shakespeare, and Etta James and Christina Rossetti. These ‘murder ballads,’ whether portrayed through visual, musical, verbal, or interdisciplinary arts, give us a blood-stained key to the chambers of our culture. In those chambers, we find pieces of our inner lives — the ways we think about gender, about love, about beauty and violence, and about the nature of art itself. In this class, we will look at folk, popular, and ‘high’ arts of the Western World, and work together to uncover pieces of the Western psyche. Whether you have expertise in the arts or come to them with fresh eyes, this class will guide you through the relationship between artistic composition and the subject of ‘decomposition.’ In doing so, you will uncover for yourself the relationship between horror and the magic of art, and the cultural implications of the two combined.
Arts Reporting & Criticism: History and Practice
Honors 350 (WP3)
Brian Bowe, Journalism
TR 10:00 – 11:20 am
So much of the arts and culture journalism presented in mainstream media comes from a consumerist perspective – thumbs up or thumbs down. But arts criticism can help us better understand our own social context. This seminar in arts journalism will cover music, movies, visual arts, dance, theater and more. The class will examine the function of arts publicists, reporters and reviewers, as well as academic and “serious” critics. Students will focus on how to improve their ability to think about and understand the arts, but they will also work on conveying aesthetically relevant information about artifacts, exhibits, and performances in lucid and interesting prose. In producing their work, students will be exposed to the wide variety of arts opportunities available in Bellingham and on Western’s campus. We will use the locally available resources to cover the arts scene on campus and in town, giving students the opportunity to interface with musicians, visual artists, filmmakers and others in our community. In addition, the performances and exhibitions on campus will give students ample material to work with in their own writing.
Black Feminist Dystopian Narratives
Elizabeth Colen, English
TR 02:00 – 03:20 pm
Black feminism is a school of thought that looks at the ways racism, sexism, class oppression, and gender identity are inextricably bound. What would it mean to imagine a world outside or beyond the strictures of white supremacy? What does it mean to imagine a world that centers on black feminist voices, queer and trans voices, voices of indigenous populations?
In this interdisciplinary literature, film, and theory class we will read, respond to, and analyze a wide range of texts. Beginning with a short history of black feminism and intersectionality from the 1800s to today, we will establish a theoretical framework from such pioneering voices as Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks, Gloria Anzaldua, Octavia Butler, and Adrienne Maree Brown. Operating within this framework, we will examine the work of black feminist authors writing dystopian and apocalyptic narratives that simultaneously lay bare the social injustice and failings of contemporary political and social structures of privilege and reimagine worlds that center focus on historically underrepresented and disadvantaged populations.
Kirsten Drickey, Spanish
MW 11:00 – 12:20 pm
For a relatively small country, Cuba has had an outsized influence on world events and popular culture alike. From the rum-and-Coke drink known as a Cuba libre to exploding cigars and the Buena Vista Social Club, Cuba’s place in our imaginations is usually equal parts spy thriller, tropical paradise, and socialist experiment.
Here in the United States, our frame of reference is the complicated relationship between Cuba and the US in the post-1959 era, but this is only part of the story. Throughout the Spanish-speaking world and beyond, Cuban writers, singers, artists, filmmakers, and intellectuals have been vociferous in debates about geopolitical issues such as national sovereignty and economic independence, as well as cultural and social themes such as racial and gender equality. State support of the arts since 1959 has meant that Cuban intellectuals have had a very public, albeit highly regulated, platform to explore these topics across literature, film, and the graphic and performing arts. One constant in our study will be how artists and intellectuals have negotiated the role of the state in supervising and supporting their creative endeavors.
In this seminar, we’ll study essays, films, and literature from Cubans—wherever they happen to live—who create art that offers insight into Cuba and what it means to be Cuban, both on the island and in the world beyond.
Jeremy Cushman, English
TR 12:30 – 01:50 pm
In this course, we’ll obsess about to the multiple and often surprising ways sound participates within our own workaday worlds. What that means is, together, we’ll do our best to unpack the wide-ranging and often neglected persuasive qualities of sound. We’ll practice (because it does take practice!) attending to the multiple and overlapping senses that sound activates, learning to treat sonic events as physical encounters that produce powerful if subtle arguments. What’s more, we’ll design and produce our own sonic compositions that go to work in the world. My hope, in the end, is that we find ways into sound and its relationship to rhetoric that allow all of us to ask new or different questions about our own interests and fields of study.
Of course we’ll only have ten weeks together, so to best approach the ways sound matters, we’ll work from three overarching concepts: Listening, Space, Agency
Listening impacts much more than our ears. In fact, Steph Ceraso gives the kind of listening we do only with our ears a name: “Ear-ring.” Ear-ing, obviously, plays a principal role in experiencing sound, but it’s only one mode or sense in the multimodal practice of listening. A multimodal listening accounts for the ecological relationship among sound, bodies, environments, and materials. Such an approach to listening is rather compelling, particularly when we consider that Evelyn Glennie, one of the world’s most accomplished percussionists, cannot hear with her ears. So we’ll engage with activities that promote a multimodal listening that, hopefully, allows for questions to emerge about the personal, professional, and academic spaces we inhabit.
Scholarship on sound and space has a long and complicated history. In the 1960’s R. Murray Schafer popularized the term soundscape, which is a term that has sense been taken up and challenged in academic fields like environmental studies, sociology, philosophy, and even english. So will read about and worry over and try to experience the ways sound participates and makes its own arguments about space, including the ways sound takes on agency in particular spaces.
The field of rhetoric has, for the most part, treated sound the same way its treated texts: as a static object of analysis rather than as an embodied experience. We’ll read and respond to those treatments, but will also read and listen to scholars who argue that sound acts on different bodies, creating and causing responses, sometimes uncontrollable and even harmful responses. To best get at the possible agency of sound, we’ll have to not only engage with this line of inquiry, we’ll also have to work directly with sound, making our own compositions and reflecting on the ways sound participated (or not) in the act making.
Gender & Technology
Honors 355 (WP1)
Mary Erickson, Communications
MW 01:00 – 02:20 pm
This class explores how gender and technology are intertwined in various social and cultural contexts, including identity construction, media, health and medicine, work, and the home. The overlap of technology and gender, and how they each impact the other, is particularly important to explore and critique in the contemporary moment. Today, we are surrounded by new and ever-more intrusive technologies. Do these technologies reinforce gender norms, as some scholars propose with gendered voice assistants like Siri and Alexa? Or do technologies give us opportunities to turn gender norms upside-down? Older technologies from the 19th and 20th centuries (for example, the telephone or the refrigerator) have helped structure how we have learned to interact with each other, how we have learned our gender roles, and how opportunities have been created or dismissed. Similarly, gender dynamics have determined technological innovation and adoption; this is apparent in the STEM fields, for example.
This course examines how technology has structured gender and vice versa. We will emphasize critical questioning and discussion in the classroom, and the course assignments bridge the course material with lived experiences, helping students make connections between theories and real-world applications.
Sustainability, Resilience, and Collapse
Honors 356 (WP3)
Jerry Ek, Anthropology
TR 10:30 – 11:50 am
The goal of this course is to examine the factors that promote and inhibit the long-term sustainability of human societies. This seminar will examine the reciprocal relationship between social and environmental dynamics, drawing on a broad range of relevant studies and literature. Course curricula will include theories, concepts, and perspectives useful for modelling human-environmental dynamics from a range of fields, including ecology, anthropology, archaeology, geography, philosophy, and folklore. The seminar will be to create an active role for student participants, with evaluation based on student lead discussions and collaborative research projects.
This course will provide students with an introduction to the interdisciplinary fields of sustainability and resilience science. As defined here Sustainabilityis the capacity of any system or society to continue basic functions, practices or lifeways indefinitely. Resilience is the ability of a system (social, ecological, etc.) to withstand disturbances and thrive in the face of change. These two concepts represent both academic interests as well as key modern social, economic, and environmental goals: to create societies that enhance, rather than degrade, the world around them, and that in turn that can withstand inevitable instabilities and disjunctions from environmental, social, and technological change. The course will encourage students to adopt a holistic view, as sustainability and resilience thinking requires consideration of entire ‘systems.’ This includes understanding dynamics in complex systems based on quantitative and qualitative data, fact-based decision-making, and the ability to work with and consider the needs of diverse stakeholder groups. This course will adopt a very broad and holistic approach to the topic, ranging from theoretical frameworks to model sustainability and resilience to specific modern, historical, and ancient case studies.
School to Prison Pipeline
Honors 357 (WP3)
Tracey Pyscher, Woodring College of Education
TR 3:00 – 4:20 pm
In this seminar, we will explore the ways that race and childhood experiences of domestic violence intersect in the exploding US prison population. We will investigate how this narrative does not begin in our nation’s penitentiaries, but begins in our nation’s schools. The goal of this course is to understand and then deconstruct how these pipelines emerge and are sustained. Emphasis is on issues of power and institutionalized racism including the educational segregation and attempted deculturalization of historically racialized/minoritized and youth from domestic violence-marginalized groups and how these realities create and sustain school-to-prison pipelines (STPs). Philosophical, legal, cultural and ethical perspectives related to STPs are explored as honor seminar students develop critical awareness of issues and their own philosophies for dismantling school-to-prison pipelines through a final project design from their respective fields of study/programs, in-class debates, and other discussion formats.
Guiding questions include:
1. How did we get here? How are school-to-prison pipelines created and sustained?
2. Who are the players in the creation and sustainability of school-to-prison pipelines?
3. What are the major factors in the emergence and sustainability of school-to-prison pipelines?
4. What are the future implications of school-to-prison pipelines for marginalized communities and the country as a whole?
5. What now? How do you envision dismantling school-to-prison pipelines from your respective fields of study?
Note: Upper Division Seminars change every academic year. View previous seminar offerings.