Signature Courses

Signature Courses are courses faculty apply to teach that highlight the faculty member’s knowledge and passion for a subject. These courses are designed to introduce a new college student to the life of the mind and expose students to full-time faculty members immediately upon coming to the University. 

Signature Courses are engaging, dynamic courses on topics of the instructor’s choice for first-year students. These courses should highlight the faculty member’s passion for the topic and communicate knowledge on that topic for a general first-year student. Ideal Signature Courses include interactive student engagement including, for example, group projects, oral presentations, group discussion, proposals/ sales pitches, and other active, experiential learning strategies. Instructors apply to teach these courses, and these applications are evaluated based on the instructor’s ability to engage students.

Signature Courses meet every M, W, and F at 10:00 AM. Signature Courses are capped at 100 students. Students enrolled in Signature Courses will participate in “The Lionizing,” a culminating semester-end event where they will present a project from the course in the genre of the instructor’s choice. 

Fall 2018

WTF (Where’s The Food): Food, Culture, and Society

Yvonne Villanueva-Russell, Associate Professor of Sociology

Eating is a biological imperative, but more often, we take it for granted. This course will view food production, processing, distribution, and consumption as social and cultural phenomena. We live in an ironic time where access to too little and too much food co-exists with many negative consequences. While food brings us together, it also differentiates us. We will use food as a lens to examine the complex social, economic, and cultural relations that determine what we eat and the people we become.

Walk Like an Egyptian

Cheri Davis, Assistant Planetarium Director

A cultural study of the ancient people and their influences on modern society. Students will develop an original presentation or model based on course content. We will explore historical backgrounds, associate lifestyles, cultural beliefs, and use the planetarium to compare the view of the sky as they saw it to how we see it today. We will examine current and ancient caste systems, and students will draw conclusions as to the beliefs ingrained in the Egyptian way of life in contrast to today’s American lifestyles.

I Think Therefore, I Create Value

Mario Hayek, Associate Professor of Management

This is a course focused on teaching the importance of value creation and developing a value-creating attitude in multiple aspects of life. The ability to contribute to one’s profession, organization, family, society hinges on the ability to add value. This course helps students scan the environment, identify opportunities, analyze those opportunities, develop plans involving how an idea would be implemented, and then articulating/communicating the concept/vision to a target stakeholder group.

Business, Society, and Unfettered Thought

John Humphreys, Professor of Management

This signature course will focus on the critical thinking skills required to manage the increasingly integrated, interdependent, and complex relationship between business and society. Students will gain an understanding of the role of business in society, the capacity to use knowledge to effectively analyze, debate, and solve societal/organizational problems in a socially responsible and ethical manner, and the ability to successfully communicate potential solutions across audiences.

Separate and Unequal? The State of Public Education Sixty Years Post Brown

Kriss Y. Kemp-Graham, Associate Professor of Education Leadership

Is equal access to a quality education possible for all students in the US if vestiges of separate but unequal public schooling still exists? Extreme educational disparities also exist in academic achievemnt and performance of students based on race, gender, region, community locale and socioeconomic status. Many scholars and politicians have argued that education is the great socioeconomic equalizer. Students taking this Signature Course, through hands-on interactive activities will critically explore the state of public education in the US post the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The Quest of Happiness

Mark Menaldo, Assistant Professor of Political Science

What is happiness? What makes life worth living? What is the best life for a human being? Through a careful and slow reading of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, students will explore the answers to these questions. The ancient Greek philosopher presents three competing alternatives: the lives of pleasure, virtue, and contemplation. In his work he examines each. The virtuous gentleman, the human being of moral excellence, takes the predominant role in the investigation.

Learning How to Think Critically

Brandon Randolph-Seng, Associate Professor of Management

The course is designed to increase students’ critical thinking knowledge and skills. Concepts covered include perception, memory, creativity, and problem-solving as they relate to critical thinking. We will examine the effects of attitudes, values, logical fallacies, and thinking errors on critical thinking and problem-solving. Assignments will require students to apply their skills to real-life situations and to understand the levels of the critical thinking process through problem-solving activities.

Food: Choices, Challenges, and Consequences

Robert Williams, Professor of Agricultural Education

This course explores the history, economic, geographic, sociological, and political perspectives surrounding food. Students will study choices, including customs, traditions, celebrations, food in media, marketing, and labeling. Then the course will focus on a study of food challenges, including civic agriculture, animals as food, environmental concerns, and social justice. Finally, students will explore questions surrounding the consequences of food, including obesity, food assistance, and outreach.

Spring 2019

Voting and Apportionment

Mehmet Celik, Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Can one person’s vote make a difference? How are voting decisions made? How does the study of mathematics inform our understanding of everyday decisions like purchasing a home, saving for college, investing in retirement, and purchasing car insurance? This course will develop students’ natural ability to know something without requiring any proof of evidence.

Global Foods: From Soil to Soul

Quynh Dang, Associate Professor of Health and Human Performance

Students will examine the issues and conditions that affect the availability and quality of food in the global market. This course also reviews the landscape of both food and farming, in both rich and underdeveloped countries. Nutrition circumstances differ as well, as persistent hunger is still a deadly challenge in many tropical countries, while in rich countries, particularly the United States, excessive food consumption and obesity are now a more prominent diet linked challenge to health.

Death From the Skies

Kent Montgomery, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy

The universe is a dangerous place in which any number of disastrous events could end the reign of humans on the Earth. This course will delve into humanity-ending, catastrophic phenomena: from asteroid and comet impacts to nearby supernovas, or even being swallowed by a blackhole. Students will learn the science behind these events, what can be done to save humanity and what the odds are that any of these disastrous events might occur.

Environmental Justice

Johanna Delgado-Acevedo, Assistant Professor of Biological & Environmental Science

Environmental Justice refers to social movements that have been created to confront inequalities in the distribution of environmental hazards and the exclusion of specific members of the society in the decision-making process of environmental policies. Environmental Justice also refers to environmental policy that helps to ameliorate inequalities and to a multidisciplinary field to study and analyze environmental injustices. This course is intended to help students to develop a critical and constructive thinking about the strength, potential and threats of Environmental Justice movements, policy and scholarship.

Music in the Movies

David Davies, Assistant Professor of Music

In addition to covering the history and aesthetics of music written for Hollywood films, this course will explore the sociological, philosophical, and psychological issues surrounding the use of music in film, and by extension the American film industry as a whole.

Star Wars: The Course Awakens

John Howard Smith, Professor of History

Star Wars: The Course Awakens takes students on a journey to explore the spiritual, religious, and mythological material in the Star Wars universe, particularly the sources of concepts such as the Force, the Jedi and Sith orders, and themes of enlightenment, morality, depravity, and redemption as depicted in the films and some attendant literature. The status of Star Wars as an American mythology will also be explored, as well as the development of the Force as an emerging religious belief in the 21st century.

Tyranny to Sainthood: A Journey through the Human Mind

Tara Tietjen-Smith, Professor of Health & Human Performance and Jennifer Schroeder, Professor of Psychology

Students will explore the minds of great and notorious individuals throughout history as well as the systems that supported or worked against them. What made some of them leaders? Why did people follow them? What made them who they were? Explorations will include several individuals at both ends of the morality and ethics spectrums: Mother Theresa, Adolf Hitler, Ghandi, Charles Manson, and many others. Students will investigate the concept of mental health and mental illness by using historical, contemporary, and personal examples.