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Autumn Term course descriptions

Your first Eckerd academic experience kicks off with Autumn Term, a three week course led by your first faculty mentor.

Please review the course descriptions and faculty bios below. New students will be asked to select 8 top choices, in no ranking order. Autumn Term course selection begins on Wednesday, June 14, 2023 and ends at noon EDT on Friday, June 23, 2023.

AT 1: Foundations of Finance

Thomas Ashman

So just what is “Finance” anyway?  Franco Modigliani and Merton Miller won the Nobel Prize in Economics in part for proving that Finance is irrelevant. Other renowned economists like Robert Shiller and Richard Thaler routinely assert that financial market participants are irrational. Despite high inflation and a global pandemic, the financial services industry is burgeoning globally, and it has never been more important for people to understand basic principles of Finance. Students will be introduced to simple accounting statements, valuation models, and the relation between risk and return. The knowledge and skills acquired will be used to understand and interpret current capital market events and data, and to identify potential concerns about individual companies’ corporate governance policies. Each student will also apply the concepts learned by analyzing the financial performance of a company of their choice from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and forecasting the future performance of that company.

Thomas Ashman, Professor of Finance, has a B.A. in English Literature and Psychology from Williams College, an MBA from Loyola College in Maryland, and a Ph.D. in Finance from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He survived working for the Federal government for 18 years, and enjoys reading, traveling, and hiking. His research interests include sports economics (ice hockey, horse racing, basketball, baseball, and football), corporate governance, and money and banking. 

Tom Ashman

AT 2: French Fairy Tales

Kathryn Bastin

What does the term fairy tale mean to you? This course will give you a new perspective on the fairy tale genre from an early modern French perspective. The term “fairy tale” (conte de fées) was coined in 1697 by the French writer Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy. During this time period in France, fairy tales were penned by adults for adults. Best sellers in their day and beyond, these tales uphold the marvelous and bizarre. Rife with transformations and metamorphoses, these stories distinctly diverge from Disney fairy-tale representations you may know. Key writers of the period we will study are Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy, Charles Perrault, and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Our readings will be complemented by viewing Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (1947) and Jacques Demy’s Donkey Skin (1970) allowing students to engage in cinematographic analysis. We will explore questions such as: How do we define a fairy tale? How did these tellers engage with the creaturely? 

What role did transformations and metamorphoses play in these tales? Is there a difference between the male- and female-authored fairy tale of the era? We also will be reading secondary sources anchored in the rich field of fairy-tale studies, aiming to familiarize students with a variety of textual genres. This course will emphasize literary and filmic critical analysis through daily responses (written and oral), short papers, and a team oral presentation. Our class will culminate in a final creative project in which students will author their own fairy tale. All texts and films will be in English translation.

Kathryn Bastin, Assistant Professor of French, earned her Ph.D. from Indiana University-Bloomington in French/Francophone Studies. She is a native Hoosier. Her teaching and research interests include early modern French literature and culture, animal studies, women’s writing, and fairy-tale studies. Her most recent research has been at the intersection of plant studies and fairy tales. She teaches a wide range of courses at Eckerd, from French language and culture classes to French cinema and the Francophone graphic novel. She loves to travel and has the pleasure of taking Eckerd students to Montpellier, France in 2022 and to French Polynesia in 2023. She looks forward to an upcoming interdisciplinary study abroad that she will be co-leading that combines animal studies and French language immersion in Madagascar. When she’s not teaching and writing, she enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking, and kayaking with her husband and three children.

AT 3: Successful Marketing through Storytelling

Nina Bergbrant

Have you ever had an idea buy you did not know how to sell it, how to tell a story about it to gain support for it?  This class focuses on the importance of storytelling in successful marketing campaigns.  Storytelling is an effective tool used by marketers today in a world that’s overloaded with messages.  It enables them to tell a story that’s relevant to each specific customer.  In particular, the class will review the universal elements of powerful stories to understand how companies and institutions connect with customers and grow.  Topics will include learning about capturing attention, engaging an audience, changing minds, inspiring action and pitching ideas persuasively.  Inspired by the works of both marketing scholars and practitioners, the class will investigate stories of companies and individuals; ultimately resulting in writing our own Eckerd story.

Nina Bergbrant, Instructor of Marketing, earned a B.S. in Marketing at Miami University. After working for several years for DuBois Chemicals as a Product Line Specialist and Marketing Services Manager in Cincinnati, Ohio, she began her graduate studies. She earned her M.S. in Marketing and M.B.A. focusing on Management and Building Sustainable Enterprises from the University of South Florida.  She then joined BIC and worked as a Global Product Line Manager and National Account Manager. As part of her responsibilities, she was involved in all aspects of marketing and got to travel extensively domestically and internationally. She brings the textbook material to life, by sharing her industry experience with the students and showing how the concepts get applied in the industry. Her course assignments are designed to foster application of the textbook materials in an analytical as well as creative way. You can find her teaching Principles of Marketing every semester and she is a marketing resource for students on campus. When not working, traveling, and chasing after her two boys, she loves to enjoy the paradise we live in – St. Pete Beach.  She enjoys boating, paddle boarding and exploring Florida’s nature. When not outdoors, she can be found on the dancefloor working on her ballroom dancing skills. She enjoys the visual and performing arts and will never say no to a delicious cup of tea.

AT 4: Secret Life of Pests

Tim Bransford

Some animals we love, even worship, but others we bill as enemies and villainize. How come? What about their behavior pushes us over the edge to where we don’t want them in our lives anymore, and is it fair of us to judge? In this course, we will delve into the various relationships humans have with so-called pests, juxtaposing the goals of humans with the goals of pest animals. Some of the topics we will address include what criteria humans use to label pests, how the perception of pests vary throughout the world, what behaviors turn an animal into a nuisance, and ways humans deal with animals once they are given the title “pest.” In addition to class lectures and discussion, we will explore the manifestation of “pesty” animals on and around campus, and take a trip to a local wildlife rehabilitation center to see some “pests” in action. 

Tim Bransford, Assistant Professor of Animal Studies, earned his B.S. in Environmental Science from Baylor University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. He teaches a variety of courses in the animal studies discipline, including Introduction to Animal Studies, Animal Behavior, and upper level elective courses like Great Apes. His research interests include primatology, the behavior of wild animals, and human interactions with wildlife. He has worked internationally in multiple tropical countries and he also collaborates on several local projects, including a long term study of orangutan behavior at Zoo Tampa and a study looking at nocturnal wildlife activity at Fort De Soto County Park. In his free time he loves exploring the outdoors, watching and playing soccer, building things, and enjoying time with his wife, son, and various companion animals.

AT 5: Genetic Frontiers

Whitney A. Bullock

A pet velociraptor? A tiny T-rex? A wooly mammoth? Media and the movies make this sound possible. Could this really happen? In this course, we will demystify gene editing, and explore the actualities of genetic engineering. Analyzing multiple media sources, we will explore past, present and future capabilities of science. This will include what consumer genomics can tell you, explore the ethical problems that arise in the fields of bioinformatics, genomic science and genetic engineering and discuss ways in which genetic engineering may be used to respond to real-world problems. No previous knowledge of genetic engineering is required! Readings will include analysis and discussion of both fictional and non-fictional works regarding aspects of genetic engineering and its applications.

Whitney A. Bullock, Assistant Professor of Biology, received her Bachelors in Animal Science from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN and her PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology from Indiana University in Indianapolis IN. She left the cold Midwest winters for the sandy beaches of St. Petersburg in 2021 to join the faculty at Eckerd College, where she teaches Cells and Genes, Genetics and Molecular Biology and Endocrinology. Her research interests include the study of mechanical signals (such as exercise or bedrest) on muscle and bone health, as well as the interactions of hormones in osteoporosis. In her free time, she enjoys relaxing on the beach with a good book, screaming on roller coasters with her family, and spoiling her dog Nala with treats and hugs. 

AT 6: Imagining Italy

Kristy Cardellio

The Italian peninsula, historically made up of myriad civilizations with diverse cultures and languages, became unified as a nation in 1861. In this course we will view and critically analyze Italian films that address the question of national identity, particularly after the fall of Fascism. The films included in the course are by distinguished Italian directors such as Vittorio DeSica, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. We will explore and reflect on the filmmakers’ vision for the future of Italy.  As a capstone project, students will have the opportunity to make their own short films.    

Kristy Cardellio, Instructor of Italian, earned a master’s degree in Italian from New York University and a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of South Florida. In addition to teaching Italian, she teaches regularly in the general education program. Her areas of interest include Italian language and culture, film and global education. She has led language immersion Winter Term programs to Italy and advises students on study abroad programs. She enjoys long nature walks and short documentary films. 

AT 7: Breaking U.S. Oil Addiction

How addicted is the U.S. to oil?  How much oil does the world have left?  What are the costs and benefits to society of fracking?  Is it possible to reduce our consumption of oil and other fossil fuels to avert the dangers of climate change?  Should the U.S. strive to be “energy independent”?  This course examines such questions and invites students to critically assess existing U.S. oil policy and make informed recommendations for the future.  Issues to be explored are the supply and demand for this nonrenewable resource, its historical importance to the U.S. economy, and its national security and environmental consequences.  We will analyze various policy options, including supply-based measures such as increased oil drilling and use of unconventional sources, as well as demand-based measures such as fuel economy standards, higher gasoline taxes, and incentives for alternatives like electric vehicles and biofuels.  Throughout this course, we will work together to develop our research, writing, and presentation skills, and become familiar with class preparation and participation expectations at Eckerd.

Professor Jill Collins received her Ph.D. in Economics from The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, having already completed an M.S. at Arizona State University and a B.A. at Wellesley College.  Her research interests include how to value environmental amenities such as clean air and clean water, how to best manage natural resources such as oil and water over time, and the role of cost benefit analysis in public policy.   She enjoys yoga, playing the piano, working crosswords, and going to the beach with her husband Bill and daughters Chloe and Summer.

AT 8: Math in Media

Keith Copenhaver

Have you ever watched a movie montage of people writing math on chalkboards and thought “If only there were less character development, action, and plot, and more chalkboards!” Of course you have! But if you haven’t, maybe you have thought “that math sounds way cooler than the stuff I learned in class.” In this course we will dive into that cooler math that lies below the surface in various media, including the movies Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind, Hidden Figures. The surrealist painter Salvador Dalí was also interested in cooler advanced mathematics; he once described himself as “living and organized with a Pythagorean precision.” We will explore some of the math that he found inspiring.

Keith Copenhaver earned his B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Florida in 2010 after first spending two years as an Aerospace Engineering major. He next spent a few years teaching public high school in Florida. He would be happy to discuss what that experience taught him about life, society, equality, education in general, public education specifically, and whether or not you should teach high school. He returned to academia in 2014 and earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics in 2019 with a specialization in Combinatorics. He joined Eckerd’s faculty as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics in 2019. His primary research interests are in Combinatorics, specifically relating to Graph Theory (the study of how things can be connected) and sorting algorithms for permutations. Recently, he has been spending entirely too much time figuring out how to make ever more complicated graphs in the online graphing calculator Desmos. He enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, reading books, playing video games, and playing Ultimate Frisbee with the Eckerd Ultimate Frisbee Club.

AT 9: Anthropology of Food and Eating

Jessie Fly

What, where, and how do people eat? By the end of Autumn Term, students should be able to answer these questions from an anthropological perspective, understanding the diversity of food preferences and eating behaviors through time and across space. Giving special attention to the intersection of biology and culture, we will discuss a variety of topics, including fad diets, why some people have more than enough food and some have too little, food as medicine, table manners, and how relationships are established and maintained through the act of eating. In addition to lectures and class discussion, students will collaborate to compile a class cookbook, track their own dietary behavior, and survey dietary diversity at international grocery stores and markets. The course will culminate in a class feast. Students will be assessed through reading quizzes, a series of short writing assignments, and participation in the class projects.

Jessie Fly, Associate Professor of Anthropology, earned a B.A. in Biology at Hendrix College (another “college that changes lives”). After working for a year at a botanical garden in northern California and getting excited about studying cultural uses of plants, she began a graduate program in Environmental Anthropology at the University of Georgia and earned her Ph.D. there. She has conducted research in Southern Appalachia, Uganda, and Vietnam, where she studied shrimp farming and mangrove forest restoration. Her current research project is local, studying the Tampa Bay subsistence fishing community, its impact on the environment, and how fishing contributes to community food security. When not working, traveling, and chasing after her six-year-old son, she loves to cook complicated meals, try out new restaurants, and read novels, snuggled on the couch with cats, George and Lulu.

AT 10: Plants and Civilization

Dave Himmelfarb

The story of human history in many ways is the story of the complex relationship between humans and plants. As the basis of human diets, plants feed us, but they do so much more. Plants cure us when we’re sick, provide us building materials, make us money, and get us high. They’ve contributed to the rise and downfall of civilizations, famines, wars, slavery, and driven scientific innovations that have saved millions. In this course, we will investigate how human-plant relationships have shaped societies and ecosystems around the world and cultivate our own relationships with the plant world on the Eckerd College Community Farm.

Dave Himmelfarb, Instructor and Internship Coordinator in Environmental Studies, began his exploration of the relationship between people and the environment as a child, traveling with his parents throughout the rainforests of Latin America. These early adventures inspired him to design his own major at Cornell University (B.A. 2004), where he sought to bring together courses in Anthropology, Conservation, and Ecology and did undergraduate research on social change and deforestation in Samoa. He went on to pursue his Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Georgia (2012), during which time he did years of field work in Uganda and Vietnam, focusing on rural livelihoods and environmental conflict. In recent years, he has worked with faculty, students, and staff to develop the student garden into the Eckerd College Community Farm, of which he is the Faculty Director.

AT 11: The Great Game of Literature

Daniel Spoth

As long as there have been humans there have been games. As long as there have been games, humans have told stories about them. A game can be a story in itself: an opportunity to strive, explore, celebrate, contemplate, or grieve. This course aims to explore what role narrative games (both games that tell a story and stories concerned with games) play in constituting our identities and structuring our interactions with others in an increasingly bewildering social landscape. Class sessions will include discussions of a variety of assigned readings, writing exercises, orientation to Eckerd’s academic system, and group gaming sessions. We will consider primarily narrative games (pen-and-paper RPGs, TTRPGs, interactive fiction), but also tabletop games that blend skill and luck.

Daniel Spoth, Associate Professor of Literature, was raised in a tiny Alaskan town where the TV reception was lousy and the public library wasn’t open on weekends, and had to cultivate his literary education using a scattered assortment of texts torn from the ravening jaws of the ever-present megafauna. From these hardscrabble origins, he has been driven steadily southward, gaining a B.A. in English from Reed College in Portland, OR, and an M.A. and PhD from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Now he lives in an even more tropical climate and fully expects, if these trends continue, to someday end up stranded on a raft in the Caribbean Sea, subsisting on kelp and quoting poetry at the circling sharks. Professor Spoth is licensed to run a 250 kW TRIGA Mk I nuclear reactor and is also an amateur charcutier–a designer and creator of artisan sausages.

AT 13: Machiavelli: Power, Deception, and Self-Rule

Boris Litvin

What does it take to establish—and maintain—political power? Why do some political actors succeed where others fail? And what do such experiences tell us about what it means to be politically engaged? This course grapples with an author who purports to have discovered radically new answers to these questions: Niccolò Machiavelli. Machiavelli’s ideas have been subject to controversy and disagreement since their publication 500 years ago. Indeed, among the Italian diplomat’s adherents we can find a cast of individuals as diverse as James Madison, Vladimir Lenin, Karl Rove, and Tupac Shakur.

This course is devoted to closely reading Machiavelli’s texts, asking how we go about interpreting them, and evaluating their chief philosophical problems. These include, among others: the relationship between morality and politics; the nature of oppression; the meaning of political freedom; the place of change and novelty in political life; and the relationship between political theory and rhetoric. In considering these topics through a “Machiavellian” lens, we do not presume that our author has the “correct” answers. Rather, this course is meant to serve as an introduction to how we approach big-picture questions in the humanities and the behavioral sciences as college students. Accordingly, this class serves as an introduction to the sort of work assigned in college. Besides parsing and debating the above topics, students will also be tasked with considering how they might apply a Machiavelli’s perspective to current-day concerns. To that end, Machiavelli’s texts will be supplemented with films, contemporary commentaries, and student presentations. 

Boris Litvin received his Ph.D. in Political Science at Northwestern University after completing his Bachelor’s in Political Science at the University of Michigan. This will be his second year at Eckerd College after teaching political theory at Stetson University. Boris’s research focuses on how major political authors across history engage popular audiences by adopting and adapting new literary genres. His publications include work on Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s pedagogical treatise-turned-novel Emile and Niccolò Machiavelli’s comedy La Mandragola, among others. As an immigrant to the United States, Boris is especially interested in all questions relating to belonging and political membership. Boris spends his free time finding new things to explore in Florida and trying his best to avoid social media.

AT 14: Mythbusting Pop Psychology

Stephanie Mallinas

Are you an auditory or visual learner? Are you right-brained or left-brained? What’s your Myers-Briggs personality type? Our society has developed an obsession with popular psychology. Questions such as these pervade the media, social media, and even formalized settings such as job training. However, many of these tidbits of information that are considered common knowledge are based in little to no scientific evidence. How, then, did they come to be so widespread? In this class, we will cover several topics in pop psychology and separate fact from fiction based on available scientific evidence. We will also discuss how myths arise and spread, implications of believing them, the role of the media in scientific communication, how to critically evaluate evidence, and why humans are so infatuated with learning more about themselves.

Stephanie Mallinas, Assistant Professor of Psychology, received her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from The College of New Jersey and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Florida State University. She teaches a variety of classes in the psychology discipline, including Introduction to Psychology, Social Psychology, and Contemporary Issues in Psychology. Her research broadly examines how people think about others based on their perceived similarity or dissimilarity. She is especially interested in the roles of ideology, morality, motivation, and threat in influencing prejudice, stereotyping, and other forms of social judgment. She has examined these topics in the context of attitudes regarding sexual orientation, race, religion, and political ideology. In her free time, she enjoys reading, boating, and spending time with her husband and their two adorable dogs.

AT 15: Is This All a Game?

Jason Markins

Is it possible that our phones are playing us? In relation to game studies, rhetoric is used to study how the rules and materials of games are designed to get players to act in specific ways. These same methods used by game designers are being used by city planners, social media apps, and even in college classrooms to influence our behavior. In this class, we will learn about how we are being gamified through the technologies we use. We will study contemporary game theory scholars to better understand the problematic ways our phones and laptops are working to hold onto our attention; in addition, we will discuss how to harness these same methods to improve our attention and benefit us in the classroom. Students will have the opportunity to learn to play games such as The Quiet Year, Concept, and Catan as they analyze the mechanics of each. We will not only think critically about the games we play, but we will also look at the ways in which elements of games are being used to play us.

Jason Markins received his B.A. in English from Hanover College, his M.A. in English from West Virginia University, and will be completing his Ph.D. in Composition and Cultural Rhetorics from Syracuse University this August. His areas of study include the Digital Humanities, posthuman and new materialist rhetorics, and cultural rhetorics. His dissertation compares writings about the U.S. Arts and Crafts Movement (1901-1916) and the Maker Movement (2001-2016) in order to better understand how we talk about the craft of writing in relation to the tools and technologies we use to write. As such, he is very interested in talking to you about writing and publishing, especially D.I.Y. punk rock zines from the 80s and 90s and current digital innovations in writing. His hobbies include hiking with his wife and dogs, baking bread, and listening to vinyl records.

AT 16: Politics of Science Fiction

Katti McNally

Imagine, if you will, an ordinary street in an ordinary American town.  Until, that is, some of its inhabitants begin to suspect that one of their neighbors is not what they seem.  They may be, instead… an alien from outer space. Or perhaps it’s the mid-24th century, and humankind has solved world hunger, ended their petty political squabbles, and ventured out amongst the stars.  Or, scratch that, and you find yourself in an alternate future in which the Cuban Missile Crisis marked the beginning of World War III, and what’s left of humanity is still reckoning with the effects of nuclear fallout.  The universe of science fiction is awash in scenes much like these.  In this course, we will consider how science fiction represents not just interesting or scary or kooky imaginings of the future, but instead reflect a multitude of attempts to grapple with the very real, important, and sometimes intractable political problems and aspirations of the here and now (or there and then.)  We will explore science fiction as a tool to reimagine political systems and institutions, provide insight into the interconnectedness of politics and identity, and explore the paths not taken at critical junctures in political history.

Katti McNally offers courses on American political institutions, identity, political behavior, and the Constitution.  Since earning her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland, College Park, her research has explored the representation of marginalized groups in American Politics, with particular focus on the U.S. Congress.  She published a book on the subject, Representing the Disadvantaged, in November of 2021.

AT 17: Italy in Literature & in Life

Antonio (Tony) Melchor

Structured as a tour through time (the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the modern period) and through various cities, this course provides an introduction to the culture of Italy through great works of literature and visual art. At the same time, it also explores the Italy of today, the everyday Italy of food, sports, fashion, music, and popular culture. We will see how the richness of Italy’s past continues to be expressed in its present. This course will put students planning to go to Italy in the future in a position to have a much more meaningful experience, and it will make those who have already been to Italy long to go back.

Antonio (Tony) Melchor has been teaching at Eckerd College for most of his professional career, and there is nowhere else where he would rather be. Tony received his degrees in Italian Language and Literature from the University of California at Berkeley (B.A.) and Yale University (Ph.D.). His research focuses on modern Italian literature and Italian film. When he is not on campus, he can be spotted riding his bike on the awesome walking and biking trails nearby, or strolling on St Pete Beach. He loves to travel, and frequently takes Eckerd students to Italy for immersion in its language and culture during our January term.

AT 19: Youth Culture and Visual Media

Christina Petersen

What is ideology? What is hegemony? How does the media we consume determine our identities without our conscious consent? From the advent of cinema through the development of online social networking, visual media in the United States and around the world have targeted youthful consumers who are encouraged to imitate what they see, often without question. This course will look at the development of youth culture in the United States and its unique relationship to visual media, including film, television, comic books, video games, and social media, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will examine youth culture as a social phenomenon generated by the young, a means of representing the experience of being youthful, and as part of the ongoing debates over the effects of media on youth. As alternately mass culture, popular culture, subculture, and participatory culture, youth culture holds a privileged place in the history of American visual media and how we understand our individual identities, no matter our age.

Christina Petersen, Christian Nielsen Professor of Film Studies, holds a B.A. in English from Duke University, an M.A. in Cinema Studies from New York University, and a Ph.D. in Cinema and Media Studies from the University of Chicago. Her teaching and research interests include youth and cinema; film spectatorship; race and ethnicity in American cinema; gender and film; and American film genres such as horror, science fiction, melodrama, and the musical. She is Eckerd’s inaugural film studies faculty member and helped start the film studies major at Eckerd College, also serving as a programmer for the College’s International Cinema series and co-director of the Visions/Voices of Nature Environment Film Festival, which just completed its 25th year. She has taken students to the Sundance Film Festival and most recently led the Eckerd College London Study Centre, teaching a course on British cinema and remaking Hitchcock suspense sequences on location. Besides watching films, she can be found biking St. Pete (look for the orange helmet around campus) and obeying the orders of her cat Ripley.

AT 20: AfroLatinx Music & Rhythms

Axel Presas

In this course we will examine the historical and cultural influences of AfroLatinx rhythms. We will examine how the confluence of diverse African, European and Pre-Colombian cultures have shaped musical geographies, social relations, and cultural politics in the Americas, including the United States. We will explore how Spanish music, African Music, Andean, Tarahumara, Mexica, and other rhythms have influenced the music we now enjoy in our quotidian cultural spaces.

A special consideration will be given to the history, incidence, meaning, influence, and development of many Latin American celebrated rhythms such as Tango, Rumba, Son, Mambo, Salsa, Cha Cha Chá, Reggaetón, and others. Also, we will explore the origins and expansions of AfroLatinx musical rhythms into other cultural spaces such as New Orleans, Miami, New Jersey, and New York. We will endeavor to value the cultural intersections of AfroLatinx and North American musical rhythms in the United States. We will endeavor to answer these questions, amongst others: What is “Latin” music, and why is it known as “Latin” music? What are the cultural foundations of “Latin” music? Why is it important to understand AfroLatinx music as the true identity of “Latin” music? What has been the influence of indigenous music in the development of “Latin” music? Why and how “Latin” music has become an international commercialized success? Why is music from Spain included in the categorization of “Latin music”? What are the particulars and universals in “Latin” music?

Axel Presas is Assistant Professor of Spanish at Eckerd College. Originally from Cuba, he received his B.A. in Philosophy and his Masters in Spanish from the University of South Florida, Tampa. Also, he completed his Ph.D. in Spanish, with a concentration in AfroLatinx Cultures and Literatures from the Southern Cone with a minor in Afro Lusophone Literatures, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on AfroLatinx cultures, literatures, and religions. His publications examine the decolonization of AfroLatinx aesthetics and their cultural spaces in Latin America and the U.S.A. He has written many articles and book chapters on AfroCuban, AfroArgentinean, AfroUruguayan, and AfroChilean aesthetics. Professor Presas is also a poet. He has published two books of poetry in Spain. One of his own poetry and in the second book he translates into Spanish the poetry of Herman Melville. In his free time, he likes to hang out with his two daughters and his wife at Fort De Soto and spending time with them in downtown Saint Pete.    

AT 21: Narratives of Sail

Kathleen “Kat” Robinson

Yarns, shanties, and scuttlebutt are terms that reference the constructing of story and self within the context of sail.  The relationship between the sharing of stories and journeying on water appears throughout many cultural landscapes in narrative form.  But why is the link between taking to the sea and telling the story of journeying by water so strongly related?  This course encourages students to explore various narrative structures, stories, and experiences related to this link as the focus of our examination.  Examples will range from ancient stories of the earliest seafarers to the reflective narratives of the early Americas to various fictions (and facts) of contemporary sailors.  Throughout our experiences in this course, we will work together to engage in academic inquiry, as well as to craft familiarity with class preparation and expectations at Eckerd College.  

Kathleen “Kat” Robinson received her Ph.D. in Literature from the University of South Florida, after having completed her Master’s and Bachelor’s in Literature.  She came to Eckerd College in 2008, after teaching at the University of South Florida.  She is currently the Asst. Dean of Faculty, in charge of Fellowships and Scholarship for Eckerd College. Her research interests include the study of trauma and narrative in modern American and British Literature..  She is involved with the local sailing community.   She enjoys crossing oceans, dismantling patriarchal structures, and hanging out with her child and partner. 

AT 22: Exploring the Deep Sea

Patrick Schwing

The Deep Sea is the largest habitat on earth and is largely unexplored (~19%).  Over 60% of our planet is covered by water more than a mile deep and more people have traveled into space than have traveled to the deep ocean realm.  Deep Sea Exploration will introduce students to the history of ocean exploration and emphasize the multidisciplinary (biological, geological, chemical and physical) nature of deep sea oceanography. We will examine ongoing ocean exploration programs, technology (vessels, submersibles, remotely operated vehicles, autonomous vehicles, moorings, landers, etc.) and methods used to explore the deep ocean.  Students will become familiar with the resources provided by the deep ocean and the economic, industrial, and legal implications and applications of the development and exploitation of those resources including human impacts to the deep ocean (e.g. plastics, ocean acidification, oxygen depletion).  Throughout this course, students will interact remotely with professionals from the public and private sectors involved in various aspects of deep ocean exploration, oil and gas, mineral resources, and biological resources (pharmacological, fisheries, etc.).  Depending on logistical constraints, there will also be an opportunity for students to interact via telepresence with scientists and technicians onboard a research vessel actively exploring the deep ocean.  Finally, this course will enhance the professional development of students by focusing students on their own deep sea exploration research topic, culminating in a presentation at the end of the term. 

Patrick Schwing is an Eckerd alumnus (Marine Science, geology focus, 2006) and earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography in 2011 from the University of South Florida.  He joined the Eckerd College faculty in 2020 after spending ten years serving as a member of a multi-institutional, international research team documenting the long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Ixtoc-1 oil spill and constructing environmental baselines for the entire Gulf of Mexico.  His work is primarily in the field of Marine Pollution, particularly exploring the impacts of natural and human stressors on seafloor environments.  With the help of many Eckerd students in the field and in the laboratory, he is currently working on several ongoing projects addressing impacts from deep sea mining operations, oil spills, radioactivity, red tide and plastics to environments that range from the coastal zone to the deep ocean.  He has served as chief scientist and co-chief scientist on oceanographic research expeditions in addition to organizing and executing numerous coastal expeditions that have directly resulted in authorship of more than 50 peer-reviewed research articles, book chapters, and technical publications.  His work has also been featured in National Geographic and through the Smithsonian Ocean Portal.  Outside of Eckerd, Dr. Schwing loves to be out in the water (boating, scuba diving, kayaking), playing music with his band (composed of other Eckerd faculty members), watching and playing soccer, rock climbing, cooking and enjoying family time with his wife and two dogs.

AT 23: Mission Impossible: Religion, Science and Spies

Dawn Shedden

We talk all the time about people “on a mission” to change the world but what does that really mean? Are missions supposed to be so hard that we can focus on nothing else? Are they possible or impossible? Do they alter who we are and how we behave? Why do most organizations feel the need to create mission statements? Do they really follow them? Join us on a journey as we explore these questions and seek to understand missions in our wider world while developing our own sense of what our individual missions might be. Our main sources will be the diaries of early German missionaries to Pennsylvania, Anna Botsford Comstock’s guide to the study of nature and Stephen Hawking’s musings about the universe, and the story of Adolf Tolkachev, a CIA spy in Moscow. We will also look at popular films like The Martian and Mission Impossible and visit local community organizations in search of that illusive sense of purpose and meaning within ourselves and others.

Dawn Shedden, Instructor of History, has lived in St. Petersburg for over 20 years and has worked at Eckerd College in various capacities for much of that time.  She has a Ph.D. in European history from the University of Florida, a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College.  Professor Shedden’s own research examines how individuals living in border regions organized their worlds in the turmoil of the French Revolution. More recently, she has been working on understanding identity within the diverse communities of the St. Petersburg area. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, reading, singing, and taking nature walks with her husband and three boys.

AT 24: Playing History in China

Jing Shen

China has a long history full of dramatic moments, which are often recaptured by Chinese dramatic literature. This course explores representation of Chinese historical cataclysms from the late imperial to the modern periods through the lens of theater and cinema. We will investigate how drama is utilized to portray and construct history and society and discuss what purposes are served by subjective interpretations of the past as revealed in the drama. Students will study texts of Chinese drama, literature and films that integrate theatrical performance. These works will introduce them to rich, varied Chinese traditional and modern theatrical forms as well as some important dramatists and artists, and also allow them to learn about the acting profession in traditional and modern China. The class will perform a Chinese play as their final project.

Jing Shen, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, received her Ph.D. in Chinese and Comparative Literature from Washington University in St. Louis, after having completed her M.A. and B.A. degrees from Beijing Foreign Studies University in Beijing. She has published on Chinese literature, drama and film. Groups of Eckerd College students travelled to China with her researching Chinese cinema, theater, television, and environmental issues. Professor Shen directs the Chinese program at Eckerd College and offers courses in Chinese Martial Arts Literature and Film, Chinese Ecocinema, Chinese Pop Culture, and other literature and theater topics. In her spare time, she serves as Editor of CHINOPERL, an interdisciplinary and international journal devoted to Chinese oral and performing literature.

AT 25: Creating Intergenerational Relationships

Tamar Shovali

In this course students will be introduced to a foundational understanding of intergenerational relationships and the importance of fostering intergenerational collaborations in order to positively impact our internationally designated Age-Friendly community. Beyond topics in older adulthood, this course will help students learn more about different generations and how to interact and form meaningful relationships with people different from them. Students will have the opportunity to create relationships with older adults and assess their experiences. Becoming familiar with tools and techniques used to facilitate meaningful intergenerational relationships will be emphasized. A final summative project will require students to identify needs of the community to engage multiple generations.  

Professor Tamar Shovali (she/her) is an Associate Professor of Human Development. She completed her PhD and MS in Developmental Psychology from the University of Georgia. Professor Shovali is a life-span developmental psychologist with a specialization in gerontology, the study of aging. Her area of research is grandparents raising grandchildren and high impact, intergenerational gerontological pedagogy in higher education. She regularly teaches Aspects of Aging, Cultural Diversity: Theory and Practice, Death and Dying, Introduction to Human Development, Research Methods in Human Development, and Senior Seminar. 

Honors Program courses

Students who were invited and accept a place in our Honors Program will be placed in one of the following Autumn Term courses.

AT 12: Oceans Across Media (Honors)

From seafarers to scientists, surfers to sirens, humankind’s close relationships to the sea span time and culture. This transdisciplinary course explores ways in which representations of this relationship, from “The Pearl Diver” of ancient Noh Theatre to Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic, have reflected (and sometimes transformed) various cultural contexts. Students will take a deep-dive into stories of human relationships to the ocean that have sparked replication, representation, and repetition across performance media. They will examine the cultural retellings inspired by these stories, and ways in which those tellings have in turn reflected and shaped their societal contexts. Students will also read key theoretical works, both ancient and contemporary, to gain an understanding of critical conceptual application to representations of human-ocean relationships. These theoretical concepts will serve as tools for students’ written analysis of the narratives and media we examine. Finally, students will apply their knowledge by creating their own representations of a human-ocean relationship through original creative digital media projects.

Antonia S. Krueger has a PhD in Theatre from The Ohio State University, where she was the first person in theatre ever to receive a Presidential Fellowship. She has two Masters degrees: an MA in Communication (Theatre) from Indiana State University, and an MA in English as a Second Language (graduate minor in Psychology) from the University of Minnesota. Her scholarship focuses on life narratives across multiple disciplines and incorporates elements of psychology, history, comparative literature, performance studies, critical theory, sociolinguistics, and internatural communication studies. Tonia has been teaching at Eckerd since 2012. She has also worked in the performing arts in many capacities: as a dramaturg, playwright, critic, voice and text coach, actor, director, costumer, and arts administrator.  She has been a 2020/2021 and 2022 Performance and Ecology Working Group Co-Convener for the American Society for Theatre Research. She enjoys butterfly gardening with Florida native wildflowers and trying to teach the neighborhood mockingbirds new songs.

AT 18: The Power of Nonviolence 2.0 (Honors)

In her 1970 essay “On Violence,” Hannah Arendt stated, “Violence can destroy power, but it is utterly incapable of creating it.”  What could she possibly have meant?  How could this statement be relevant to civilians in Syria, Yemen, or Ukraine as the targets of ghastly violence in war or to those struggling against oppressive systems of structural violence in the US and abroad?  This course introduces students to the strategies of civil (nonviolent) resistance during conflicts and methods of transitional justice after violent conflict. Topics include case studies on the effectiveness of civil resistance strategies; resistance art and literature; racial/ethnic civil rights, empowerment, and justice struggles; gender, peace, and security concerns in war; climate change, conflict, and environmental justice; inclusive post-conflict peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts; and transformative justice after conflict.  Evaluation based on two synthetic essays on readings and films, annotated bibliography and formal oral presentation on a group-linked case study, and in-class debates, discussions, and attendance.

Mary K. Meyer McAleese, Professor of Political Science, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts at Amherst, teaches courses in international relations and comparative politics, including US Foreign Policy, IR theories, Inter-American Relations, Latin American Politics, Politics of the European Union, and Women and Politics Worldwide. Her publications include her book, Gender Politics in Global Governance (with Elisabeth Prügl, 1999, Rowman & Littlefield), articles on Latin American regionalism and diplomacy, and book chapters on women and gender politics in Northern Ireland as well as the United Nations Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. She is a contributing editor on the international relations of Latin American states for the Handbook of Latin American Studies (Library of Congress), and served as Treasurer of the International Studies Association from 2008 to 2014.  She is the Associate Editor for the International Relations section of the Encyclopedia of Latin American Politics, Oxford University Press.