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 6 top choices, in no ranking order. Autumn Term course selection begins on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 and ends at noon EDT on Friday, June 23, 2017.

AT 1: Conspiracy Theories

Michael Burch

Beyoncé once claimed that “Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess.” Despite Queen Bey’s admonishment, conspiracies and fake news are all around us as people ask questions like: Are world politics controlled by a secret cabal of global elites? Is the show Boy Meets World a front for the secret society known as the Illuminati? Did the government create Pokémon Go to spy on us? Could a pizza place in Washington, DC be a front for a satanic cabal? While these questions may seem laughable, public opinion surveys show that many citizens across the world believe in all types of political and pop culture conspiracies. The purpose of this course is to understand how conspiracy theories emerge and shape world politics. We will use political science research to consider why some individuals are susceptible to conspiratorial thought and under which circumstances politicians are likely to exploit these beliefs for their own gain. The course will provide the opportunity to separate fact from fiction by introducing you to the critical analysis skills that are the foundations of a liberal arts education.

Michael Burch, Assistant Professor of Political Science/IRGA received a B.A. in Political Science and History at New College of Florida, a M.A. in Security Policy Studies at George Washington University and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research explores how non-state actors influence world politics, conducting recent research on the behavior of rebel groups during civil wars, the targeting of journalists during conflict and the prevalence of anti-Immigrant violence. He has traveled, worked or conducted research in 68 countries and has the goal of visiting every country in the world at least once. When not at Eckerd, he enjoys spending time with his family, kayaking, exploring Florida, consuming all types of popular culture and planning the next adventure.

AT 2: Breaking U.S. Oil Addiction

Jill Collins

Is the world running out of oil?  Is it possible for the U.S. to become “energy independent”?   What are the costs and benefits to society of fracking?  This course 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 examine 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, oil taxes, conservation incentives, increased public transportation, and alternatives to oil. 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.

Jill Collins, Assistant Professor of Economics, received her Ph.D. in Economics from The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, having already completed an M.S. at Arizona State Universityand 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 zoo with her husband Bill and daughters Chloe and Summer.

AT 3: Marketing Social Causes

Olivier Debure

Every year, the Cannes International Festival for Creativity awards the “Grand Prix for Good” to the best advertising campaign for a specific social cause such as promoting access to clean water or addressing health issues. Non-profitable organizations are becoming more and more sophisticated in their marketing approach to reach their target donors and advance their mission. They use proven marketing techniques from the private sector and apply them to promote social causes. After studying how marketing theories and techniques such as relationship marketing, branding, positioning, and segmentation may be used to promote consumer products, we will learn advertising methods and develop campaigns for non-profit organizations, address social causes, or tackle issues (environmental, health, educational, political, etc.). The material for this class will help students to develop presentation skills and to become familiar with writing requirements, exam formats, and in-class-participation expectations.

Olivier C. Debure is a French native who moved to the United States to study and receive his B.A. in International Culture and Commerce from Christopher Newport University. After working in the field of marketing and import/export he earned his M.B.A. from Old Dominion University in Virginia and an M.A. in French from the University of South Carolina. He currently serves as the Director of International Student Services on campus, teaches Human Experience regularly, and leads international service-learning trips during the Eckerd Winter Term to Africa, India and Central America. He travels with his family and plays tennis as often as possible.

AT 5: The Detective Story: Fiction and Film

Amy Possidente

Sherlock Holmes, the brilliant detective, continues to be as popular today as when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created him in the nineteenth century, and Holmes has been reinvigorated for modern audiences through film adaptations and the hit BBC show Sherlock.  In studying examples of the detective story in both fiction and film, this course will consider the continued appeal of both Sherlock Holmes specifically and crime stories in general.  When and why did detective fiction originate?  What is the difference between the amateur and the professional detective?  And how are the conventions of detective fiction translated into the medium of film?  Students will be introduced to important elements of the detective story including plot, suspense, and character, and asked to think about how these elements function in different media.  Our work will culminate in group presentations on contemporary detective writers and a creative project in which students write their own short mystery story.

Amy Possidente, Instructor of Literature, is a graduate of Eckerd College (BA), the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (MA), and the University of Florida (PhD).  She specializes in 19th Century British Literature and especially enjoys teaching classes on the Victorian novel, Jane Austen, and women’s literature.  She has written articles and book chapters on Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Charlotte Brontë.    In her free time, she loves taking walks with her husband and their two dogs, Cobe and Clyde, gardening, traveling (especially to England), and watching Masterpiece Mystery!

AT 6: Philosophies of the Buddha

James R. Goetsch, Jr.

Join me in a philosophical exploration of some of the ways of life and thought that are centered of the figure of Siddharta Gautama (otherwise known as the Buddha). We’ll examine together both the metaphysics (or views of what is most real) and the ethics (or views of how to live in the light of what is most real) found in the Buddhadharma (as those internal to the tradition call it). And we’ll read, write, and talk about these things philosophically–which means we will always appeal to reason and wonder, based on careful questioning and thought.

James R. Goetsch, Jr., M.A., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Philosophy, is interested in how philosophy can help us make sense of ourselves and the world we live in through disciplined reasoning and wondering thought. He finds resources for teaching and thinking about this in Ancient Western Philosophy, East Asian Philosophy, and the thought of the Eighteenth Century Italian thinker, Giambattista Vico. He is the author of a book on Vico, entitled Vico’s Axioms: The Geometry Of The Human World.  When not teaching, or preparing to teach, he likes to attend concerts with his children (last three: Bruce Springsteen, The Indigo Girls, and Leonard Cohen), read fantasy and science fiction, and play online games (MMORPGs, for those who know what that means).

AT 7: How to Understand China

Hong Gu

What does the rise of China mean to the world, especially the USA? How can America best influence China’s future development? Is China poised to dominate the global economy in the 21st century? Or Is China already on the brink of collapsing due to its political system and environmental disasters? The list of questions can go on, but the enormity of these few questions makes it clear that the present and future leaders of America must study and address the issues raised by these questions. This is why a quick introduction course like this can help us gain a better understanding of China, its culture, history, and traditions as well as the major problems and challenges she is faced with. This course aims at exploring some unique and enduring cultural characteristics of China. We will look at how the traditional teachings of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism mixed with the influence of Western democracy, capitalism and commercialism, as well as Marxist socialism, can contribute to China’s future development. One of the major phenomena that we will study is the rise of the largest Chinese middle class in the world in the past few decades, for its consequences and ramifications are important both to China and the rest of the world. Moreover, students will learn to study and grow intellectually and emotionally in a student-centered learning environment through team work and group discussion. In general, students should expect in this short term to engage in activities that not only inform them of China, but also help them develop and improve their critical thinking, reading, oral and written communication skills.

Hong Gu, Assistant Professor of Chinese, was born and brought up in Shanghai, China. He received his B.A. Degree in English Language and Literature from East China Normal University in Shanghai, his A.M. in English Literature from Southeast Missouri State University. He did his graduate studies at Purdue University and is a Ph.D. candidate in Modern British Literature and Literary Theory. He has taught English composition at Ive Tech College, and Chinese language and Modern Chinese fiction in Northwestern University and Hamilton College. In his spare time, he enjoys practicing Tai Chi and Qigong, listening to classical Western music, and studying Chinese calligraphy.

AT 8: Mask Making and Performance - Who are we really?

Gavin Hawk

Is one fragment of our persona more the “real” us than another? What is it about a mask that permits us to act out of character? By making and performing in our own full-face character and half-face character masks we will discover the power the mask has to transform its wearer. Over the course of the term we will create short pieces of theatre and breathe life into characters that spring from our imagination and from existing texts. Through discussions and readings we will also examine how masks have been used in ceremonial rites and theatrical productions all over the world. Materials fee: $30

Gavin Hawk, Professor of Theatre, has an MFA from California State University, Long Beach and a Diploma in Acting from The Juilliard School. He has worked as a professional actor and director across the country, and has directed ten productions at Eckerd College, for which he has been a three-time recipient of the Meritorious Achievement Award for Excellence in Direction from The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. In 2013, he was nominated for the Outstanding Director of a Play award from Theatre Tampa Bay for his production of Good Egg. He is also an accomplished improviser, having performed a Long Form Improvisation show in residence once a month at the American Stage Theater Company for the past eight years, as well as at improvisation festivals around the country. One of his greatest passions is Mask Making and Performance, and he has made mask for several professional and college theatre and opera productions. He is married to his fantastic wife for fifteen years, and they have two children, a boy and a girl, whom he adores. In addition to acting, Professor Hawk enjoys traveling, playing guitar, and video games on Easy mode on his PS4.

AT 9: The Existential Imagination in France

Lee Hilliker

Our course begins with a question – how do communities, individuals or nations react when threatened from without or within by forces beyond their control?  One of history’s most pertinent answers to such a dilemma was formulated in France during the WW II era by a group of writers and philosophers who called themselves Existentialists.  In order to undertake an exploration of this movement or attitude, which focused on both larger questions of being and knowledge as well as on the vicissitudes of everyday life, we will undertake a reading of Albert Camus’ novel The Plague.  Camus will help us understand a range of possible responses to the tragic conditions imposed by history and by the human condition itself.  In addition, essays by Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre will focus on the day-to-day challenges faced by citizens living under an oppressive occupation.  Finally, our consideration of existential questions will be brought up to date through the viewing and study of European and African films from the 1990s and 2000s.

Lee Hilliker, Associate Professor of French, received his Ph.D. from Duke University and teaches courses on French language and culture.  His current research focuses on francophone cultures and on philosophical questions in cinema and literature.

AT 10: Plants and Civilization

David 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, caused famines, war, slavery, and driven scientific innovations that have saved millions. In this course, we will investigate how human-plant relationships have shaped the history of societies around the world. Through a variety of fieldtrips to local parks and Marie Selby Gardens (home of the largest collection of epiphytes in the world), we’ll also explore the role of plants in local socio-ecosystems in the past and present.

David Himmelfarb, Instructor in Environmental Studies and the General Education program, 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, Natural Resource Management, Ecology, and Economic Botany 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 in Uganda and Vietnam, focusing on rural livelihoods and environmental conflict. Outside the classroom, he continues his investigation of people-plant relations by brewing beers using local botanical ingredients and microbes that have been featured at many local beer festivals.

AT 11: Florida’s Fragile Environment

Lee Irby

In this course we will examine the unique ecosystem of Florida using history as our guide. We will explore the ways that humans have interacted with this landscape through time, from the earliest inhabitants to the latest golf course communities. Much about Florida’s environment is unlike any other on earth, and great changes have altered the land. We will examine large ecosystems (the Everglades) and large developments (Disney World) by asking the same types of questions. How did this come to be? What does it tell us about man’s place in nature? We will focus on issues like sustainability, growth management, and endangered species. Using field trips, texts, film, poetry, and primary-source research, we will enrich our understanding of the Sunshine State. The course will include water-based activities.

Lee Irby is a novelist and historian who has taught at Eckerd College since 2001. He is the author of 7,000 Clams, a novel set in St. Petersburg in 1925 and published by Doubleday in 2005. The sequel, The Up and Up, appeared in 2006. His short fiction has appeared in the North American Review and the Tampa Review. He has also published many articles on Florida’s history and environment, including work on the Cross-Florida Barge Canal and “trailer trash” as a cultural force. His play, Congratulations, Joe, premiered in August 2012 at Studio 620. He is married with two children. In his spare time he enjoys paddle-boarding, basketball, and hiking.

AT 12: Telling the Tale: Native American Testimony

Carolyn Johnston

American Indian myths, stories, and legends tell the tales of their history, spirituality, and cultures.  With the exception of the Cherokee tribe, the Indian tribes of North America did not have a written language, and therefore the oral tradition  was central to the memory of their past.  We will explore Native American testimony of their history, focusing on their storytelling as way of understanding their mythic space, contact with Europeans, their gender relations, spirituality, and ceremonies.  Students will investigate different tribes and choose a story from that Nation to tell to the class. We will also study the images of Indians in the American cinema and how they perpetuate stereotypes of their cultures. We will also focus on the sacred places of the Indian tribes in the United States, including those in Florida.  As N. Scott Momaday wrote: “To encounter the sacred is to be alive at the deepest center of human existence.   Sacred places are the truest definitions of the earth; they stand for the earth immediately and forever; they are its flags and shields.  If you would know the earth for what it really is, learn it through its sacred places.”  Our texts will include works by Peter Nabokov, Native American Testimony, Richard Erdoes, and Alfonso Ortiz, American Indian Myths and Legends, and N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain.

Carolyn Johnston’s first publication was a story in the San Francisco Examiner when she was ten years old. She wrote about returning to the United States in a ship from Taiwan, and the exhilaration she felt when she saw the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge from the ship. Since that moment she has written five books. She did not know that one day she would return to that luminous city of San Francisco. She was born in Cartersville, Georgia, and grew up in the South. Since her father was in the military she lived in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, California, and Taiwan. She attended college at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and became deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. After graduation she went to graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, where she received her PhD in History. She taught at Colorado College for two years, and then moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where she teaches at Eckerd College. She is a Professor of History and American Studies, and the Elie Wiesel Professor of Humane Letters. She was a Pulitzer-prize nominee, and a recipient of a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and a Danforth Fellowship.

AT 13: Strength in Numbers: How to Build and Lead Effective Teams

Jennifer Knippen

Machiavelli famously wrote, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” During this course we will investigate organizational research and theory to better understand why some individuals thrive when asked to take the lead but others hesitate.  We will examine how teams function in various contexts (e.g. classroom, workplace, volunteer locations, sports, etc.) to determine why some teams are more effective (i.e., high-performing) than others. Moreover, we will develop your team building and leadership skills, which can benefit you academically and professionally in any field, whether you aspire to be a scientist, policy maker, or business leader. We will engage in self-reflection and peer feedback to gauge whether your self-assessments match what others think of your contributions. You will delve into the academic literature on team performance, conduct original research, and present your findings to the class. This is a highly interactive course, which involves experiential activities and excursions to local organizations to investigate various models of team effectiveness. This course should serve as a foundation for our challenging curriculum ahead in Human Experience.

Jennifer Knippen, Assistant Professor of Management, earned her PhD in Strategic Management from the University of Florida. Before joining Eckerd, she taught at the University of Virginia and the University of Florida. She teaches various Management Courses here at Eckerd (including Principles of Management and Leadership, Corporate Social Responsibility, Business Policy and Strategy, and Ecotourism in the Caribbean). Her research focuses on team composition and diversity in the upper echelons of organizations (think top executives and board of directors) and social and political pressures on firms. When she is not in the classroom she enjoys traveling, camping and attending music festivals with her husband and three children. She is excited to re-visit her childhood love of sailing since moving to this little bit of paradise, St. Petersburg.

AT 14: Seascapes: Oceans on Stage & Screen

Antonia S. Krueger

The sea has been an important part of human life for millennia, and works of art in various media have portrayed the ocean symbolically from the oldest recorded times. This course will focus on the ocean as it is depicted in performance on stage and screen in various eras and cultures, from “The Woman Diver” of ancient Chinese Noh Theatre to Finding Nemo of contemporary Disney. Students will gain an understanding of the semiotics of performance and the ocean as symbol in performance across cultures and times. They will also have an opportunity to create a portrayal of ocean in performance through a final video or live performance project.

Antonia S. Krueger, has worked as a costumer, dramaturg, director, dialect coach, playwright, and actress. Tonia has a PhD in Theatre from The Ohio State University, an MA in Communication (Theatre) with a specialization in new works from Indiana State University, and an MA in ESL (minor in Psychology) from the University of Minnesota. Her play Pucelle was produced by Expanded Arts in NewYork. Among her stage, film, and voice acting performances are Strange Sisters in Toronto (also featured on CBC’s Zed: Just Say Yes) and Alice in the film adaptation of May Sarton’s autobiographical novel Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. In the music community Tonia has stage directed and/or performed in theatre fusion pieces with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Ohio State University School of Music, and the Ohio Wesleyan University Music Department. You might also see her work at one of the professional theatre companies in the area.

AT 15: Speaking in Code: Gender Communication

Grace Lager

Our gender identity is extremely influential in how we present our self to others. A key component of self-presentation is our communication. By better understanding how gender identity influences our communication, we can become more effective communicators. In this course, we will study gender communication from two perspectives: (1) communication about gender, in terms of language and media depictions of the sexes, and how such language and depiction influence our understanding of biological sex as well as gender as a cultural construction; and (2) communication between the genders, or the more interpersonal/relationship-development aspect of the topic. Through this course, we will increase our understanding of gender as a construction, performance and negotiated communication process. By studying gender communication, we will gain an appreciation for and a better understanding of how gender impacts the processing of information, how gender impacts our perception of others and how gender influences our communication patterns.

Grace Lager, Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication, earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies (minor in Women’s and Gender Studies) right here at Eckerd College. She earned her M.A in Interdisciplinary Studies (Communication and Women’s Studies) at Texas Tech University and her Ph.D. in Communication Studies and Women’s Studies from Georgia State University. Her research interests include rhetoric and media, sports communication and media and gender. She has a particular interest in how the body is represented in image and word. She teaches a variety of communication courses including Gender, Sexuality and the Media, Communicating Masculinity and Public Relations: Theory and Practice. She also serves as the Coordinator for the Women’s Resources Center. In addition to her academic career, Professor Lager owns and runs Wellspring Pilates. Prior to becoming a faculty member at Eckerd, she worked as the Director of Alumni Relations for the College and as a corporate liaison for the American Cancer Society, Florida Division. Professor Lager enjoys practicing Pilates, playing tennis, riding bikes with her family, cooking, hosting friends at her home and offering couch-side critiques of gender representations in television, movies and story books for her (very tolerant) family.

AT 16: Race, Gender and Hip-Hop

Adam Guerin

This course investigates the roles of race and gender in modern hip hop culture.  Through an investigation (and production) of poetry, image, music and film, we map a genealogy of hip hop as a way to understand the various meanings it has carried for artists, consumers, enthusiasts and opponents.  We are interested primarily in the inherent paradoxes: How, for example, can hip hop be organic, a product of the people, a reflection of the ground level of society, while simultaneously packaged as a consumer product and sold as a mass phenomenon that claims to speak to and for “everyone”?  For some, hip hop gives voice to the voiceless, it empowers the marginalized.  In a word, it is “real.”  For others, hip hop is misogynistic, gratuitously violent and a perennial danger to the established order.  We treat these and other divergent perspectives through the lens of gender and race theory as a way to understand the dynamism of this unique and crucial cultural form.

Adam Guerin, assistant professor of History, received his M.A. and Ph.D. in French colonial history at the University of California, Irvine; before joining the faculty at Eckerd College he held teaching positions at Occidental College and Claremont Graduate University in Los Angeles; his major fields of research and teaching include modern French colonial/North African history, environmental history and world history; he also teaches winter term courses on French-Algerian film and American boxing.

AT 17: Rhetoric Dissent and Protest

Alexis E. Ramsey-Tobienne

As the recent Women’s March (January 21, 2017), the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, the Standing Rock/NO DAPL protest and the rise of the Tea Party showcase, protest and dissent are major forces for advancing social change and for making controversial issues public. This course will introduce students to the critical importance of dissent in our society, as well as introduce them to the rhetorical strategies employed, with varying levels of success, by various protestors and resistance groups. Further objectives include: examining case studies that highlight the strategies, goals, and outcomes of protest movements; uncovering the exigencies that gave rise to such movements; understanding the ethical dilemmas of protest; and engaging with rhetorical concepts that help explain the persuasiveness (or not) of protest movements.  We will examine various 20th century protest movements, as well as visit areas of protest in the greater Tampa Bay Area.

Dr. Alexis E. Ramsey-Tobienne, Associate Professor Rhetoric, received her B.A. in English and History from Kalamazoo College, MI and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Purdue University, West Lafayetee, IN. Her areas of specialty are rhetorical history, research methods, particularly archival methods, and digital humanities. She is the co-editor of the collection Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Rhetoric and Composition, the co-author of  “In, Through, and About the Archive: What Digitization (Dis)Allows” from the recent collection Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities and author of “Archives 2.0: Digital Archives and the Formation of New Research Methods” in Peitho 15.1 among other publications. She serves as archivist and historian for the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric & Composition. She teaches courses in analytic and persuasive writing, advanced research methods, and grant writing. In her free time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and children, gardening, and reading.  Most of the time, however, you can find her at local playgrounds playing with her family.

AT 18: Narratives of Sail

Kathleen “Kat” Robinson

Yarns. Shanties. Scuttlebutt are terms that reference the constructing of story within the context of sail.  The relationship between the sharing of stories and a journey on water appears throughout the cultural landscape 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.  We will consider the ways in which narrative functions in these various stories, fictions, and tales.  We will comparatively analyze and explore various narrative devices and structures, texts and stories, and experiences on the water.  Sources include various poems, short stories, documentary films, websites, and, of course, our experiences with the water surrounding Eckerd College.  We will “take to the water” at one point, for as Mark Twain asserts, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  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.  The class will include water-based activities.

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 Fellowships and Scholarship Advisor for Eckerd College. Her research interests include the study of trauma and narrative in modern American and British Literature and the presentation and representation of war in narrative.  She has published and presented on Ernest Hemingway, on treasure and treasure-hunting in Florida, and on the effect of war on the narrative structure of Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer.  She is involved with the local sailing community.   She enjoys traveling and sailing (especially when the two coalesce).

AT 19: Mysteries of Memory

Chris Rowland

Memory is central to everything we do in daily life.  Whether we are studying for an exam, matching names to faces of our friends at a party, riding a bicycle after learning how to years earlier, or even simply maintaining a continuous stream of thought, a functioning memory is critical.  However, despite advances in our understanding of memory, the ability (or failure) to remember (or forget) is full of open scientific, social, political, and ethical questions.  How are memories represented in the brain?  Can we erase memories- or implant them?  Should we?  Why might we struggle to recall what we ate for lunch yesterday, yet remember in great detail the first day of school as a child?  Is it possible to develop a superior memory?  What role should eyewitness testimony have in the legal system?  In this course, we will examine these issues and more, all surrounding the central topic of memory: what (we think) we know, and what remains a mystery.

Chris Rowland, Assistant Professor of Psychology, received his B.A. in psychology and sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, followed by his M.S. and Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at Colorado State University.   His research focuses on memory processes, exploring the mechanisms through which retrieval can both modify and strengthen what we are able to recall.  In addition to his work in cognitive psychology, he enjoys teaching classes that explore the interconnections between topics in psychology and broader social, ethical, and philosophical issues.

AT 20: Ethics and Animal Welfare

Jason Sears

Are animals valuable only insofar as they are useful to us?  Is it ethical to use them for scientific experimentation or as a source of food?  Should we be allowed to hunt them for sport or have them entertain us?  Animal rights activists seek to abolish the use of animals in science and entertainment, eliminate hunting, and disband all forms of animal consumption and agriculture.  We will consider the practicability of these goals by examining current research in animal behavior and welfare, and by visiting a local animal rescue league.  We will focus on the ethical theories that are foundational to animal activism and investigate the historical roots of our domination of the natural world.

Jason Sears, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, specializes in ancient Greek philosophy and environmental ethics.  His research focuses on Aristotelian theories of character and nature.  He is a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy from the University of South Florida where he served as an instructor for the Honors College.  He misses Greece, where he spent a year doing research at the American School of Classical Studies, and enjoys martial arts and playing guitar in his limited free time.

AT 21: 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, addresses by Florence Nightingale to new nurses, articles by Vannevar Bush who helped inspire the Internet, and the memoirs of Antonio Menendez, a retired CIA agent.  We will also look at popular films like The Mission, The Martian and Mission Impossible and visit local community organizations in search of that elusive sense of purpose and meaning within ourselves and others.

Dawn Shedden, Visiting Assistant Professor 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 experienced the turmoil of the French Revolution; she also is particularly interested in identity and how people make choices at moments in which their lives are filled with disorder and stress.  In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, reading, singing, and taking nature walks with her husband and three boys.

AT 22: 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 and films that integrate theatrical performance or are adapted from plays.  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.

AT 23: Finding the Carbon Balance

Jesse Sherry

Carbon footprinting has become the most common method for measuring our environmental impact as individuals, corporations, nations, etc.  The process of determining the carbon emissions associated with each activity can be complicated and research-intensive.  In this class we will research and calculate the carbon impact of your daily activities.  You will learn the complexities of carbon footprinting, come to better understand your own interactions with the environment, and investigate other methods of measuring environmental impacts, including life cycle assessment and ecosystem services.  As a class we will develop a carbon budget that we consider sustainable, and then will spend several days living on that carbon budget.  We will also explore local ecosystems and research how effectively they can sequester carbon.  By examining the details of carbon footprinting you will come to better understand the magnitude and complexity of our interactions with natural systems and your own impacts on those systems.

Jesse Sherry received his PhD in Planning and Public Policy from Rutgers University in 2014.  He also has a Master’s in Community and Regional Planning and a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies.  He has taught at Rutgers and Eckerd College and has also worked as a sustainability consultant for large corporations assessing and reducing their environmental impacts.  His research focused on ecovillages, small sustainability-oriented communities.  He studied these communities to assess how they succeeded in reducing their environmental impacts and to compile lessons that the rest of us can apply when trying to be more sustainable.  He enjoys travelling and has taken student groups to both Costa Rica and Japan.

AT 24: Biology of the Land-Sea Interface

Nancy F. Smith

One of the most dynamic marine environments on Earth is where the continent meets the ocean, or the land-sea interface. This is a region where geological, chemical, physical and biological processes effectively couple marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Florida’s land-sea interface is dynamic, characterized by seasonal rainfall and shifting landscapes. It is also biologically diverse and productive, supporting a diversity of marine species associated with its tidal marshes, mangroves, seagrass beds, and beaches.  Land-sea environments are experiencing significant loss and degradation due to development, sea level rise, hydrological and sediment supply alterations, and other processes.  This course will investigate the interface between coastal habitats and the adjacent ocean, using Tampa Bay as our model system.  Through field trips to nearby coastal communities, students will become familiar with local marine species and how they are adapted to the land-sea interface.  We will also focus on how the land-sea interface is changing naturally and from anthropogenic activities, including climate change, elevated nutrients, and exploitation.  By understanding the processes that govern the biology of the land-sea interface, can conservation and management strategies be effectively developed. The course will include water-based activities.

Nancy F. Smith completed her doctoral degree in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1999.  As a marine ecologist, she has extensive experience working in subtropical estuaries, particularly in mangrove and salt marshes on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida.  Here, her research focuses on the evolution of invertebrate life history with a specific emphasis on parasite-host and plant-animal interactions.  She regularly teaches Biological Oceanography, Marine Invertebrate Biology, and Principles of Ecology.

AT 25: Beyoncé’s Lemonade as Literacy

Alaina Tackitt

With the influx of click bait and the seemingly endless assault of visual and verbal rhetoric, a contemporary understanding of critical literacy—the ability to read closely, deconstruct, and contextualize texts ranging from tweets to tomes—allows individuals to shift from passive recipients to active participants in cultural consumption. Beyoncé’s Lemonade situates the intersectionality of class, race, and gender within the intersection of poetry, music, and film and provides an ideal point of textual and contextual access from which to explore the vocabulary necessary to identify and discuss major elements of poetry, music, and film and practice the skills required to deconstruct and digest culture through formal and contextual analysis. Students should be comfortable with the material of the text and willing to explore topics such as the race and police brutality, feminism and shade throwing, the construction of sexuality and the appropriation of power symbols, and the use of cultural allusions and intertextuality. Students will be expected to contribute to public discourses, write scholarly arguments in support of a reading, and present material to their peers.

Alaina Tackitt earned a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition and an M.L.A. in Humanities and Cultural Studies from the University of South Florida and a B.A. in Humanities with a concentration in Religious Studies from Eckerd College. She teaches courses in arts and humanities, analytic and persuasive writing, and research and rhetoric at Eckerd and USF. Her current research interests include writing assessment, critical literacy, and student learning. In her spare time, Alaina attends shows, plays music, eats barbecue, and pets other people’s dogs.

AT 27: The Ethics of Gossip and Lies

Kristina Wenzel Egan

Although many communication courses orient students to the ways in which you can communicate more openly, effectively, and honestly, this course acknowledges that an examination of the “brighter” sides of communication only provides part of the picture of the characteristics of communication that make up our everyday lives. Surely, each of us has experienced lying, gossip, loneliness, oversharing (i.e., TMI), and damaging secrets in our interpersonal interactions. This course sets out to explore research and theory that illuminates the dark side of interpersonal communication and provides an orientation for understanding the role of ethics in interpersonal communication.

Kristina Wenzel Egan, Assistant Professor of Communication, began her academic career at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota where she earned a B.A. in Business Administration and Women’s Studies. She earned an M.A. in Organizational Communication from North Dakota State University and a Ph.D. in Interpersonal and Family Communication from the University of Missouri. Her primary area of scholarship focuses on how families communicatively make sense of difficult experiences, with the goal of understanding the communication behaviors that contribute to emotionally close and supportive family relationships. Many of the courses she teaches include a reflective service-learning component to provide students with the enriching opportunity of engaging with our local community. For example, students in her Family Communication course document life/family oral histories of older adults living at local assisted living communities. In her spare time she enjoys walking with her big dog Oliver, playing (terrible) golf with her husband, and eating tacos.

AT 28: Microbial Meals

Crystal Young-Erdos

Microbes have been an essential component of food production by humans for millennia.  In this course, we will explore the history of the use of microbes in food production across different geographic and cultural regions of the world, spanning from ancient cultures to modern-day industrial United States.  We will discuss, make, and/or eat foods that rely on microbes for production and preservation. These foods include salame, yogurt, sourdough bread, kombucha, swiss cheese, kimchi, sauerkraut, and so much more! The class readings and discussions will address contemporary issues in industrial food production, current trends in fermented foods, and the importance of microbes to human health. Texts will include excerpts from Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Taras Grescoe’s “The Devil’s Picnic,” and Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.”  Students will even learn how to ferment some of their own food and will use classical microbiology lab techniques to isolate fermentative bacteria from the foods that they prepare, in order to get to know the bacteria that they contain.

Crystal Young-Erdos, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, earned her B.A. in Chemistry and Spanish from Washington and Jefferson College and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemistry (with a focus on Chemical Biology) from the University of Michigan.  Her research endeavors include using biochemistry, molecular biology and the model organism Baker’s yeast (used for baking and brewing!) to investigate the assembly of the ribosome, the machinery required for protein synthesis in all cells.  Here at Eckerd, Dr. Young-Erdos teaches the Biochemistry courses, Organic Chemistry lab and the Integrated General Chemistry II course. When she isn’t in the classroom or at the lab bench, Dr. Young-Erdos is taking advantage of the Florida sunshine – you will usually find her paddle boarding, scuba diving, running, visiting the Saturday Morning Market or enjoying the pool/beach and dinners al fresco with her (water) baby girl and husband.

Autumn Term Honors courses

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

AT 4: Saint Petersburg: Building the Sunshine City (Honors)

Saint Petersburg is a city of contrasts—rich and poor, blight and beauty, sweeping expanses of mangroves abutting urban sprawl. Our city has been shaped in part by the same broad social forces that have affected all American cities, but it has also been formed by the choices of its individual residents and visionaries. We will explore how the city is shaped by its physical environment, like its geography, parks, buildings, and roads. But we will also consider how people have built communities in St. Petersburg, from pre-Columbian indigenous peoples, to Gilded Age entrepreneurs, 20th Century snowbirds, and the artists and entrepreneurs of today’s bustling city. We will pay particular attention to the contemporary issues of development facing the Sunshine City, such as building a new baseball stadium for the Rays, redeveloping the pier, and confronting issues of homelessness. In so doing, we will explore the question of how your new home town can attain its greatest potential in the future.

 Nick Dempsey grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, but was chiseled into an urbanite over 15 years in Chicago, where he earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on the sociology of culture—jazz music and arts institutions in particular—and issues in urban studies and social stratification. He has written several articles published in sociology journals and books, and recently completed the revised third edition of Being Urban: A Sociology of City Life. In his free time, he enjoys cycling, woodworking, and taking in the culture of the Bay Area with his wife and two young children.


AT 26:  Unsp*k@ble Acts: Myth & Meaning in Greek Tragedy (Honors)

Aristotle once wrote that tragedy described not the thing that has been, but the kind of thing that might be.  Upon reflection we might wonder how Aristotle’s statement could possibly be construed as true.  Were the Greeks actually preoccupied with the danger of killing one’s father and marrying one’s mother? Did straying husbands often meet their demise in the bathtub at the hands of an axe-wielding wife?  The answer is, of course, that the real dangers of the tragic stage are often metaphorical rather than literal, psychological rather than physical. For these reasons ancient Greek drama continues to thrive in the modern imagination. Far from the austere and staid performances we often associate with the classics, modern reconceptualizations of tragedy can be just as horrifying, grotesque, and relevant as they were in fifth century Greece. In this course we shall explore the ways in which Greek tragedy survives and is recreated in modern film, theatre, and literature as we investigate the implications of ancient tragic motifs in our contemporary social and political context.  Discover what ancient literature can teach us not only about the past but about ourselves in the 21st century.

Heather Vincent, Associate Professor of Classics, has served at Eckerd College since 2006.  She holds the Ph.D. in Classics from Brown University, an M.A. in Latin and Greek from the University of Maryland, and the B.S. from Vanderbilt University, with a double major in Biology and Classics.  Professor Vincent is the coordinator for the Ancient Studies major, an interdisciplinary program that brings together several fields in the humanities and social sciences, including Classics, Religious Studies, History, and Philosophy.  Professor Vincent’s research concerns Greek and Roman comedy, Roman satire, ancient and modern humor theory, and literary criticism.  Although she teaches a wide range of courses at Eckerd College covering many aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world, Professor Vincent is especially passionate about first-year freshman program and about the role of general education in the small liberal arts environment.