HNRS305: Explorations in Modern America
This is an Honors “core course” that develops student skills in reading, writing, critical thinking, and oral communication through the exploration of selected topics related to the social, cultural, and political ideas and events that have shaped the development of the modern United States. It focuses on some of the most important and controversial developments in contemporary affairs and recent U.S. history. The course also seeks to develop your skills—at reading and writing, in professional communication and planning, and at thinking and perceiving. Its goal is to sharpen your mind and broaden your perspective on the world around you. Above all else, this course seeks to encourage you to ask questions about the modern world: questions about war and peace, questions about relationships between different races, classes and sexes, questions about the government and its role in shaping American life, questions about social practices and popular culture—questions, in short, about life.
HNRS315: Explorations in the Modern World
Appeals to human nature are invoked in debates ranging from definitions of marriage to the benefits of free markets and economic competition. This course investigates the question of innate human qualities, behaviors, and feelings by exploring social and cultural universes around the world. Journeying from West Africa to the South Pacific, from the Middle East to South America, before returning to the United States, we will subject the following topics to our rigorous myth-busting analytic toolkit: race, gender, sex, birth and death, individualism, greed, and love. Taking a cross-cultural perspective on these topics will challenge simplistic assumptions about the biological and genetic basis of human behavior to reveal the complex ways in which nature, culture, environment, and choice interact to influence human experiences. As an honors “core course,” it will develop student writing skills and critical thinking abilities through the exploration of the social, cultural, and political ideas and developments that have shaped the modern world.
This course was taught by Jessica Smith Rolston, an anthropologist in LAIS who had conducted NSF-sponsored ethnographic research in Cuba, Peru, and multiple sites in the American West. She specializes in the sociocultural dynamics of extractive industries, with a focus on gender, kinship, labor, social justice, and corporate social responsibility.
HNRS315-A: Explorations in the Modern World
Course Theme: “Journey as Narrative, Narrative as Journey”
This course examined the ways that journeys, and writing about journeys, influence the way we think about our lives and our world. We utilized both fiction and non-fiction texts to investigate how the stories we tell about places and our selves in those places create our understanding of reality. Our focus was onthe modernist era (1900-1950), which was a time of immense change: the world was rocked by cultural, political, social, scientific, and religious upheaval. It was also a time of profound movement; whether by choice or by necessity, people travelled all over the globe in numbers never before seen. Writers and intellectuals responded to this movement and change by making this a prominent focus of their work: undertaking and chronicling journeys was a way they sought to make sense of new “landscapes” of the mind and the body. The influence of their writing lingers today; half a century later, it still shapes the way we perceive events, places, and our own necessity to journey. Through reading, writing, and mapping, we explored multiple continents—of the globe, of the mind, and of words.
PREVIOUS UPPER LEVEL ELECTIVES
Course Theme: Spies, Madmen, and the Red Menace (HNRS 440)
The same organization that turned Smokey the Bear into a cultural icon secretly worked with the intelligence community on a decades-long propaganda campaign to “sell” the Cold War to the American public. The Ad Council, best known for its public service announcements, also conducted a remarkable form of privatized propaganda on behalf of the CIA – in violation of the agency’s charter, which prohibits it from operating domestically. The result was the “Crusade for Freedom”: quite possibly the longest running campaign of political propaganda in U.S. history, and one that has all but escaped historical attention. This course will use this strange connection between the CIA, the advertising industry, and business and political elites as a mechanism for understanding the inner workings of American society – as well as the country’s larger vision of its role in world affairs.
The course will also be run as a novel experiment in research methods. We will be applying the scientific method of working in interdisciplinary teams to the humanities – where most research is conducted by the lone scholar, in a state of semi-isolation, typically in dusty and poorly lit basements. Our research team will be pouring over many hundreds of pages of classified documents, we will work to get additional critical sources declassified, we will toil to make connections that the documents themselves do not make, and we will attempt to find bigger meaning in the process.
The course also included an optional spring break trip to Washington, D.C., students researched in declassified documents at the National Archives, toured CIA headquarters and met with intelligence analysts, and consulted with experts on intelligence history and operations. It was taught by Kenneth Osgood, a historian specializing in propaganda and intelligence.
Course Theme: Scientists, Engineers, and Sausage-Makers (HNRS 425)
“Laws are like sausages: it is better not to see them being made.” According to this well-known maxim attributed to Otto von Bismarck, laws are crafted in a messy and sometimes unappetizing process. So too is public policy. The policy process may appear to be at odds with a world inhabited by scientists and engineers, where problem-solving is governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and is based on a rational process of experimentation and design. In this course, we will explore the interplay of public policy, science, and engineering. How are public policies crafted? How do topics rise to the top of the policy agenda? How are policy options formed? Who decides? What are the different ways to evaluate the quality of a policy? What roles and influence do scientists and engineers have in the policy process? What should those roles be?
Every person, company, and community is profoundly affected by public policies; i.e., the laws and regulations that touch on innumerable aspects of our lives and careers, such as environmental quality, national security, health care, law enforcement, transportation, and others. Many public policies involve the application of technical expertise--including science and engineering. As citizens with science and engineering training, it is our moral and professional obligation to understand and engage in the policy making process. This course prepares you to do so. We will attend to a number of key aspects of the dynamic interaction between engineering, science and policy: how engineers and scientists participate in and influence the policymaking process; how scientific data and interpretations become points of leverage and contention during policy debates; how federal funding and regulatory decisions affect research trajectories; and how the governance of science and technology implicates a variety of social forces ranging from explicit government intervention, to corporate behavior, to university policies, to direct involvement by citizens.
This course was taught by Graham Davis, from Economics and Business, and Edmund Toy, a guest instructor with remarkable policymaking experience.
Course Theme: Eyes Wide Open: How Public Policy Can Affect You, and How You Can Affect Public Policy (HNRS425)
Public policies—policies made and enforced by governments, firms, and other organizations—impact us all. Some impact us favorably, but others may cause us harm individually or as a society. Policies, even those involving science and technology, are made not via some linear, rational process, but instead via a political struggle over values and ideas. As citizens with science and technology training, it is our moral and professional obligation to understand and engage in the policy making process. Indeed, it is unlikely that any of us can avoid being involved in policy making as we go through our lives or careers. This course prepares you to engage in the policy process with your head up and eyes open, such that you can be a more effective participant.
A sampling of topics includes: (1) Frameworks for policy and policymaking (2) Citizen engagement with science and technology policy (3) The role of science and engineering in policy making (4) How policies for ‘responsible innovation’ and ‘upstream public engagement’ affect scientists and engineers (5) Using behavioral science to design policies that get people to do what you want them to do. Students will be asked to participate in and influence an actual policy making process of their choosing during the semester.
The course was taught by Graham A. Davis, an award-winning professor of economics in CSM’s Division of Economics and Business.
Course Theme: The Ethical World: Timeless Concepts and Contemporary Debates (HNRS430)
This course focused on examination of important ethical theories and theorists in western philosophy, from Aristotle to Rawls. Students worked with classic texts and study basic concepts underlying moral philosophy, such as conceptions of good, evil, value and justice. In addition to developing a grounding in key ethical theories, the course included preparation for the 2015 Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, in which a students competed against other university students in ethical debate. Because participation in the competition was a core element of the course, students saught instructor permission to register for this course from Sandra Woodson.
This course was taught by Sandra Woodson, Teaching professor in LAIS.
Course theme: Gender Studies (HNRS435)
An interdisciplinary course, Gender Studies analyzed gender distinctions such as “woman,” “man,” “gay,” “straight,” “bisexual,” and “transgender” to understand the role gender has played in society and our daily lives. We analyzed gender as a historical and contextual concept at the intersection of race, ethnicity, class, age, citizenship, and sexuality. The goal of Gender Studies was to encourage critical thinking about how gender constructions have shaped historical, cultural, social, political, and economic contexts of our lives. Over the course of the semester, these ideas were addressed through a plethora of articles, films, videos, literary texts, and case studies.
This course was taught by Paula Farca
Course Theme: Creativity, Cognition, and Catharthis: Global Paradigms & Modes of Thoughts (HNRS 435)
Creativity is at the heart of what it means to be human. The course will investigate creativity between and across cultures, utilizing multiple modes of expression to explore the creative process. The course will draw upon the instructors’ and students’ experiences, and it will synthesize different modes of thought to increase creativity and create new mental tools for solving science and engineering problems, as well as addressing the role of creativity across a wide range of human endeavors.
This course was team-taught by Toni Lefton, Teaching Professor in Liberal Arts & International Studies and Dr. Lincoln Carr, Professor in the Department of Physics.
Course Theme: Communicating Across Cultures
This course explores a communication across a broad range of cultural divides: gender, social class, engineering cultures, national, ethnic, and more. Some case studies are situated in engineering and applied science contexts, and all course content is designed to bolster intercultural competence, to augment cultural self-awareness, other-culture awareness, and understanding of the dynamics that arise in interactions between people from different cultures. At the end of this course, we should be able to identify how and why socially constructed systems of exploitation and exclusion—such as racism, sexism, and classism—are historically based and to recognize how privilege and discrimination are perpetuated today. Based on that knowledge, we should be able to develop alternative attitudes and actions to challenge and dismantle such systems of exclusion and oppression and to make critical connections between local and global issues as well as past and the present cases by examining the historical, political, and economic dimensions of intercultural communication in the context of globalization.
The course was taught by Dr. Jon Leydens, Associate Professor in Liberal Arts & International Studies.
Course Theme: Spies and Lies: Intelligence and National Security (HNRS440)
The contemporary global landscape has been affected in remarkable ways by intelligence operations that are often left out of U.S. history textbooks and all but ignored in most international relations courses. Yet, as recent revelations about U.S. predator drone strikes and the National Security Agency’s wide-ranging electronic surveillance remind us, intelligence operations are in fact critical and consequential instruments of U.S. foreign policy. This course explores what we know, and what we don’t know, about the secret world of spies. It traces the impact of U.S. intelligence operations and propaganda on foreign affairs and on American politics. Topics include: U.S. espionage and covert operations abroad; the role of intelligence collection and analysis in shaping U.S. national security policies; domestic censorship, surveillance, and intelligence activities; wartime propaganda and efforts to "sell” war to the American public; the history of the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence agencies; the role of intelligence in counterterrorism operations; the politics of secrecy and the relationship between secrecy and presidential power; and human rights and civil liberties.
The course was taught by McBride director Kenneth Osgood, a historian who has published four books on propaganda and U.S. foreign relations.
Course Theme: Introduction to China (HNRS 440)
China is the most populous country in the world and the one with the longest continuous history. But beginning in the 1800s it experienced more than a century of humiliation, and during World War II bore the brunt of Japanese aggression (with more than 20 millions deaths). The subsequent Chinese Civil War and first three decades of the new China brought more trauma (at last 30 million deaths), but in the last 30 years China has been undergoing historically unprecedented development, to the point where it is now a great power — but one in a fraught relationship with the United States. This course will offer a selective introduction to Chinese history and cultural achievements (philosophy, literature, art, and architecture) to help students become more globally aware of one of the most important civilizations in the world.
This course was taught by Carl Mitcham
Course Theme: From the Lab to the Page: Revolutions in Science, Literature, & Society (HNRS445)
Although the world of the arts is often viewed as somehow distinct from the world of science, in fact they are closely linked. This course explores those connections by focusing on revolutions in science, literature, and society. Over the semester, we will come to see the remarkable synergy between revolutions in science and technology and revolutions in human creativity and expression (the arts, politics).
A sampling of topics includes: (1) Fundamentals of Science: unity, complexity, and harmony; space-time and causality; physics vs. metaphysics; poetry and cognitive science: how metaphors work. (2) Society: women in science and literature; energy; science and religion; the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Arab Spring; human rights. (3) Technology: exploration of identity, self, and what it means to be human; transhumanism; drones and autonomous machines; nuclear medicine and world destruction. Students will come to understand, for example, that the communications revolution spawned by cell phones, which depends heavily on GPS timing and therefore a correct understanding of the nature of time, resulted from early philosophical and literary speculation. We will also explore the intellectual and personal courage of scientists who have worked to counter mainstream ideas, and we will discuss science and literature that advances social equity, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and the extension of human rights.
The course was team-taught by professors Toni Lefton, a prize-winning poet and writer as well as award-winning teacher, and Lincoln Carr, a physicist who has won an NSF Career award for research and education and who has worked for years to combine science and humanities perspectives in various intellectual academic and non-academic communities.
Course Theme: Ulcer Bugs, Cold Fusion, and Darwin’s Origin of Species: Rhetorical Bumbling and Brilliance in Science and Engineering (HNRS445)
Ulcer bugs, cold fusion, Darwin’s Origin of Species, Newton’s Opticks, and the birth of molecular biology…. What thematic threads connect these scientific controversies? All were shaped and redefined by the rhetoric of science and engineering: the very words chosen to articulate concepts and ideas. By examining national and international, historical and contemporary scientific and engineering controversies through the lens of the rhetoric of science and engineering, students will learn about the roles rhetoric plays as scientific controversies arise, evolve, and are resolved, both within scientific circles and in scientist-public debates.
By exploring case studies of such controversies, we develop a better understanding on how scientific and engineering controversies shape and are shaped by communication, and to some degree by public policy. We also identify additional responses and dimensions to important questions: How do scientists and engineers communicate in various scientific and engineering contexts? What can we learn from the examples—ranging from bumbling to brilliant—of scientific and engineering communication? Students will investigate a scientific or engineering-related case study of their choosing and develop responses to their questions as informed by the rhetoric of science and engineering.
The course was taught by Jon Leydens, an LAIS scholar with expertise on the interplay between communication and science/engineering controversies. Jon’s research explores the pivotal role of communication in advancing engineering and science.
Course Theme: The Social Media Maelstrom (HNRS445)
Social media now pervades human interaction worldwide. This course will explore the interface between technology and society by examining different technical, political, cultural, journalistic, and business contexts of social media. The many possible topics for discussion and analysis include: privacy issues, identity theft, the ethics of social media use, government policy and access to data, the economics and business of social media, social media in electoral politics, social media addiction, and the impact of social media on traditional news organizations.
The course was taught by Mark Coffey, a physicist with broad scientific and other interests, including the interplay between technology and social interactions.
Course Theme: Our SAD World: Stress, Anxiety, and Depression (HNRS445)
The three biggest psychological disorders facing young adults today are stress, anxiety, and depression. This course will help you to identify the symptoms of these three conditions and explore their effects on the body. Discover how PTSD and panic attacks manifest and distort reality. Assess how stress, anxiety and depression become entangled into a bigger disorder that is prevalent today. Compare and contrast how artists and engineers have been successful, or failed, in overcoming these problems. Categorize the current treatment modalities by the underlying neuroscience. This course is a way to become familiar with the current concepts of the cause, symptoms, signs, and end point of stress, anxiety, and depression. Also, these disorders are seen differently in different cultures and in the peer groups with whom you associate. Society as a whole has changed over the last several decades in the acceptance of these conditions. Learn how this has affected these disorders, now that they are no longer hidden but freely talked about [and even seen in television commercials]. There will be an opportunity to delve into an aspect of stress, anxiety, or depression in depth as part of the course.
This course was taught by Cynthia Norrgran.
Course Theme: Science and Spirituality (HNRS445)
The Mines education focuses on the development and application of science and engineering, but leaves little space for the big spiritual questions that arise in most of us. In this class we explored the interface of science and spirituality, and we studied questions such as the following: How did our worldview change in history? Is the universe a mindless machine? What does quantum mechanics teach us about this? What is the connection between mind and matter? (Does mind matter? Does matter mind?) Why can humans be devils or saints? What are the roles of rational thinking and intuition? This class was a true exploration in the sense that most questions above cannot be tackled as a science or engineering problem; instead we dove deeper by exploring together.
This course was taught by Roel Snieder.
Course Theme: Energy and Culture: The Good, the Bad, and the Human (HNRS450)
“Benjamin Franklin may have discovered electricity, but it was the man who invented the meter who made the money.” Earl Wilson
“It doesn’t matter what temperature the room is, it’s always room temperature.” Steven Wright
“Most people give off as much heat as a 100 watt bulb, but not as much light.” Anonymous
As seen from the funny quotations above, energy is linked to people and this course will explore this connection. Energy and Culture: The Good, the Bad, and the Human focuses on the relation between individuals and energy use in recent humanities, social sciences, and technical texts and proposes to show connections among energy, society, culture, and environment. Drawing on articles, case studies, films, documentaries, and literary texts, this course will examine how recent authors present energy sources ranging from coal, natural gas, oil to solar, nuclear and how these sources affect individuals, local and global communities, and the environment. Energy and Culture strives to address the following questions: What are the environmental, social, political, cultural, and economic ramifications of energy sources? What problems do certain energy sources create or solve and for whom? How do we balance between people’s need for energy and their duty to preserve the environment? How do authors address pollution problems? What ethical choices do individuals make about energy? How do issues of gender, race, ethnicity, and class intersect with energy issues?
A sampling of topics include: cultural and social dimensions of current energy use; interdisciplinary research of energy from perspectives that include science, ethics, cultural studies, literature, film, and art; divergent arguments about the relationship between energy and different aspects of contemporary life, politics, and culture.
This course was team-taught by a McBride alumna, Dr. Carrie McClelland who teaches in Petroleum Engineering, and Dr. Paula Farca, an LAIS professor and scholar.
Course Theme: Water, Energy, and the West (HNRS450)
What do you get when you cross a hydrologist with a scholar of literature of the American West? A course that combines scientific, literary, cultural, historical, and engineering perspectives on issues of water in the West. In this course, we’ll consider changes in the water system associated with agriculture, development, and climate with specific focus on the feedbacks between humans and the environment. We will evaluate multiple perspectives on water and develop our own understanding of the coupled human-water ecosystem, and will learn to write and present our opinions to both scientific and popular audiences. A sampling of topics include: the history of Colorado water use and rights, causes of water conflict, development and future planning of water systems, the role of engineering and economics in water crises, and water ethics and environmental justice. Class will involve short lectures, guest speakers, group discussions driven by you and your readings, and evaluation of popular media. In a year of floods and droughts, the life you save learning about water in the West may be your own!
The course was team taught by Sarah Jayne Hitt, who studies literature of the American West and is so obsessed about water that her friend named his band “War Over Water” after a comment she made, and Kamini Singha, a hydrologist who has a won a number of teaching awards and has spent many years working on water issues in the U.S. and developing world.
Course Theme: Unnatural Disasters (HNRS 450)
Rocky Flats, Love Canal, and Three Mile Island may sound like nice vacation destinations, but in fact they represent some of the most troubling environmental disasters of our time. This course will examine ‘unnatural disasters’ like these: man-made catastrophes that have happened or are on the horizon. We will consider many sites of ‘disasters’ that span from individual cell contamination in our bodies to global environmental disasters. Topics will range from the bananas in our supermarkets to nuclear waste at nearby Rocky Flats to the chemical spill in Bhopal, India. We will consider both the environmental and human toll of such issues and events; the cultural and economic implications; the environmental-justice burden to both developed and growing societies; and consider how to be an informed citizen of the world who can reason and rationalize a path to success when such events occur. We will examine seven specific topics and case studies over the course of the semester as presented in primary sources, peer-reviewed literature, books, film and video, and personal narrative. The goal of the course for all of us will be to gain a realization for the impact and importance of ‘unnatural disasters’ and how to better understand, alleviate, and prevent them.
The course was taught by Rachel Osgood, a historian in Liberal Arts and International Studies, and John Spear, a microbiologist in the Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Course Theme: Spills, Slides, & Meltdowns: Critical Perspectives on Energy Disasters (HNRS450)
The production and consumption of energy usually appear in the American consciousness only when prices increase dramatically, or when an energy-related disaster occurs. This course will examine major energy disasters in the United States and internationally, using a critical social and policy-focused approach. Ranging from the Exxon Valdez and Gulf Oil Spills to the meltdowns at Chernobyl and Fukushima, students will read texts addressing engineering and scientific expertise, social theory, and the role of technology emerging from “Disaster Science and Technology Studies,” and communication studies, and will develop independent or small-group areas of expertise on a particular disaster or in a particular disaster studies area. The course will also rely on guest speakers and documentary films for material.
This course was taught by Jen Schneider, an LAIS scholar with expertise in science and environmental communication, with a focus on energy controversies and policy. Jen writes frequently about emerging energy risks, particularly as they are communicated through film and media.
Course Theme: Naked Trees, Killer Beetles, and Dirty Water (HNRS450)
“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues” --the Lorax
The Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) is a species native to the Rocky Mountain West that has played a role in the changing forest composition throughout time. Since 1996, the population of the MPB has drastically increased due to changing climate conditions, causing massive destruction to Lodgepole Pine forests in Colorado. Although destruction is on a decline, the lingering impacts to the hydro-ecosystem are still being studied.
In this course we will examine ongoing physical and social science research applications on the effects of the MPB, a climate-induced ecological disturbance, to regional social-ecological systems. A unique aspect of this course will be the incorporation of community outreach experience and development, providing students with opportunities to engage and teach K-12 science classes and community members, as well as to develop activities to promote community education on the MPB outbreak. After learning about ongoing Mountain Pine Beetle research from project researchers, students will then be guided to develop their own methodology to educate students and the community on the environmental impacts of MPB in the Colorado Rockies. The course will be a collaborative learning effort between students and faculty at CSM and Colorado State University. Both classrooms of students will have the opportunity to develop and employ their methods at both home and in the field. Through iteration and sharing of experiences with one another, the students will learn how to become effective science educators by qualitatively communicating “hard science” to the masses.
This Course was taught by Reed Maxwell.
Course Theme: Community Engagement through Service Learning (HNRS 498, HNRS 476, and LAIS 376)
Service Learning is a class like no other at Mines because most of the learning takes place outside the classroom and away from campus. This class provides a way to connect with and explore your local community through a weekly service commitment to an underserved population, and then discuss pressing social issues with your classmates. It thus combines a traditional classroom experience with an off-campus volunteer project. In addition, students will have the opportunity to participate in a local project during the semester or the opportunity to participate in a community development project in rural Honduras the week after spring semester ends. The themes of the course are poverty and privilege, ideas that we may hear about, but don’t often discuss at school or experience in a meaningful way. Course work will involve reading about, discussing, and researching and presenting on topics like the following: the working poor, gender, race, age and poverty, education and privilege, global poverty solutions, and sustainable community development.
The course was team-taught by Cortney Holles in LAIS, Ed Cecil from Physics, and Meridee Cecil, geologist and potter.