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Hidden gems: The Fall 2020 courses you didn’t know you needed

Looking for courses to knock out some Trinity requirements? Realized you really don’t want to fill your fourth credit slot with another core course this semester? 

With registration for Fall 2020 classes now open, The Chronicle compiled a list of some interesting classes found on DukeHub across a range of disciplines.

Classes featuring coronavirus:

Climate, Coffee and Coronavirus: Why Ecology Matters to Human Health

Julie A. Reynolds

W-F 10:05-11:20 a.m.

Course credits: BIOLOGY 153, ENVIRON 153, GLHLTH 153 (EI, STS, NS)

Description: According to DukeHub, Reynolds’ class “explores interactions between organisms and their environments that impact human health.” Students will understand how food and water availability, diseases and ecosystems are impacted by climate change and population growth. The course is for non-biology majors or students who have previously taken Biology 209 or 209S.

Understanding the Causes and Spread of Human Disease: Global Health Epidemiology

Joseph Egger

M-W 1:25-2:40 p.m.

Course credits: GLHLTH 362 (STS, QS, SS)

Description: According to DukeHub, the course will study how diseases such as the novel coronavirus begin and spread. Each week, students will read scientific articles that feature a specific global health problem and then use various methods to further study these issues. Egger suggested that students enrolling in the course have “an interest in empirical data analysis.”

Other human disease classes:

Effectively Addressing Modern Pandemics of Disease: What Did We Do Wrong to Get So Sick?

William Parker

MW 10:05-11:20 a.m.
Course credits: Global Health 187FS (NS, STS)

Description: Students will study Western disease and how medicine has faced them. They will be presented case studies where they have to evaluate “what might have gone wrong, how could it have been done differently, and what forces might be at play that have prevented effective action,” according to DukeHub. This course is only open to students in the Global Health: Problems and Paradigms Focus Program.

Emerging Diseases

Sherryl Broverman

Tu-Th 1:20-2:40 p.m.

Course Credits: Biology 180FS (STS, NS)

Description: The course will help study “global diseases from a biological and global health perspective” and focus on case studies such as Ebola and influenza. Students will answer questions such as why some diseases are easier to eliminate than others and how biological, social and cultural factors can impact the spread or elimination of diseases. The course is only open to students in the Global Health: Problems and Paradigms Focus Program.

Preventing Pandemics

Miranda Eileen Welsh

TuTh 11:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m., 3:05-4:20 p.m., 4:40-5:55 p.m.

Course credits: Writing 101

Description: “Moving forward, we need to design holistic strategies, with input from a diversity of disciplines, to both prevent and control epidemics,” Welsh, lecturing fellow of Thompson Writing Program, wrote in an email. 

Her course will cover two past outbreaks before students are then put into research teams to eventually “suggest a more holistic means of preventing and responding” to a contemporary outbreak, she wrote. Welsh’s inspiration for the course comes from her Disease Ecology Writing 101 course from 2016 and the Communicating Science class she teaches now. She added that COVID-19 was “barely on our radar” when she designed the Preventing Pandemics course.

“I wonder what contemporary epidemic students will want to research in fall 2020,” she joked in her email.

This course is only open to first-year students or transfer students who must earn a Writing 101 credit.

Courses unaffiliated with disease:

Games and Culture: Gateway to the Study of Games

Leo Ching and Shai Ginsburg

Tu-Th 10:05-11:20 AM

Course credits: AMES 240, ISS 242, LIT 249, VMS 214, ICS 265, POLSCI 248 (CCI, SS)

Description: The course will help students understand how ideas such as disaster, utopia and dystopia are affected by games. Alternatively, they will examine how various elements of culture affect how games are designed, popularized and enjoyed by users. Ching and Ginsburg have been teaching the course together for the last few years. Once a week, the students actually play a short game together, one of Ching’s favorite parts of the class.

“We then ask them to reflect on the game that they just played, paying attention to the topic assigned for that week or any comments on game design, play mechanics, emotive reaction, etc., that they like to share,” Ching, associate professor of Asian and Middle Eastern studies, wrote in an email.

Ching also added that he and Ginsburg have “turned the course itself into a game-like experience” for the Fall 2020 semester. Instead of beginning the course with a 100% and losing points from there, students in this class begin with 0 points and earn points with every assignment. Students cannot lose points; points are simply not earned if an assignment is not completed.

“In a game, you may try something again and again until you succeed,” Ginsburg, associate professor in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies, wrote in an email. “[It’s] the same in this class: you have the opportunity to redo assignments.”

The course also offers four different “quests,” according to Ginsburg, and students can determine which assignments to take upon themselves throughout the semester.

“We also think students should take this class because we take games seriously,” Ching wrote. “We analyze games as a cultural form from historical, sociological, philosophical and political perspectives; we also consider games’ imbrication with questions of gender, race, class and sexuality.”

Nuclear Weapons: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Challenges of Global Proliferation

Kyle Beardsley

M-W 3:05-4:20 PM

Course credits: POLSCI 233 (STS, SS)

Description: In this course, students will explore non-U.S. case studies including detailed study of North Korea and Iran, as well as the evolution of the United States during the Cold War. Assignments will highlight “being able to understand how these weapons apply to theories of international relations and foreign policy and on being able to make causal inferences regarding their importance,” according to DukeHub. Other topics of study include the basic scientific principles of nuclear fission and fusion and nuclear deterrence.

Sex Work: The Politics of Sexual Labor

Kathi Weeks

M-W 10:05-11:20 a.m.

Course credits: SOCIOL 295S, SXL 295S, LIT 295S, GSF 352S (CCI, SS)

Description: The course discusses sexual work from both the labor and purchasing ends, as well as controversies regarding areas such as consent, gender, trafficking and labor contracts. Students will also discuss the various legal interpretations of sex work and its different cultural representations. 

Weeks, professor of gender, sexuality and feminist studies, has taught the course several times before. She varies the content depending on current events and new feminist literature about the topic. In an email to The Chronicle, she wrote that her favorite part of the course is discussing how sex work compares to other female-dominated service sector professions.

Weeks explained that “lots of jobs involve using bodies, trying to look a certain way and various forms of service and sales: [does], for example, prostitution work different? If so, how exactly?”

She also enjoys the section regarding the discourse surrounding sex trafficking.

“There are important—in the sense of being both serious and consequential—arguments among feminists involved in anti-trafficking work and how to understand and remedy the problem that I think everyone interested in the issue should grapple with,” Weeks wrote.

Sex and Money

Anne Allison

Tu-Th 1:25-2:40 p.m.

Course credits: CULANTH 423 (CCI, SS)

Description: The course examines the ethics and politics behind the transaction of money for various marriage and sexual practices. Readings focus on the different cultural contexts of sexual practices in many countries, including China, Turkey and Brazil.

Harry Potter and Religion

Larissa Carneiro

W-F 1:25-2:40 p.m.

Course credits: Religion 266S (CZ, Seminar)

Description: Carneiro’s class “explores the response of many Christians to the Harry Potter book series,” according to DukeHub. Students will discuss conspiracies of satanic messages and witchcraft, the alternative argument of a positive promotion of Christian messages and the roles of technology and enchantment throughout the series.

Leading into Spring 2019, Chris Howell, a previous instructor for the course, commented on the diversity of interests that would be right at home in the course.

“Students who like fantasy literature will likely enjoy it. But students with interests in historical topics, or the relation of technology to religion, or the culture wars in America concerning children’s literature and education, or the literary use of Christian themes like death and resurrection, etc., will all find in the class something that interests them,” he wrote in an email

Magic, Science, and Religion since 1400

Thomas Robisheaux

M-W 3:05-4:20 p.m.

Course credits: HISTORY 260, MEDREN 287, SCISOC 260 (CCI, EI, STS, CZ)

Description: Students will study the histories of Western magic and witchcraft. They will explore topics such as the witch hunts, alchemy and astrology during the Renaissance period and modern sciences such as parapsychology. 

Professor of History Thomas Robisheaux has taught the class for 20 years and told The Chronicle that the biggest challenge for him is the modern component of the course, from the 19th century to today. Here, students cover topics such as Spiritualism, African American Hoodoo and consciousness.

He encouraged students to take his class with a friend.

“You have to talk about some of our material with a friend,” he wrote in an email. “Take the course seriously, and you won’t see the world the same again.”


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