Dean's Seminars

The Dean’s Seminars provide Columbian College freshman students focused scholarship on specific intellectual challenges. They explore significant academic issues under the guidance of distinguished scholars and teachers. Students engage in directed critical inquiry, employing the unique resources of the nation’s capital and the university. Students not only learn to evaluate the scholarship and traditions that have formed our world view, but also create their own scholarship of consequence.

Fall 2014


The Buddhist Art of Asia

  • Professor Susanne Francoeur
  • G-PAC: Arts
  • AH 1000.10
  • CRN: 84321
  • T 3:30-6:00 p.m.

As a major world religion, Buddhism has had a profound effect on the cultures of Asia, not least of all on their art histories. This seminar is organized around the specific theme of the history of Buddhist art as initially developed in India and subsequently reshaped and reformulated in the course of transmission eastward into Central and East Asia. The investigation begins with India, the cradle of Buddhism, and includes the contiguous areas of Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet and Central Asia. This is then followed by East Asia including China, Korea and Japan. Particular emphasis is placed on the investigation of works of art at the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution where some sessions are held. By analyzing the stylistic and iconographic properties of these art objects in the museum and through additional reading, discussions, presentations in class and research papers, students familiarize themselves with the major periods of Buddhist art and learn about the key styles, themes and techniques as well as their development in each culture.

Susanne Francoeur is professorial lecturer in art history. Her primary area of research has been the Buddhist art of ancient South and Central Asia. Most recently she has expanded her interest to the art of the Indianized states of Southeast Asia, focusing on two cultures in particular—Ancient Champa in Central Vietnam and the ancient Khmer culture in Cambodia, both of which regions she has recently visited. She is now analyzing the available sculptural and architectural material, some of which has been recently discovered, to investigate the impact of Hindu as well as Buddhist thought on these cultures.

Back to top


Human Minds & Artificial Intelligence

  • Professor Jamie Cohen-Cole
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • AMST 1000.10
  • CRN: 84317
  • W 1:00-3:00 p.m.

What is the boundary between humans and robots? Is it that humans can bleed and robots can rust? Or is there something more important that gets to what is distinctive about humanity? Is it how we think, our intelligence, or our language? If so, then what happens when computers or robots speak and perform intelligent tasks? Focusing on questions such as these, this class looks at the history of computers, robots and artificial intelligence. In tracking this history, we will see how the line between humans and machines has been in constant motion as what we believe and imagine about machines has affected what we know, imagine and believe about the human mind. We will examine these themes by reading about computers, robots and artificial intelligence in history and through the visions of the future given in science fiction stories and movies from Frankenstein to AI and I, Robot. Topics covered in this course include Charles Babbage’s analytical engine, the Turing Machine, cyberspace and the origins, development and criticism of research in artificial intelligence.

Jamie Cohen-Cole is a historian of science interested in the history of computer science, psychology and Cold War American culture. Before joining the faculty at George Washington University, he taught at Harvard, Yale and the University of Chicago. His book, The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature (University of Chicago Press), was recently published.

Back to top


DC Renaissance: Black Culture in the Nation's Capital

  • Professor James Miller
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • AMST 1000.12
  • CRN: 86865
  • TR 9:35-10:50 a.m.

Although the Harlem Renaissance has become firmly established as the lens through which many Americans have come to view the first major flowering of African American creativity in the 20th century, this perspective overlooks the centrality of Washington, D.C., as an important site of African American history and culture. This seminar will explore the relationship of D.C. to 20th century African American culture through a close examination of works ranging from the writings of Alain Locke, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown to the music of Marvin Gaye and DC Go-Go to the contemporary fiction of George Pelecanos. The seminar will conclude with consideration of the renaissance presently occurring in the U Street area.

James A. Miller is professor of English and American studies and director of the Center for Public Culture and Public History. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on African American literature and culture. He is the editor of Harlem: the Vision of Morgan and Marvin Smith (University Press of Kentucky) and author of Remembering Scottsboro: The Legacy of an Infamous Trial (Princeton University Press). He has written and lectured on Washington D.C.’s African American community; his article, “Black Washington and the New Negro Renaissance” appeared in Composing Urban History and the Composition of Civic Identities; “The Changing Face of Shaw” appeared in Washington, D.C. at Home. In 2002 he was named the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching District of Columbia Professor of the Year.

Back to top


Do We Need Biotechnology?

  • Professor David Morris
  • G-PAC: Natural Sciences
  • BISC 1000.10
  • CRN: 84322
  • MW 11:10 a.m. - 12:25 p.m. (Lecture)
  • W 1:00-3:50 p.m. (Lab)

Biotechnology is a broad set of techniques manipulating living organisms through the use of genetic engineering. The advances of biotechnology in the last 25 years have been dramatic, and its proponents trumpet significant benefits for humanity. However, many biotechnological applications have raised serious concerns. This course introduces students to modern biotechnological procedures and allows them to work in the laboratory on projects involving the manipulation of DNA and living cells. They will use their knowledge to critically assess the benefits, pitfalls and possible consequences that the “Biotech Century” may pose for our world.

David Morris is assistant professor of Biological Sciences and Genetics. He was involved in the invention of novel cloning vectors for the genetic manipulation of yeast. He has also worked on the genetic improvement of crop plants. His current research is concerned with assessing the bacterial contamination of the Anacostia River, particularly by multiple antibiotic resistant coliforms. He teaches undergraduate courses in microbiology, biotechnology and cell biology, and was the 2007-2008 recipient of the Trachtenberg Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Back to top


The Rise of Youth Subculture

  • Professor David Mitchell
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • ENGL 1000.10
  • CRN: 86680
  • MW 12:45-2:00 p.m.

Youth subcultures analyze the historical development of youth cultures: populations defined by loose affiliations of teenagers and individuals in their early 20s sharing interests in the experience of heightened states of affect. Youth subcultures, in this class, will be understood as those primarily reflecting the social and economic underpinnings of the place of youth in a highly industrialized, informatized and militarized culture such as the U.S. (We will also follow the early beginnings of youth movements in the U.K.) A group affiliation that yields meaning to some through counter-cultural identity while vexing others with its emphasis on resistance to the established norms of prior generations.

In any of the instances above, the rise of youth cultures brought about new ways of thinking about previously neglected aspects of human experience (relationships to consumerism, racial and ethnic minority communities, drug cultures, work, gender alternatives, urbanization, peripheral forms of embodiment, etc.).

David Mitchell is professor of English. He received his PhD in American Studies from the University of Michigan. Professor Mitchell’s courses explore the ways in which outsider subcultures bring about greater flexibility of social belief and acceptance.

Back to top


Writing on Washington

  • Professor Christopher Sten
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • ENGL 1000.11
  • CRN: 86681
  • TR 12:45-2:00 p.m.

This Dean’s Seminar will look at writing on Washington, D.C., by several authors in the context of pivotal periods in U.S. history: the Civil War (Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott); the Gilded Age (Henry Adams and Mark Twain); the 1920s (Jean Toomer and Willa Cather); the Great Depression and WWII (Langston Hughes and Gore Vidal); and the contemporary period (Edward P. Jones, George Pelecanos). In addition to reading representative examples of Washington writing, students will explore the history, culture and visual landscape of the city through museum visits, walking tours and on-site research. Requirements include reports on the work of individual authors as well as research projects involving local libraries and archives.

Christopher Sten is professor of English and American literature, specializing in the American novel, the writings of Herman Melville, Modernism, transnational studies and the literature of Washington, D.C. He has published several critical studies of Melville, and is the editor of Literary Capital: A Washington Reader (University of Georgia Press, 2011). A former senior Fulbright lecturer in Germany, he is a past president and past executive secretary of the Melville Society. Professor Sten chaired the English Department for many years, and more recently served as director of the Writing in the Disciplines Program at GW.

Back to top


What's New about New Plays

  • Professor Evelyn Jaffe Schreiber
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • ENGL 1000.12
  • CRN: 84325
  • TR 11:10 am - 12:25 pm

This Dean’s Seminar takes advantage of the theater offerings in Washington and asks the question: What is new about new plays? Are contemporary playwrights reworking classical themes or are their works entirely new entities? What themes reappear and how are they presented? The course also considers how classical plays are re-imagined for modern audiences. For example, is a Shakespearean work staged in a different political or social milieu than the original production? Why would directors make these types of artistic decisions? What does it mean for plays to be culturally relevant? Students will consider who attends the theater and who will be in the audience in the future. These questions form a large part of decisions about what plays are selected to be produced each year and the nature of those productions. We will read three classical plays and three new plays as well as attend at least one new play.

Evelyn Jaffe Schreiber, Ph.D. is an associate professor of English at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. Her first book, Subversive Voices: Eroticizing the Other in William Faulkner and Toni Morrison (University of Tennessee Press), examines identity and race via the theory of Jacques Lacan and cultural studies and was awarded the Toni Morrison Society book prize, 2003. Her second book, Race, Trauma, and Home in the Novels of Toni Morrison (Louisiana State University Press) is an interdisciplinary study of trauma in Morrison’s fiction and was published in 2010 and was awarded the Toni Morrison Society book prize, 2012. Her articles appear in Mississippi Quarterly; The Faulkner Journal; Literature & Psychology; Style; and Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and she has contributed chapters to Blackwell’s Companion to Faulkner; Teaching Faulkner: Approaches and Methods; A Gathering of Evidence: Essays on William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust; Memory and Meaning: Essays in Honour of Toni Morrison; and Toni Morrison: Paradise, Love, and A Mercy.

Back to top


The Making of a Poem

  • Professor Jennifer Chang
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • ENGL 1000.13
  • CRN: 84326
  • MW 11:10 a.m. - 12:25 p.m.

In this Dean’s Seminar, students will read eight American poems, written from the 19th to 21st centuries, and investigate the making of each poem, how readers understood the poem and how later generations of poets and scholars learned from the composition and reception history of each poem. Reading drafts of each poem alongside the poets’ letters and journals whenever possible, students will attempt to reconstruct the composition process in theory and practice and, further, consider how historical and cultural contexts influence how a poet writes a poem. Our reading list will include T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,” Srikanth Reddy’s Voyager and poems by Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore and Rita Dove and will be supplemented by essays on poetics and American cultural and history. Students should expect to write short close reading essays on each poem and to conduct the occasional poetic experiment.

Jennifer Chang is assistant professor of English. She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia. She is completing a doctoral dissertation on how the pastoral lyric re-imagines social and cultural space in American Modernist poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New Republic, Poetry, Kenyon Review, The Believer, and Los Angeles Review of Books, and her first book of poems is The History of Anonymity (University of Georgia Press).

Back to top


The Austen Phenomenon

  • Professor Tara Goshal Wallace
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • PHIL 1000.14
  • CRN: 86683
  • TR 9:35-10:50 a.m.

Jane Austen is among a handful of canonical writers who has transcended the literary and academic world and become an icon of popular culture. Her six completed novels exist in multiple editions and have spawned sequels, "mash-ups" (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and hundreds of scholarly books and articles. There are movies and television series based on the novels themselves and on works derived from those novels (Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Jane Austen Book Club) and a Jane Austen Society that attracts hundreds of fans to its meetings. In this course, we will consider the Austen phenomenon by discussing Austen’s own writings as well as a range of adaptations that attest to the extraordinary and ongoing popularity of an author who described her own output as “the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour.”

Tara Ghoshal Wallace is a professor of English, specializing in 18th- and 19th-century British literature, with a particular interest in issues regarding gender and empire. Her books include an edition of Frances Burney’s A Busy Day (Rutgers University Press), Jane Austen and Narrative Authority (Palgrave Macmillan) and Imperial Characters: Home and Periphery in Eighteenth-Century Literature (Bucknell University Press). She has published articles on Austen, Burney, Dr. Johnson, Elizabeth Hamilton, Walter Scott, Tobias Smollett and Mary Wollstonecraft. Her current research focuses on Walter Scott as historian of monarchy.

Back to top


The Fairy Tale of the Grimms to Disney

  • Professor Mary Beth Stein
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • GER 1000.10
  • CRN: 87270
  • MW 3:45-5:00 p.m.

For centuries folktales and fairy tales have fueled the popular imagination of children and adults. As art form and communicative practice, however, the folktale and fairy tale have undergone radical transformations in form, style, structure and meaning. Beginning with the work of 19th century European collectors and editors and concluding with 20th century Anglo-American critics, authors and filmmakers, this course examines the socio-historical development of folktales and fairytales in their traditional contexts as well as in modern transformations and critical re-readings.

Mary Beth Stein is associate professor of German. After receiving her PhD from Indiana University in 1993, she taught at Haverford and Carleton Colleges. She has published articles on folklore history, Berlin and the Berlin Wall. Her current research explores the relationship between memory and literature since German reunification. Her primary teaching and research interests are in the areas of German cultural studies, folklore and literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. Supported by a prestigious Fulbright Senior Scholar grant, Professor Mary Beth Stein spent the 2000-2001 academic year in Berlin for a research project that deals with the Stasi files in East Germany and their socio-cultural ramifications. Professor Stein received GW’s Bender Teaching Award in 2002.

Back to top


Strangers, Lovers, Self, and Others: Reading Existential Literature

  • Professor Gail Weiss
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • PHIL 1000.10
  • CRN: 86009
  • TR 2:20-3:35 pm

“Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and commonplace—and most horrifying.” –Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych

“Hell is other people.” –Sartre, No Exit

“Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable.” –Albert Camus, "The Myth of Sisyphus"

“To survive is, after all, perpetually to begin to live again. I hoped I would still know how.” –Simone de Beauvoir, The Mandarins

In this course we will read selected short stories, novellas, plays and novels by some of the most famous authors associated with the Existentialist philosophical movement. These readings will be paired with specific philosophical essays that, together, illuminate and reinforce perennial existential and ethical concerns regarding how best to live one’s life, exercise one’s freedom and coexist in a world of others whose attitudes and projects often conflict with one’s own.

Gail Weiss is professor of philosophy and chair of the GW philosophy department. She is the author of Refiguring the Ordinary and Body Images: Embodiment as Intercorporeality (Indiana University Press), the co-editor of several anthologies including Thinking the Limits of the Body (SUNY Press) and Feminist Interpretations of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (Penn State University Press) and the guest co-editor of a special issue of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy on “The Ethics of Embodiment.” Her main areas of research specialization are phenomenology and existentialism, philosophy of race and gender and philosophy and literature.

Back to top


Are There Animal Minds?

  • Professor Eric Saidel
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • PHIL 1000.11
  • CRN: 87380
  • TR 9:35-10:50 a.m.

It is not uncommon to say that one’s dog wants to go out, or that one’s cat believes that there is a mouse under the refrigerator. What sort of claims are we making about our pets when we say these things? Should these claims be taken literally? Do nonhuman animals have minds? These questions raise other questions: What is a mind? Are all minds like human minds? What could count as evidence that something has a mind?

Is there evidence that nonhuman animals have minds? Being that these are philosophical questions asked in a philosophy class, we may find that these questions have surprising answers. The study of animal minds is a relatively new and fast growing field in philosophy and in science. We will look at some of the recent literature, both philosophical and scientific, in the hope of gaining some expertise relating to the study of animal minds.

Eric Saidel is assistant professor of philosophy. He is a philosopher whose research focuses on psychological explanations of human and animal behavior, especially with regard to the evolution of the mind. He is completing work on a book about the mind-body problem. He has also written extensively about methodological issues in the study of animal minds. When he’s not working, Saidel can be found riding his bike, running, cooking or listening to music. Sometimes he does more than one of these at the same time.

Back to top


The United States at War: From World War II to Afghanistan

  • Professor James H. Lebovic
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PSC 1000.10
  • CRN: 84435
  • F 11:10 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

This class is designed to help students appreciate the challenges that U.S. leaders and society encounter in war by focusing on the major conflicts in which the United States has engaged since its emergence as a global power. By examining the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan in successive weeks, the class will show that these wars were conducted at two levels: U.S. leaders were concerned both about conducting the war abroad and keeping the U.S. public committed to the war effort. Readings and class discussions will focus, then, on the external dimension of these wars—their origins, U.S. wartime strategy and the outcomes—and their internal dimensions—public support and perceptions of these conflicts. To give students a better understanding of the societal aspects of these conflicts, the discussion of each war will be paired with a movie (or two) that captures the public sentiment of the period and a trip to a relevant memorial or museum in Washington, D.C.

James H. Lebovic is professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University. He teaches undergraduate and graduate classes on political methodology and national and international security. He has published widely on defense policy, deterrence strategy, military budgets and procurement, democracy and human rights and international conflict. He is the author of four books including Deterring International Terrorism and Rogue States: US National Security Policy after 9/11 (Routledge, 2007) and The Limits of US Military Capability: Lessons from Vietnam and Iraq (John Hopkins University, 2010). He has just completed a book on the United States and strategic nuclear arms control.

Back to top


Political Manipulation

  • Professor Forrest Maltzman
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PSC 1000.11
  • CRN: 85313
  • M 3:30-6:00 p.m.

Why do citizens and politicians act and do what they do? Does the ability of an agenda setter to structure voting order shape the decisions legislative bodies make? Does the manner in which a military casualty is portrayed influence the public’s support for war? In this seminar, we will explore how sociological, economic and psychological factors influence the political decisions that individuals make. Based upon this understanding, we will then look at how the preferences and decisions of individuals can be manipulated and understood. As part of this seminar, we will design a series of experiments to manipulate the decisions and actions individuals take.

Forrest Maltzman is professor of Political Science and the senior vice provost of Academic Affairs and Planning. He has written extensively on both the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court. He is the author of Competing Principals: Committees, Parties and the Organization of Congress (Michigan 1997) and co-author of Crafting Law on the Supreme Court (Cambridge 2000), Advice and Dissent: The Struggle to Shape the Federal Judiciary (Brookings, 2009) and The Constrained Court (Princeton, 2011). He recently published a piece on how presidents use presidential pets to manipulate the public during periods leading up to war. Links to much of his work can be found at http://home.gwu.edu/~forrest.

Back to top


Constitutional Law for the 21st Century

  • Professor Jill Kasle
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PPPA 1000.10
  • CRN: 84327
  • TR 12:45-2:00 p.m.

This course analyzes and explains the American legal system, including institutions (courts and the court system), documents (the Constitution) and processes (how the Supreme Court decides a case). The course emphasizes the development of analytic skills and communicational ability and, through the use of law school teaching methods and exams, is useful for people who are curious about what law school might be like.

Jill Kasle is associate professor of public policy and public administration. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and Boston University School of Law, and has done almost everything that a lawyer can do; she has been a law clerk to a judge, a prosecutor, a defense counsel, a law school administrator and a professor of law.

Back to top


Freedom of Speech and of Religion

  • Professor Jill Kasle
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PPPA 1000.11
  • CRN: 86410
  • MW 2:20-3:35 pm

This course will cover the guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the First Amendment. The course emphasizes the development of analytic skills and communications ability.

Jill Kasle is associate professor of public policy and public administration. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and Boston University School of Law, and has done almost everything that a lawyer can do; she has been a law clerk to a judge, a prosecutor, a defense counsel, a law school administrator, and a professor of law.

Back to top


Religion Upside-Down: The Gnostic Subversion of Jewish and Christian Mythology

  • Professor Paul B. Duff
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • REL 1000.10
  • CRN: 86617
  • TR 12:45-2:00 p.m.

What if the hero of the Adam and Eve story was the serpent? And what if the deity was really the villain? Curiously, some Gnostics—renegade Christians of the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE—read the biblical text this way. They claimed that the deity in the story was not really God. Instead, he was an inferior deity who tried to keep Adam and Eve from knowing about the true God. He knew that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their eyes would be opened. The serpent, a messenger from the real God, intervened to make sure that the pair tasted the fruit.

It will come as no surprise to learn that mainstream Christianity attempted to destroy all Gnostic texts after it gained political power. Several dozen of these texts nevertheless emerged from the sands of Egypt in the mid-20th century. In our seminar, we will read some of these fascinating texts. We will explore the strange worldview of the Gnostics and examine how these groups attempted to subvert proto-orthodox Christianity.

Paul B. Duff is a professor of religion who teaches courses on early Christianity. He is the author of numerous articles on early Christianity as well as the book Who Rides the Beast: Prophetic Rivalry and the Rhetoric of Crisis in the Churches of the Apocalypse (Oxford University Press). He has just completed a book on Pauline Christianity (tentatively titled Moses in Corinth) and he is writing another, We Dwell as Sojourners, that is focused on how early Christians adapted to Greco-Roman culture.

Back to top


Hollywood and Politics

  • Professor Patricia Phalen
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • SMPA 1000.10
  • CRN: 84901
  • MW 12:45-3:15 p.m.

In the 1950s, Senator McCarthy had film and television writers with the “wrong” political views blacklisted in Hollywood. Fifty years later, Michael Moore produced a film that attacked President Bush for having the “wrong” politics. These are just two of the more obvious connections between the world of Hollywood and the world of Washington, D.C. Pop culture and political culture in the United States share a long and complex relationship. Congress convenes hearings to uncover anti-American sentiment in the media. Actors run for, and win, political office. Celebrity endorsements or condemnations affect national elections. In this course, we will explore the history and political effects of these connections. Students will study the personalities, organizations, products and principles of political and pop culture and assess the benefits and costs of their symbiotic relationship.

Patricia Phalen is an associate professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs. She has a master's and PhD in radio/television/film from Northwestern University, and an MBA from Boston College. Her research focuses on the socioeconomics of mass media organizations, particularly the relationship between media and audiences. She is co-author of The Mass Audience: Rediscovering the Dominant Model and Ratings Analysis: The Theory and Practice of Audience Research.

Back to top


Contemporary Immigration and the Changing American City

  • Professor Hiromi Ishizawa
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • SOC 1000.10
  • CRN: 87331
  • MW 2:20-3:35 p.m.

This course provides an introduction to the field of immigration studies. The aim is for students to understand theoretical and policy debates surrounding immigration in contemporary America. This course begins with an overview of historical patterns of immigration, especially changes in the demographics of immigration and contexts of reception immigrants face upon arrival. We next focus on how contemporary immigrants impact cities in the United States and then examine various pathways of incorporation among contemporary immigrants and their children, such as patterns of residential settlement. This course also gives students an opportunity to explore sociological research that are set in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Hiromi Ishizawa is an assistant professor of Sociology. She received her PhD in sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has published work that examines many aspects of immigrant integration, including minority language maintenance, sequence of migration within family units, intermarriage and residential settlement patterns among minority language speakers, and is currently investigating civic participation across immigrant generations.

Back to top


Evolution of the Human Mind

  • Professor Francys Subiaul
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • SPHR 1000.10
  • CRN: 87166
  • TR 9:35-10:25 a.m.

This course will review the cognitive abilities of human and non-human primates in language and communication, social cognition, spatial and physical cognition, numerical competence and memory systems. Throughout the semester, students will be introduced to theories of cognitive evolution and the various methods used to explore cognition between species. Class discussions will be coordinated with activities in the National Zoo’s Think Tank, where researchers are actively exploring the cognitive abilities of orangutans and gorillas, as well as trips to the National Museum of Natural History where students can gain insights from exhibits that highlight environmental and social variables that might have shaped early human cognition.

Francys Subiaul is assistant professor of Speech and Hearing. He has published extensively in the area of human cognition, and especially on “cognitive imitation” in primates and humans. In 2008, Dr. Subiaul was awarded a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development grant to study the evolution of cultural learning in great apes.

Back to top


Measuring Uncertainty

  • Professor Hosam Mahmoud
  • G-PAC: Mathematics and Statistics
  • STAT 1000.10
  • CRN: 84328
  • TR 2:20-3:35 p.m.

This course focuses on developing an understanding of probability and its wide ranging applications in diverse fields that require modeling by random events and notions of chance. The class will concentrate on explaining the concepts and tools of probability required to appreciate and model real-life problems. Prerequisites for this seminar series are limited to high school algebra. No previous knowledge of probability will be assumed.

Hosam M. Mahmoud is a full professor and former Chair of the Statistics Department. He has published four books and more than 70 research papers in peer-reviewed journals. He is an editor of Probability Trust (UK), which publishes Journal of Applied Probability and Advances in Applied Probability. He is also an associate editor of Methodology and Computing in Applied Probability (USA) and The Annals of the Institute of Statistical Mathematics (Japan).

Back to top


Great Performances in Dance

  • Professor Dana Tai Soon Burgess
  • G-PAC: Arts
  • TRDA 1000.10
  • CRN: 84350
  • T 5:10-7:00 p.m.

The cultural and historic significance of ballet and modern dance will be illuminated through lecture, movement, video excerpts and attendance at live performances. This seminar is designed to invigorate the student with the exciting lineage of dance, while stressing its unique ability to communicate the human condition. A special focus will be placed on the individual journeys and works of great choreographers including Anthony Tudor, George Balanchine, Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, among others. Their work will exemplify the unique evolution of dance as a proscenium art form. This course will experientially enliven dance through guest lectures by renowned, published dance critics and published dance historians who live in Washington, D.C., while including movement experiences and attendance at live performances.

Dana Tai Soon Burgess, associate professor of dance, is a critically acclaimed choreographer. He has set work and taught throughout Asia, South America and Europe. He is best known for choreography, which fuses Eastern and Western movement aesthetics. He has served as an American Cultural Specialist for the U.S. State Department and received the D.C. Mayor’s Arts Award in 1994. He has received multiple D.C. Metro Dance Awards for best overall production and an Outstanding Direction Award for his works premiered at the Kennedy Center. He was awarded the prestigious Pola Nirenska Award for Excellence in Modern Dance and the Excellence in an Artistic Discipline award at the Mayor’s Arts Award Ceremony.

Back to top


Global Dress and Culture

  • Professor Tanya Wetenhall
  • G-PAC: Arts
  • TRDA 1000.11
  • CRN: 87437
  • MW 3:45-5:00 p.m.

Where did the practice of wearing a shirt under your suit jacket come from? When did women REALLY start wearing pants? Why do you paint your face in team colors for a football game? Dress is a manifestation of mankind’s continuous migration and intellectual interchange over the past 2,000 years. Dress responds, adapts or dictates to shifting social mores and emerging technologies. Global dress in particular reads as a history of a people: the silhouettes and textiles inform of travel and trade; the construction and motifs reveal spiritual and cultural customs. Global dress can further define or blur definitions of gender, and also divulge a political climate. Being “dressed” in many world cultures requires no clothing at all. Global Dress and Culture examines a selection of dress customs in the context of historical urban, nomadic and rural groups, such as the Chinese court’s cultivation and use of silk in dress and subsequent trade in markets along the Silk Road; the urban communities of Ghana, where masterful strip-weaving techniques evolved into the prestigious Kente cloth that inspires some current global dress practices and artists alike; and the indigenous communities of Brazil, where dress is often comprised of body adornment and modification through the application of body paint and lip discs. Discussions centering on historical and contemporary dress practices, trade, geography and textile production will enrich our studies. Lectures are supplemented with guest speakers, local collection visits and the opening of the Textile Museum at the George Washington University.

Tanya Wetenhall is an assistant professor of design. Her career spans the performing arts, costume studies, museums and diplomacy. She has managed U.S. tours of foreign dance companies, as well as individual artists touring Europe; directed fashion shows; worked as a cultural liaison for special interest groups visiting Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe; and was a specialist for the government of the United States at the U.S. embassies in Moscow and Rome. Her recent projects include researching and designing museum exhibitions pertaining to costume history, design and the performing arts, in the U.S. and abroad, as well as consulting for museums. Wetenhall holds an MA in Fashion and Textile Studies from the Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY) and has taught in FIT’s graduate program and in the graduate costume studies program at New York University. She has developed and taught courses on period styles, the history of the performing and visual arts of Russia, ballet history, and has lectured and written on elements of Russian costume.

Back to top


Policy, Gender, and Inequality

  • Professor Cynthia Deitch
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • WSTU 1000.10
  • CRN: 85438
  • MW 12:45-2:00 p.m.

Abortion and same-sex marriage are but two examples of hot-button political issues that bring debates about gender and sexuality into the public policy arena. We will explore differing political and philosophical ideas about equality and the appropriate role of government in reducing inequality. The course examines how policies and policy debates shape, and are shaped by, ideas about gender difference; and how gender intersects with race and class among other inequalities. The focus is primarily on the U.S., but includes cross-national policy comparisons. This course provides students with an introduction to Women’s Studies and to the study of public policy.

Cynthia H. Deitch is associate professor of Women’s Studies, Sociology and Public Policy, and serves as associate director of the Women’s Studies program. She is a sociologist with research interests in gender, race and class in labor markets and employment policies, and in women’s social movement activism.

Back to top