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.

Spring 2016


Race & Racism in US History

  • Professor Thomas Guglielmo
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • AMST 1000.11
  • CRN: 77161
  • F: 12:45-3:15pm

This class will examine the history of race and racism in the United States from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day.  Through a mixture of reading, writing, lecture, in-class discussion, film viewings, and trips around DC, we’ll explore the evolving social boundaries of race and their significance in shaping our lives, livelihoods, thoughts, and dreams.  Class topics will include Jim Crow and mass incarceration, colonialism and immigration, Chinese exclusion and Japanese-American internment, civil rights and Black Lives Matter. 

Thomas Guglielmo's teaching and research interests include race and ethnic studies, immigration, and twentieth-century U.S. social, cultural, and political history. He teaches courses on race, civil rights, immigration, World War II, and the modern Untied States. 

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Washington Writing

  • Professor Christopher Sten
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • ENGL 1000.10
  • CRN: 74035
  • MW: 12:45-2:00pm

This Dean's Seminar will look at writing on Washington, DC, 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, local writers with national reputations).  In addition to reading and discussing a variety of works on Washington, students will explore the history, culture, and visual landscape of the city, through museum visits, walking tours, and on-site research.  Requirements include two essays, several quizzes and questionnaires, a collaborative oral report, and a take-home final exam.  

Christopher Sten is Professor of English and American Literature, specializing in the American novel, Romanticism, 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 (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.

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Remediating Shakespeare

  • Professor Patrick Cook
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • ENGL 1000.11
  • CRN: 76934
  • MW: 12:45-2:00pm

This seminar in the Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare program will focus on the construction and afterlife of Shakespeare’s two most popular and influential plays. Both Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet are based on surviving narrative sources. We will study the two plays against the background of these sources for insight into the ways in which Shakespeare, in  “remediating” such narratives, creates new levels of complexity in his characters and exploits the resources of the Elizabethan theater. We will then examine the ways in which the two plays have in turn been remediated in modern cultures around the globe by filmmakers, novelists, visual artists and other participants in the many varieties of modern media.

Patrick Cook is a professor of English specializing in Renaissance culture and film studies. I have taught the department’s course on Shakespeare on Film for fifteen years and have worked within the Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare program since its inception.

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Medieval Mediterranean

  • Professor Suzanne Miller
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • HIST 1000.10
  • CRN: 77046
  • M: 11:10-1:00pm

Is the sea a natural barrier, or is it a vector for exchange? Can it be both? Europeans, North Africans and Middle Easterners are still grappling with this paradox today as migration, warfare and trade occur across and through the Mediterranean Sea. The origins of this modern dynamic emerged in the Middle Ages, with the break-up of the Roman Empire. Pilgrimage and Crusade, Piracy and Trade, all of these medieval phenomena help us explore the dynamism of diverse worlds colliding in a time before globalism. 

Suzanne Miller is an assistant professor of History, teaching classes on medieval Europe. Her research focuses on Venice and its Mediterranean empire during the twelfth through fourteenth centuries. It allows her to think about pre-modern colonialism, state-formation, and people who keep leopards in their country homes. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, eating, and pop culture. She does not enjoy running, but does it anyway.

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Mathematics and Art

  • Professor E. Arthur Robinson
  • G-PAC: Math/STAT
  • MATH 1000.10
  • CRN: 77636
  • MW: 9:35-10:50am

This course examines the relationship between mathematics and the visual arts. The relationship between two subjects goes back to classical architecture. In the renaissance, it encompasses the principles of perspective. And today, fractal geometry, computer graphics, and 3-d printing link the two. This course will be hands on, using mathematical ideas to fashion art objects, and using art as a vehicle illustrate mathematical ideas. 

Arthur Robinson has taught math at GW for 27 years, and has taught courses on math and art several times in the past. His research includes dynamical systems, tilings and patterns, and fractal geometry. This course is specifically designed for students of the Corcoran School of Arts and Design.    

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Constitutional Law for the 21st Century

  • Professor Jill Kasle
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PPPA 1000.10
  • CRN: 73781
  • MW: 2:20-3:35pm

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.

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Freedom of Speech and of Religion (The First Amendment in the 21st Century)

  • Professor Jill Kasle
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PPPA 1000.11
  • CRN: 74799
  • TR: 12:45-2:00pm

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.

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The United States at War: WWII to Afghanistan

  • Professor Jim Lebovic
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PSC 1000.10
  • CRN: 74625
  • F 11:10-1:00 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, DC.

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.

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Healthy Cities, Globalization, and Urban Policy

  • Professor Antwan Jones
  • G-PAC: Social Science
  • SOC 1000.10
  • CRN: 77259
  • WF: 12:45-2:00pm

City life is the norm for an ever-growing proportion of the world’s population. Residence in urban areas has major implications for the health and well-being of all global citizens. Health risk factors (such as physical activity and smoking) are not only socially patterned, but they are also spatially determined. Simply put, where you live affects the extent to which you will live healthy. This is also an exciting time to be studying health, illness, and health care, since the field of medicine and the US health care system are undergoing transformations in this post-ACA (Affordable Care Act) era. However, other countries have their own health policies as well. This course takes an interdisciplinary viewpoint and merges sociology, medicine, urban design, international studies, history, and public policy together to address large-scale questions about the relationship between health, place, globalization, and policy.

Antwan Jones is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and of Africana Studies. He has published a body of research that focuses on the linkages between residence and health, with particular emphasis on childhood obesity and adult cardiovascular disease. As an urban sociologist, he is specifically interested in the contextual, environmental, and geographical dimensions of health and illness. 

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Designing Classical Ballet

  • Professor Tanya Wetenhall
  • G-PAC: Arts
  • TRDA 1000.10
  • CRN: 75928
  • W: 5:10-7:00pm

A survey of the history of classical ballet through an in-depth examination of ten seminal works ranging from the sixteenth-century ballets of the French court to the early twentieth-century, riot invoking works of The Ballets Russes and masterworks of the post-modern era. Beyond the examination of these single compositions as important works of ballet repertory, students will also consider the historical and social context of each work; advances in costume and stage design; ballet as a tool of cultural diplomacy and propaganda; and the work of famous artists designing for the stage and how the diverse cultural perspectives of their times affected the shared theatrical experience of “going to the ballet”. A final project and assigned reviews of performances attended at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts introduce students to key concepts of researching and writing in the fields of the creative arts and design.

Tanya Wetenhall is an Assistant Professor of Design. A specialist in dress and textile history, her teaching and research focus on dress history, ballet history, costuming for the stage and period styles. She lectures frequently on artists designing for the stage, fashionable dress and Russian dress and textiles.  

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