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 2017


Zombie Capitalism

  • Professor Dara Orenstein
  • G-PAC: Humanities and Oral Communication
  • AMST 1000.10
  • CRN: 55606

The Walking Dead. World War Z. “Obama Zombies.” Why does the specter of the living dead loom so largely in contemporary U.S. culture? How is it useful? What does it illuminate about the relationship between capitalism and democracy that might otherwise remain inscrutable? And how has it served in this allegorical manner throughout modern U.S. history? How did it haunt the rise of mass production, or the growth of suburbs, or the eruption of a social movement like Occupy Wall Street? To answer such questions, in this seminar we will track the figure of the zombie from the Gilded Age to the crash of 2008, and from the sugar plantations of Depression-era Haiti and Louisiana to the tents of Zuccotti Park, drawing on readings from across the humanities and social sciences.

Dara Orenstein is an associate professor of American Studies, whose research and teaching interests focus on the histories of capitalism and photography, as well as critical geography and cultural & social theory. She received her PhD in American Studies from Yale University in 2012.

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Capital Cities: Paris & Washington

  • Professor Christopher Klemek
  • HIST 1000.10
  • CRN: 55506

A comparative history of the French and US capital cities reveals that their similarities are more than skin deep: At the end of the 18th century, President George Washington invited Frenchman (and fellow Revolutionary War veteran) Pierre L'Enfant to give his new capital its unique form--a hybrid of European and American influences. In the middle of the 19th century, both Paris and DC underwent violent upheavals and profound transformations on the path to becoming modern cities. Throughout the 20th century, redevelopment projects from the monumental mall to transit modernization continued this transatlantic conversation. And culminating in the 1960s, both places served as political stages for mobilizations and clashes that proved to be watersheds for their local and national communities.

Christopher Klemek is an associate professor of History.

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Caribbean on the Move

  • Professor Jessica Krug
  • HIST 1000.11
  • CRN: 57054

The Dean’s Seminars provide Columbian College first-year students focused scholarship on specific intellectual challenges. Topics vary by semester. Consult the Schedule of Classes for more details. Restricted to First-year students in CCAS.

Jessica Krug is an assistant professor of History.

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Modern Architecture and Design

  • Professor Stephanie Travis
  • G-PAC: Art and Global/Cross Cultural
  • IAD 1000.10
  • CRN: 57646

This course will introduce students to the history of modern architecture and design through the context of key buildings of the 20th/21st Century. Students will learn the leaders in architectural history, as well as innovative contemporary designers working today. Through lectures, readings, and discussions, an overview of the architecture, interiors, and furniture of the most significant and unique buildings in history will be explored and examined. By merging conceptual thinking, design thinking, and critical thinking in combination with history, this course will incorporate a complete exploration of modern architecture and design.

Stephanie Travis is an Associate Professor and Director of Interior Architecture and Design at GW. Stephanie received her Master of Architecture with distinction and Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Prior to GW, Stephanie worked in New York City as an architect.  At GW, she focuses on studio courses in architectural design as well as sketching and history of modern architecture. Stephanie has published articles and presented at national and international design conferences on these topics. Her book, Sketching for Architecture + Interior Design (Laurence King, 2015), is published in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Korean (with Chinese and Russian forthcoming).

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The United States at War: WWII to Afghanistan

  • Professor Jim Lebovic
  • G-PAC: Social Science
  • PSC 1000.10
  • CRN: 53933

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 five books including Flawed Logics: Strategic Nuclear Arms Control from Truman to Obama (Johns Hopkins University, 2013), The Limits of US Military Capability: Lessons from Vietnam and Iraq (Johns Hopkins University, 2010), and Deterring International Terrorism and Rogue States: US National Security Policy after 9/11 (Routledge, 2007). He is currently completing a book on US decision making in the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars. 

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Politics and Culture

  • Professor Harvey Feigenbaum
  • PSC 1000.11
  • CRN: 57012

How does fantasy literature imagine coming of age? This course explores the connections between coming of age in canonical fantasy genres and young adult fantasy fiction (such as those used by writers such as Cashore, Lewis, Paolini, Pierce, Pullman, Riordan, Rothfuss, Rowling, and Turner). It draws upon Western fairy tales, medieval and Shakespearean romance, the gothic novel, the historical novel, and contemporary fiction. In addition to tropes of heroic journeying, testing, return, and redemption, we'll consider how encounters with beings from other worlds provide the means to explore fundamental social anxieties about class, heroism, beauty, failure, evil, monstrosity, and desire. We'll read Gawain and the Green Knight, Frankenstein, The Tempest, The Golem and the Jinni, Serafina, and Haroun and the Sea of Stories.   Along the way, we'll see Tony Kushner's Angels in America: The Millenium Approaches at the Roundhouse Theater.

Harvey B. Feigenbaum is a professor of Political Science.

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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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