Dean's Seminars


Stephanie Travis' (foreground) in class with freshmen (left to right) Jamie Oakley, Jason Katz, Bailee Weisz and Kimmie Krane

Stephanie Travis' (foreground) teaches her Modern Architecture and Design Dean’s Seminar with freshmen (left to right) Jamie Oakley, Jason Katz, Bailee Weisz and Kimmie Krane

Dean’s Seminars provide Columbian College first-year students with focused scholarship that emphasizes lively discussions on topics relevant to the issues of our time. Sometimes edgy and always engaging, the seminars provide students one-of-a-kind opportunities that challenge the mind and often tap into emerging interests.

First-year Columbian College students can register for Dean's Seminars through the GWeb Information System.


Albert Cramer

Albert Cramer

BA '12, History

"A memorable academic experience was when Professor Dane Kennedy took us to the Library of Congress for our Dean's Seminar class on empires. The maps and artifacts gave a visual history that one cannot get out of a textbook or lecture."

Spring 2020 Dean's Seminars

For the dates and times that these courses meet, please review the Schedule of Classes.

  • Professor Francys Subiaul
  • SPHR 1000
  • G-PAC: Social Science
  • Dean’s Seminars provide Columbian College first-year students focused scholarship on specific intellectual challenges. Topics vary by semester; see department for more details. This course will specifically explore the theories that seek to explain different aspects of the evolution of distinctively human traits including, moral reasoning, religious belief and language.
  • Professor Jane Shore
  • ENGL 1000.11
  • G-PAC: Arts


In this course we will focus on several modern and contemporary poets, who may include Elizabeth Bishop, Sharon Olds and another poet to be announced. After reading a volume by each of them, students will analyze and discuss the poet’s work in class and then write their own poems by imitating that poet’s style—paying attention to syntax, subject matter, imagery, patterning, and music. The class will then “workshop” these new poems. Students are encouraged to subvert, refute, and play off the originals. Craft may be teachable, but vision isn’t; even so, one can “Learn to write” in the way that painters of the past learned to paint—by apprenticing themselves to master painters. As they gain this invaluable learn-by-doing experience, students will also hone their critical skills and come to understand the way poems work from the inside out.


  • Tara Wallace, Professor of English
  • ENGL 1000.12
  • GPAC: Arts


Jane Austen’s celebrity has transcended the academic world and has become a part of popular culture. Her six completed novels have spawned sequels, “mash-ups,” and hundreds of books and articles, as well as movies, television series, and novels based on her novels. What is the source of such popular appeal? Does Austen’s own small body of work provide answers to the extraordinary proliferation of imitations, merchandise, fan clubs, blogs? In this course we will consider the Austen phenomenon by discussing the work of an author who described her own output as “the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory in which I work” and the massive scholarly and popular production engendered by that output.

  • Professor Eric Cline
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences


Much nonsense has been written about Troy and the Trojan War, and for more than a century, archaeologists and historians have struggled to answer questions about the Iliad, Homer’s magnificent tale.  Did Troy exist?  Where was it located?  Was there a Trojan War or is Homer’s tale simply a good yarn?  Is there any historical truth in a face that launched a thousand ships, or was there simply a ten-year struggle for political hegemony in the Aegean?  This problem-oriented class will focus on the archaeological, historical, and methodological questions surrounding the veracity of the Trojan War.  Using ancient sources as well as modern historiography and archaeology, each student will be expected to master the critical methods employed by historians and to reach his or her own conclusions regarding the Trojan War and its legacy.

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.

  • Professor Nicole Ivy
  • AMST 1000.10
  • G-PAC: Oral Communication
  • G-PAC: Humanities

The National Gallery of Art’s recent exhibition, Bodies of Work, explores how American painters and sculptors across the last fifty years have “reimagine[d] the human form as a site of fantasy, fear, and travail.” Taking its title from this show, this course will examine how the human body has figured in cultural and historical narratives, not simply as a physical fact but as site of social and political meaning-making. Using an interdisciplinary approach that highlights visual culture analysis, we will trace how historical perspectives on the body and embodiment have shaped American culture. Our texts for this class will include both written works and visual objects. We will explore how artists and intellectuals have engaged embodiment over an expansive period of time, considering works by a diverse array of thinkers including: Thomas Jefferson, Donna Haraway, Kerry James Marshall, and Andy Warhol. Class meetings will include time spent at the National Gallery of Art, which offers free admission to all visitors.

  • Professor Christopher Sten
  • ENGL 1000.10
  • G-PAC: Humanities

This Dean's Seminar explores writing based in Washington, DC, by local and nationally prominent authors in pivotal periods in U.S. history:  Early Years (Abigail Adams, Charles Dickens); the Civil War (Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott); the Gilded Age (Henry Adams and Mark Twain); the 1920s (Jean Toomer and Sinclair Lewis); the Great Depression and WWII (Langston Hughes; Gore Vidal); and the contemporary period (Edward P. Jones, George Pelecanos).  We will discuss works by these and other authors each week in seminar fashion and learn first-hand about the history, culture, and visual landscape of the city through museum visits, walking tours, and on-site research

  • Professor Jean Rose Freedman
  • GER 1000
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • G-PAC: Global/Cross-Cultural Perspective

Folklore – broadly defined as traditional, vernacular, or unofficial culture – has had extensive influence on political thought and human experience for centuries. This class explores folklore concepts, genres, and methods by studying specific historical eras in which folklore forms (songs, stories etc.) took on political significance and effected social change. The class focuses on Germany and the United States: two places in which folklore has had importance both as a concept and as a field of study. We will look at the similarities and differences between the use of folklore in Germany and the US, and we will examine the ways in which folklore continues to be used politically in the present.


Dean's Seminar Highlights