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 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."

Spring 2022 Dean's Seminars

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

  • Professor D. Orenstein
  • AMST 1000.10
  • GPAC: Creative or Critical Thinking in the Arts
  • GPAC: Global or Cross-Cultural Perspectives
  • GPAC: Oral Communication


The Walking Dead. World War Z. “Zombie Banks.” 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 screen one film per week, supplemented by brief readings in primary sources, to track the figure of the zombie from the Great Depression to the Great Recession (or, now, the Great Depression 2.0), and from the sugar plantations of Haiti to the tents of Zuccotti Park and the COVID-19 morgues of Detroit.

  • Professor A. Ahmad
  • ANTH 1000.10
  • GPAC: Critical Thinking in the Social Sciences


We live in a world interconnected through transnational &  global processes. Whether through trade, travelers, technology, goods or services, these interconnections are not new and are unlikely to end.  Different parts of our world have long been interconnected.  The nature of these interconnections have changed and will continue to change.  

This course examines transnational & global processes through the lens of material objects and commodities, for example cotton and indigo that make up blue jeans--a ubiquitous, taken-for-granted, yet extraordinarily consequential product that has shaped and continues to shape the world in which we live.

Designed for students at the beginning of their undergraduate studies, in this course we will put foundational scholarly writings on transnationalism & globalization in conversation with visualizing data techniques.  Class projects, both collective and individual, will involve the development of multimedia projects that will push us to conceptualize, analyze and document transnational & global processes in relation (but not reducible)  to textual forms.


  • Professor T. Wetenhall
  • TRDA 1000.10
  • GPAC: Critical Thinking or Creative Thinking in the Arts
  • GPAC: Global or Cross-Cultural Perspectives
  • GPAC: Oral Communication


CCAS Dean's Seminar: 'Designing Classical Ballet' introduces study and research in visual culture, cultural production, and the visual and performing arts. Ballet's classical era inducts students to the art form as a site of historical and contemporary discourse surrounding gender, power, war, (in)equality, racial diversity, and inclusion. Ballet's history, aesthetics, and various cultural perspectives reveal how ballet's design has specific functions or ends. Through readings, close viewings, and structured discussions of seminal works such as the 17th-century 'Turkish Ceremony in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme' and the Romantic-era ballet 'Giselle' and its socially conscious iterations 'Creole Giselle' by the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Akram Khan's contemporary dance work 'Giselle', students consider the agency of costume in performance; artists designing for the stage; ballet's global appeal; how to affect change in the art form; and the diverse cultural and historical perspectives shaping the shared theatrical experience of 'going to the ballet', particularly in 2022. 

'Designing Classical Ballet' fulfils GPAC with CCAS: Arts, Critical Thinking, and Cross-Cultural perspective course attributes.

This course has no prerequisites and does not assume any previous knowledge of ballet, art, design, theatre or dance history, cultural studies, or visual or material culture theories.


  • Professor J. Shore
  • ENGL 1000.10
  • GPAC: Critical or Creative Thinking in the Arts


Poet Robert Lowell writes in his Imitations introduction: “Boris Pasternak has said that the usual reliable translator gets the literal meaning but misses the tone, and that in poetry tone is of course everything.  I have been reckless with literal meaning, and labored hard to get the tone. Most often this has been a tone, for the tone is something that will always more or less escape transference to another language and cultural moment…I believe that poetic translation—I would call it an imitation—must be expert and inspired, and needs at least as much technique, luck and rightness of hand as the original poem.…I have been almost as free as the authors themselves in finding ways to make them ring right for me.”

This course is designed as a reading and writing workshop. Weekly, we will be close-reading a variety of modern and contemporary poems, and after analyzing how these poems work, you will write your own “imitation” of it, and then, as a class, we’ll “workshop” your “imitation.” Your poem should be accompanied by a two-page prose explanation (a gloss) in which you compare your poem and the original, making note of, among other things, the tone, syntax, language choices, patterning, music, and voice of the original. You are, of course, encouraged to subvert, refute, and play off the poem you choose to imitate, which may include odes, elegies, and persona poems, and other traditional verse forms.



Dean's Seminar Highlights