About UAlberta's Augustana Campus

First Year Seminar Courses

The course titles and descriptions below are being offered in the Fall semester of 2018.

 

The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters

Brandon Alakas

Each of us is on a journey. Whether we have travelled to Augustana from afar or are a resident of Camrose, each one of us—at one time or another—decided to pursue a university education. Journeys, however, need not involve outward movement; many of the greatest works of literature focus instead on a spiritual or intellectual quest that takes place within the protagonist. Our examination of this theme will be broad as we explore different concepts of the journey within the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Our discussions will focus on such topics as quest narratives in ancient and modern texts, the anthropology of travel and tourism, and the migration of human and nonhuman animals across continents. Our investigations into the phenomenon of the journey will range from reading Harry Potter to visiting the Miquelon Lake Research Centre.   

 

Seminar of the Living Dead

Alex Carpenter  

Zombies are everywhere these days: in movies, television, literature, and graphic novels. Surprisingly, they are also the subject of serious academic study in universities—you can find zombies in the humanities, the sciences, mathematics, and social sciences. In this course, students will examine the history and significance of zombies in contemporary culture through a series of films, guest lectures, readings, research, and creative projects. Zombies are not simply ghoulish cannibals, but rather they serve a wide variety of functions and roles in our world. They are metaphorical vehicles for criticism and satire, allowing us to focus on class, race, and other social issues, and on modern technology and the environment. Zombies feature in contemporary biological models, from bee behavior to management of contagious diseases, and in philosophy and psychology as pseudo-humans, allowing us to speculate the nature of perception and consciousness.  Zombies have their own music, which emphasizes their “uncanny” qualities. But perhaps most importantly, zombies invite us to question our basic assumptions about ourselves: What does it mean to be alive?  What does it mean to be human?

 

First Beer Seminar*

Geoffrey Dipple

“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” – Homer Simpson

Beer and other forms of alcohol have been around almost as long as human civilization. As a result, alcohol is a key component in many kinds of human interaction in a number of societies. Yet, alcohol is also a source of many problems for both individuals and society as a whole. This course examines elements of alcohol use and abuse through the specific example of beer. We will look at the science of fermentation and how the body metabolizes alcohol, as well as investigate the physical, mental, and social consequences of alcohol abuse and addiction. We will also look at the relative rights and responsibilities of the consumers and producers of beer in the context of the need for society to ensure the safest environment possible for its citizens. On an individual level we will reflect on what, how, and why we drink, if we choose to drink, and how these decisions shape our experiences and worldviews.


I, Witness: Memory and the Self

Marina Endicott

Memoir, the act of recording one’s own experience, is as old as cave-paintings and as new as Snapchat and First-Person Shooter. Writing in the first person—a prose selfie—can bring illuminating perspective or can be self-indulgent and sentimental, but pivotal events in human history come down to us in their most vivid versions by eye-witness accounts from people who were there. By writing and reading first-person accounts (in fact and fiction, text and spoken word) ranging from early residential school survivors to this year’s Syrian refugees, we will trace our understanding of the self and examine how we look at others. Respected Canadian writers working in memoir and the first person will visit the class in person and by skype. Primary sources like diaries, letters, historical records, and journalism are fodder for this examination of how the eye looks at the world, and how the world looks back at us.

 

Food for Thought

James Kariuki

Twentieth-Century culinary enthusiast James Beard said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” But what makes food, well, food? This course examines the nutritional value of food and considers its different uses and how it is processed in order  to check the health claims of natural and organic produce. Using analytical chemistry, we will  learn how to determine the energy content of food and consider why the same weight of different foods produce dissimilar amounts of calories. We will also consider the historical uses of food, the choices that individuals make regarding the food they eat, and how the food we purchase today is processed, as well as the ethical issues regarding food production, consumption, and wastage. Ultimately, the food we eat impacts our ability to grow, move, and enjoy life, and this course will use chemical, biological, and sociological perspectives to explore the ways in which you are what you eat.


Horizons of Landscape*

Andrea Korda

Picture a view of outdoor scenery. What comes to mind? Rugged mountains or open fields? Wildflowers or haystacks? In this course, we will examine varying representations of both historical and contemporary landscapes, and also make some of our own landscapes. Engaging with scholarly texts and artistic practices will prompt discussion of how changing technologies and artistic styles influence the concept of landscape, and as a result, our relationships to nature and our surroundings. Students will spend time outdoors in the landscape surrounding the Augustana Campus, and will participate in one field trip to Edmonton to visit art galleries.

 

Protest! Why Bother?

Kim Misfeldt 

What do Malala Yousafzai, Sophie Scholl, Harvey Milk, 2017 NFL players, AVAAZ, and the German pop band The Donots have in common? They are protesters who are trying to change their world. Why did they bother? This course will examine protests in diverse realms, such as education, music, science, architecture, literature and politics. We will look at what the activists are protesting, how they protest, and why, while also examining the role of activism in society and the crucial elements of successful protest movements. We will analyze diverse methods of protest, including the role of the media, and evaluate their effectiveness. The course will feature visits with local activists in Edmonton and Camrose. These topics will force us to confront issues of race, gender, LGBTQ+, religion, politics, etc., while challenging us to examine our own standpoints in respectful conversation with others.


Blunt Forces

Geraint Osborne

Weed, pot, Mary-Jane, grass, ganja, bud, call it what you will, cannabis remains the most widely used illicit drug worldwide, and has been a part of the human experience for centuries. This course begins with studying the cannabis plant itself and understanding its pharmacological properties, followed by a historical analysis of cannabis which examines its use and role in a number of cultures. Our focus will then change to understanding how cannabis use became illegal, how effective the war on drugs has been in reducing drug use, and how such use is shaped by class, race, and gender. Finally, students will "stir the pot" by exploring the harm reduction movement and consider how cannabis is to be regulated as it is decriminalized and legalized in various parts of the world. The course will conclude with a discussion of the business of selling cannabis in a legalized environment.

 

The Low-Down on Getting High  

Brian Rempel                             

The word “drugs” conjures many different images: addiction, abuse, street drugs, crime, medicine, pills, and science, among many others. So what are drugs? What types of drugs are out there? Are drugs “good” or “bad,” or perhaps neither? How are they discovered and then used in society? This course will use ideas from biology, chemistry, pharmacology, physiology, history, and sociology to explore the many roles that drugs play in our individual health and in our society. We will also discuss Canadian law surrounding drug use, and propose improvements for the social framework and use of pharmaceutical drugs. Students will research and present their findings on different classes of drugs and different social contexts for drug use, participate in discussions, and prepare a variety of written works.


Fantastic Cryptids and Where to Find Them

Daniel Sims

Cryptozoology is the sciences of cryptids: creatures not discovered by science and unconfirmed from the wider community. With a roster ranging from the sasquatch to zombies, it is considered a pseudoscience due to the general lack of evidence for any of these creatures. Cryptozoology highlights the divide between the scientific and pseudoscientific methods, with the latter often uncritically accepting “evidence” and making illogical arguments that can never be proven wrong. Beyond looking at it as a science, cryptozoology also preserves folklore, history, and oral traditions. As a result, cryptozoology not only reveals perceptions of the past, but also reveals much about the present. In this course we will examine various cryptids from a number of perspectives ranging from popular fiction, cinema, and traditional academic articles. We will also take field trips to explore concepts of wilderness and the environment, and students will partake in a creative group project where they will attempt to produce their own evidence for a cryptid.


Wolves!: Representations and Realities

Ingrid Urberg

Since ancient times, wolves have served as a source of fascination and inspiration to people and have had a profound impact on the human imagination, as seen in narratives ranging from “Little Red Riding Hood” and werewolf legends to contemporary works of fiction. In this seminar, we will look at representations of wolves in literature, visual art, film, and the popular press, focusing on the ways these images and portrayals intersect with and reflect economic, environmental, and cultural realities and debates. A course highlight will be a visit to a wolfdog sanctuary in Alberta, and during the “World Wolf Forum” at the end of the course, you will be asked to step outside of your cultural context while taking part in a public debate surrounding wolf management and environmental and economic issues. Together, we will reflect on the interplay between these representations and “realities” of wolves while examining their place in a variety of cultures and eras. 

  

Dinosaurs, from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops 

Joseph Wiebe

What’s your favourite dinosaur? Odds are, you have an answer to this question, and even if you don’t know the name of the specific species that you “dig,” a clear image at least comes to mind. Since the “Dinosaur renaissance” in the 1970s, where researchers embarked on a fury of paleontological study focused on dinosaur histories, Western culture has been enraptured by the “terrible lizards” who walked the earth some 66 million years ago. From Godzilla to the Jurassic Park franchise to Disney’s multiple representations of the prehistoric reptiles, dinosaurs seem to have something for everyone. In this course, we will investigate the place of dinosaurs in a number of human frameworks, and will consider their roles in cultural, historical, and scientific capacities. We will travel together to the Royal Tyrell Museum in the Badlands of Alberta to explore paleontological methodologies and histories, and we will also travel to a Creationist museum as we examine the cultural complexities of dinosaurs.  

 

Being Human: From the Bible to Bladerunner

Ian Wilson 

The common English term “human being” implies that to be human is to exist in a certain way. In other words, humans have a way of being. That said, how exactly we, as humans, define this way of being is up for debate. In this course, we will explore possible answers to this question, focusing on materials as diverse as ancient myths, medieval and modern understandings of anatomy and biology, and contemporary works of science fiction. We will examine how different people throughout history have imagined humanity’s place in the world, our relationship with our environment, with the natural and even supernatural, and with technology of our own creation. By thinking on the question of what it means to be human, and how different humans have approached the question over time, we will critically reflect upon life in today’s global world.

 

Murder in the First (Year's) Degree

Shauna Wilton

Murder has the power to both horrify and fascinate us. The deliberate taking of another life is often seen as one of the worst crimes a person can commit. At the same time, murder acts as a window on society, often revealing the nature of violence and authority within a particular culture. As such, the study of murder—from true crime TV, to mystery novels, to CSI, policy and police practice—offers us a way to understand human behaviour, social norms, and social organization. This course begins with a staged murder in the classroom. Students will have to find the murderer before the course ends, using the materials, skills, and perspectives presented in the class to help them understand the crime and the killer.


 

*IDS 201.