About UAlberta's Augustana Campus

First Year Seminar Courses

The course titles and descriptions below are being offered in the Fall of 2019.


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 Station.

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, blogs, and First-Person Shooter. Writing in the first person—a prose selfie—can bring illuminating perspective or 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 residential school survivors to this year’s Central American refugees, we will trace our understanding of the self and see how we look at others. Respected Canadian writers working in memoir and the first person will visit in person and by Skype. Primary sources (diaries, letters, and journalism) are fodder for this examination of how the eye (I) looks at the world, and how the world looks back.

Rise of the Machines

Rosanna Heise
“Oh, my goodness! Shut me down! Machines making machines. How perverse!” - C3PO
Self-driving cars. Drones delivering packages to your doorstep. R2D2. Star Trek’s Data. Robots are everywhere, but did you know that the word “robot” was only added to the English language about a century ago? A robot is defined as “a machine resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions automatically” (Oxford English Dictionary), but what happens when the line between human and machine starts to blur? In this course, we will explore issues of gender, morality, law, and socialization related to automation, humanoids, androids, and more. We will use Lego™ robots, movies, stories, newspaper articles, and podcasts to better appreciate what robots are, what they do, and how they impact our world. Students will work in groups to “make” an artificial robot do a task, with the goal of understanding robotic operation. Our goal is to better understand not only what makes a robot, but what makes us human.

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. Also, 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 discuss the historical uses of food and how the food we purchase today is processed, as well as ethical issues regarding food production, consumption, and wastage. Ultimately, the food we eat impacts our ability to grow, move, and enjoy life. This course will use chemical, biological, and sociological perspectives to explore how 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.

Sports Media: From Telegraph to Twitter

Stacy Lorenz
Our experience of modern sport occurs mainly through the sports media. While thousands of fans gather in stadiums and arenas to watch sporting events live, millions of people engage in a mediated “world of sport” by reading newspapers and websites, watching television and movies, listening to radio broadcasts, playing fantasy sports and video games, and interacting through social media. This course examines the institutions, texts, and audiences that shape sports media, historically and in the present. We will begin by exploring how nineteenth-century sports fans followed sport through the daily press and telegraph reconstructions, and assess the changes and continuities that connect this early community of sporting interest to the contemporary world of TV and Twitter. We will also analyze the cultural identities attached to media experiences of sport, as we explore shared meanings associated with mediated sport and their significance in popular experience and collective memory.

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.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

Sean Moore
The topic of sex and sexuality is one of the most thought-provoking, emotionally evocative, and paradoxical topics in all of our lives. It’s something that affects everyone but is seldom talked about in public. Moreover, in 21st century pop culture, sex seems to be everywhere and is instantly available at the swipe of our fingertips. So why do so many sexual myths, misconceptions, and misunderstanding persist? The answer to this question lies in understanding that human sexuality is a complex, multi-faceted topic that is influenced by multiple factors including (but not limited to) our biology, neurochemistry, psychology, socialization, and cultural values. In this course, we will begin by openly talking about human sexuality and identifying gaps in our common understandings of sex. We will then work towards compiling a public document that attempts to dispel common sexual myths and promote positive, healthy sexuality on our campus. Assignments will focus on researching myths/misunderstanding of sexuality and the myth-making process as well as engaging directly with some hotly debated topics pertaining to sex.

Unmasking the Superhero

Rebecca Purc-Stephenson
Most of us can name a superhero—Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Professor X—but can we so easily define what a superhero is or why we are drawn to them? And where did their powers come from? Professor X was born with superpowers, Batman builds his superpowers, and Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider. Origin stories help us understand what makes a superhero “tick” while also allowing us to dissect complex issues such as loss, trauma, and fear. This course begins by tracing the historical roots of superheroes starting from Gilgamesh in 2100 BC to those depicted in modern comic books, graphic novels, or motion pictures. Next, we will examine the origin stories of four superheroes to understand their motivations, values, and conflicts, as well as the broader political, social, and cultural context that shape who they are. This course will conclude by exploring the impact superheroes have on real people such as fans or vigilantes. Students will have an opportunity to research a particular superhero, participate in class discussions, read comics and short articles, and watch and breakdown movies.

Artificial Intelligence: What's The Future?

Sandra Rein

Can computers out-think us? Out-feel us?  Even replace us? This course looks into the world of artificial intelligence to gauge how society is changing and will continue to be changed by technology. We can hardly turn on a TV, stream a video, or read a news story without seeing a reference to AI. It is transforming business, medicine, gaming, manufacturing, and employment opportunities at an astonishing speed—it may even influence elections! But is it all hype? Can AI really follow through on the promises we’ve imposed on it, or is it merely the next big “trendy tech” craze? In this course, students will approach concepts like machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks from a variety of vantage points as we think about ways in which AI is impacting the world around us, and what it might mean for the future of humanity. We will explore its impact on culture, politics, and science, and students will even develop their own chatbots as part of an assignment.


Don’t Hate the Player…or the Game

Jason Taylor
We’ve heard that “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. But why is Jack dull? And what exactly does it mean to play? On the face of it, we all have experience with play: we play games and sports, we play with ideas and words, and some of us even play with emotions. But what is play, and why does it matter? How is play related to games? To sport? And, what does playing—how we play, when we play, where we play, who we play with—reveal about different aspects of our lives? In this course we’ll explore the concept of play in games and sports as we work together to discover how these activities shape our understanding of play. Throughout the course, students will play various active games and sports, and explore a number of different, unique, board games. We’ll look at the significance of play, games, and sport in terms of philosophy, psychology, and sociology and will address related topics including strategy, rules, referees, cheating, how playtime is used to teach and learn, and more.

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.


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 and ends with a murder. 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.