Fall 14 Offerings

The seminars are offered on Webadvisor under UNIV1200.

To learn more about a seminar and its instructor(s), please choose from the menu below or scroll down the page to browse.

Please note: In order to ensure all students have the opportunity to take a seminar, more spaces will be opened at intervals throughout registration. So keep checking. There will be lots of opportunities to register in the seminar that fascinates you.


01 - Sleep: 1/3 of Your Life Spent with Your Eyes Closed

Justine Tishinsky

“I hate it when my foot falls asleep during the day, because it means I’m going to be up all night” – Steven Wright.  We spend 30-35% of our lives asleep.  Some practically fall sleep standing up…others toss and turn all night.  Some sleepwalk, some snore, and we all dream.  Sleep is a restorative process that’s imperative to our health and wellbeing, yet 63% of adults get less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night.  Nevertheless, the process of “going to sleep” is a social and cultural norm.  The longest anyone has ever gone without sleep is a mere 11 days.  This seminar course will focus on the art and science of sleep.  Topics covered will include: contributors to insomnia (stress, caffeine, alcohol, technology, etc.), circadian rhythms and biological clocks, dreams and nightmares, cultural determinants of sleep patterns, sleep disorders (i.e. sleepwalking, etc.), and effectiveness of pharmacological and herbal sleep aids.  Students will have the opportunity to address a research question of their choosing and demonstrate their knowledge in the form of a written paper and oral presentation.  We ask that you remain awake during all classes.

02 - Building a Career, Crafting a Life

Sean Lyons

You have come to university to launch your career. But what does that mean? What is a career? How do you know if you’re on the right path for your personal career? How do you ensure that you will be employable, successful and ultimately satisfied in your career? How do you go about making important choices about your career within the context of your life in general? This course examines careers from an individual perspective, drawing career theory and research, but applied to you as a career actor. You will explore your personal values, interests, personality and competencies and will decide or ensure what career path is right for you. You will examine career and life-stage models that help you to understand the ways that careers typically unfold and the ways that careers have changed in recent decades and how they will look in the future. You will consider what it means to be a member of your specific generation in society and the workplace and how that differs from past generations. You will consider your goals for life and career as a holistic system that helps you to work toward balance in your life. You will also examine practical career development skills, such as professional development, job search and inter-personal communication. The ultimate learning outcomes of this course will be increased self-awareness, understanding of the nature of careers and understanding of the realities of the present and future career landscape.

03 - Games, Decisions and Economic Behavior

Bram Cadsby

How do people make decisions when faced with economic choices? How do those choices interact to produce consequences for small groups or sometimes the entire world? Economists and other social scientists have constructed theories of choice and strategic behavior, often by making simple assumptions about rationality and self-interest. Do people really behave the way such theories predict? An exciting new approach to answering such questions is through behavioral experiments. An economist, Vernon Smith, and a psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, won the 2002 Nobel Prize for pioneering work on these problems. This course uses simple classroom experimental games to search for answers.

Each of the games we play has been used by researchers to examine some aspect of economic behavior. By playing these games, the students themselves create data, which they can then analyze. Students learn to interpret these data, which are often numerical in nature. This promotes thought about the reasons that they and their fellow students acted in a particular manner. It also permits the students to compare their behavior to the predictions of theories produced by social scientists about human behavior in a wide variety of economic situations. They can also compare their own behavior to data previously gathered by social scientists studying such behavior in different populations and contexts.

04 - Thought for Food - Exploring the Connections from Fork to Farm

Mike von Massow

Demand for food is changing. Increasingly consumers are placing value on attributes that include where they buy it, how it is produced and who it is produced by. This seminar explores the value chain that connects the farm gate to the consumer’s plate and why it matters. Understanding the structure and complexity of the relationships throughout the value chain is a first step in improving the performance of the system in bringing products to consumers that create sustainable value. This course will provide students interested in any individual element of the value chain (from primary agriculture to consumer insight and nutrition) a comprehensive foundation in the complete story of food. This is also an opportunity to exchange ideas and hear the perspectives from individuals with experience or interest in different links in the value chain. We will also engage in discussions on key food issues such as food waste, labeling and fat taxes.

05 - The Humanitarian Game

Susan Armstrong-Reid

In 2013, the growing numbers of people dying from the lack of basic health services, or fleeing conflict areas in search for basic human security of food and shelter has been characterized as “dramatic beyond description.” Every year the international community responds to a number of new disasters and complex emergencies, as well as providing on-going assistance to humanitarian crisis, which threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions worldwide. 

More immediately, understanding student leadership opportunities to change lives for a healthier planet is also a critical issue that seminar participants probe together with the goal of developing venues to share their journey with the wider community and future seminar participants. Global humanitarianism has become a “hot topic” over recent decades; it has increasingly become almost become a right of passage for many university students to volunteer overseas. Sadly, these initiatives often amount to little more than “global humanitarian tourism.” Students need opportunities to assess their own motivation, preparedness and as important, their long-range engagement within global civil society to address the issues of social justice and basic human security. 

Accordingly, the course is has been re-envisioned to simulate the journey of a humanitarian worker from his/her decision to volunteer abroad to their post–assignment debriefing recommendations for improving the kaleidoscopic global humanitarian governance system.


06 - Planet of the Plants: Their Friends and Their Foes

Bernard Grodzinski

Current estimates are that the Earth is almost 5 billion years old. On this planet it is the photosynthetic bacteria, the algae and the hundreds of the thousand species of aquatic and land plants that have evolved that support all other living organisms since they possess the unique capacity to trap solar energy and convert that energy into usable chemical forms. How did the physical evolution of the earth affect plant evolution? To what extent did the ascent of plants change the physical nature and geology of this planet? For example, during the development of modern day plants, how was Earth’s atmosphere converted to one that we could breathe and therefore evolve? How do plants influence weather patterns, water cycles, erosion patterns, migration of animals and natural evolution on the planet? The Plant Kingdom comprises many variants of photosynthetic organisms from unicellular aquatic organisms to complex vascular giants such as the red-wood trees that survive for thousands of years. To survive and flourish world-wide plants have developed both direct and indirect relationships with other life forms. Which organisms are friendly and beneficial forming symbiosis and which are with foes and potentially lethal? Why does mankind need plants? Do they need us? During this course through student led research and enquiry and class discussions of written assignments we will explore the questions posed above and assess how plants have set the conditions for the evolution of all life forms, from microbes to man.

07 - Beyond Literacy - Exploring a Post-Literate Future

Mike Ridley

This course will explore the nature of literacy and the possibility of a “post-literate” future.
The rise of literacy (reading and writing) was transformational not only for how we communicate and preserve ideas but also for how we think. However, as a literate people we have difficulty imagining both the oral cultures that preceded us (and still exist in other cultures) as well as the possibility of something beyond literacy.

This course will explore the nature of oral cultures, the transformations enabled by literacy and speculate about the concept of rich human communication beyond traditional literacy (e.g. “post-literacy”) that might evolve from advances in computing, biotechnology or other, as yet unimagined, developments.

Students will examine and enhance their learning skills through a series of assignments and in-class activities. These skills will be applied in the exploration of literacy and the future of literacy as part of research investigations and class discussions. The course focuses on the development of both individual skills and team based learning

The seminar aims to engage students in a way that will significant enhance their success as students as they progress through their program. It will also reinforce the foundations of lifelong learning.

08 - The Politics of Food, from Local to Global

Sarah Elton

Food debate dominates the media, from news headlines to culture and lifestyle programming. Go organic or eat conventional? Local versus long distance? GMOs, food safety and hunger—these polarizing topics consume us. This course delves into the politics of the global food system, parsing the discussion and debate that dominates public discourse and influences social movements, as well as consumer and corporate decision-making in Canada and around the world. Students will develop critical thinking skills and be encouraged to cut through the spin in order to understand, and be able to communicate, the nuance behind the politics of what we eat. Students will also apply what they learn to their personal consumption, undertaking a research project to analyze their own food choices and better understand the place an individual inhabits in the food chain, as well as their environmental footprint—or foodprint.

09 - Enslavement: Past or Current Reality?

Femi Kolapo

Think of the word slave.  Reflect on possible reasons why you might find yourself describing somebody as a slave! Flip the thought process and think of the reasons why you are not a slave! Think further on how it might be possible for a "bad" person to enslave another person today. Round up the thought experiment by considering reasons why you are sure that you cannot be enslaved. Now move on to related political science concepts, like freedom, liberty, equality, democracy; to sociological and legal concepts like  human rights, security of life and property and citizenship; and to economic concepts like choice and economic opportunity  (all on the positive side). Now on the negative side, move on to other set of political and economic concepts like threat, coercion, violence, oppression, exploitation and poverty. Reflecting on how these concepts apply to lived lives of people in the past and today is what the course is largely about. Using case studies (lodged in primary source documents on classical slavery and of particular types of political, legal, social and economic relationships that some people experience in today's modern world), students in the course will explore how the concepts operated (and continue to) operate together in real life to determine the quality of human experiences across the globe. You will determine whether or not and how people in the case studies are or are not entangled in relationships of slavery. Thus, the course will examine evidence and its interpretation that allows participants to respond one way or the other to pronouncement of Kevin Bales, the director of Free the Slave Project, to the effect that there are no less than 27 million enslaved people in the world today, some of them in our modern North American cities, like New York and Toronto.

10 - The Book: From Guttenberg to Gaga to Gone?

Mike Ridley

Is the book really dead? Or is it just resting? Books are both beloved and besieged. They have been transformed over the centuries from Guttenberg's Bible to Gaga's confessional to Amazon's Kindle. What is a book and, if we love them so much, why are they being threatened with extinction? This course will explore the beauty and the power of the book as well as its evolution into some quite new and equally wonderful. We will examine the craft of book making, the art of book writing, the economics of publishing, the politics of authorship, and the power of the reading. From treasures to trash, this course will be all books, all the time. And to make all this more concrete, we'll publish our own book during the semester to document what we think about the future of the book.

11 - Culture Does it Really Matter?

Susan Chuang

When you hear the word, culture, what comes to mind? We all live in a cultural context but the cultural context varies by location like country or neighbourhood, by ethnicity, gender, age, religion, and numerous other factors. We also have multiple cultures such as in families, schools, network of friends, and work, to name a few. While no one class can cover the depths and intricacies of “culture,” this class will focus on ethnic culture to illustrate how culture has influenced every facet of our lives. Many times we don’t realize how culture has impacted the way we communicate with each other. For example, words such as “eh” has been linked to “being Canadian.” Hand gestures can have positive meaning, such as the “V” sign of peace, but depending on whether the palm is facing you or not, it can greatly offend others. Understanding research from various disciplines (e.g., psychology, sociology, family studies, education) and learning how to critique various forms of methodology, students will be critically reflective of culture and societies. A particular focus will be on family dynamics and relationships as students explore their social world using “cultural glasses.” To accomplish these goals, students will be given many opportunities to “think outside of the box” and to challenge traditional modes of thought, use various methods of problem-solving, to be creative and have fun!

12 - The Art of Everything: Exploring the Creative Process

John Cripton

A seminar designed to explore and reflect on the conjunction of the creative process and some of the important aspects of our life experience, through round-table discussions, music and video presentations, and through creative explorations by seminar participants.

During the semester, students will examine aspects of the creative process and discuss how and where ideas originate. Through conversations, first-hand observations, readings, and live presentations by invited guests and the students themselves, participants will be introduced to the effectiveness of innovation and the creative process. Areas to be explored and discussed include the visual arts, music, poetry, theatre, propaganda and the art of the word, the enlightenment and human rights, and innovation and the environment.

13/14 - Sex, Gender and Sexuality

Jacqueline Murray

This enquiry-based seminar provides students with the opportunity to investigate the culture, science and beliefs about sex and sexuality, spanning from ancient to modern times. We will have the opportunity to explore a variety of issues pertaining to human sexuality and come to appreciate the various social, biological and cultural influences that contribute to understanding. We will study 6-8 cases over the semester. In addition, students will be asked to analyze and present a written assessment of a case that has immediate relevance.

15 - Human Right and the Child in Global Politics.

Dustin Ciufo

Human Rights and the Child in Global Politics will provide students with an enquiry-based seminar into global child rights. In the academic study of the child, scholars have largely moved beyond the child as a passive actor and instead are recognizing the child as an active agent. This enlightening academic shift situates the child as person-centred and encourages examination of the child's positionality. This theoretical approach has simultaneously coincided with a rising level of awareness for the human rights of children. With the establishment of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, various global and local actors have sought to foster children's attainment of their rights. However, reaching this objective varies significantly for children across the world. Despite a rise in advocacy for children's rights, countless forces continue to constrain their realization. Therefore, Human Rights and the Child in Global Politics will see students pursue an enquiry-based learning approach into a variety of challenging children's livelihoods. These will include children who labour, live on the street, and are involved in armed conflict to children who migrate, are orphans, and experience humanitarian disasters. By exploring both the child's autonomous actions and the contextual circumstances under which they transpire, this course will provide students with the analytical tools to evaluate how various actors and institutions strive to secure global child rights.

16 - Growing 'The Seed': An Introduction to Collective Community Action

Warren Dodd

There are numerous examples of groups of committed individuals coming together to influence positive social change. Through this course, we will explore both global and local case studies of collective community action and critically consider what the role of both the university and the individual is in these processes. We will then become participants in a local example of collective community action through a partnership with ‘The Seed’ Community Food Hub Committee– a coalition of community members striving to build a centre focused on food provision and distribution that promotes health, access, and advocacy in the city of Guelph. Working with ‘The Seed,’ we will collaborate to develop a project that will benefit this group and help build our understanding of collective community action.

17 - Current Dialogues in Human Rights Law and Policy

Patrick Case

Rights talk pervades our society and, as we know, the discussion tends to get very hot! These are just a few of the issues that are the subject of current discussion in Canada: Can young women who wish to take part in sporting activities be told that they cannot do so because, for religious reasons, they wear head coverings? Can a Sikh man wear a turban instead of a helmet while riding his motorbike? Do university courses have to be altered to take account of students with disabilities? Does a gym have to cover its windows so that young boys, who are members of a religious community occupying the next building, do not see scantily clad women? Can I set up a campus group that excludes queer students? Can employees take time off work so that they may pray? Can people who, for religious reasons, wear head coverings be denied employment in a hair salon? These questions and many more arise in the face of demands for human rights based “accommodation” in our society. In this seminar we will read about and discuss the legal, social and philosophical limits to “accommodation”.

But the problems do not end there. What happens when people who believe that society has gone too far in accommodating the “rights” of others decide to speak their minds about the subject -- can they do so openly? Would speaking their minds result in members of the group that they are discussing experiencing discrimination and what, if anything, can the members of that group do about it? Is the right to speak more important than the right to live in a society free from discriminatory speech?

18 - Corporate social responsibility - part of the solution or part of the problem

Nonita Yap

The notion that business has social responsibilities beyond creating jobs is not new. The Code of King Hammurabi (ca.1700 BCE) imposed penalties, including death, on builders responsible for faulty construction, or farmers whose irrigation facilities malfunctioned, leading to death.

In the 18th century, Robert Owen, who made his fortune in the cotton trade, campaigned to improve the working conditions of factory workers and provide education for the workers’ children. Recently there have been debates on the scope of the social contract, and why and how it ought to be implemented and evaluated. These debates have intensified in the last 20 years with the increase in corporate control in industrialized and industrializing countries. This has been facilitated by trans-national trade and economic agreements and eroding capacity for states to govern the economy and deliver social policy.

This is seen as problematic by many. Others see an opportunity for directing corporations toward social goals through the practice of corporate social responsibility. We will reflect upon these debates and the implications for civil society groups, policy makers, researchers and the business community of the struggle for environmentally sustainable and people-centred economic development.

19 - Changing Nature Photography

Blair Nonnecke

In the last 20 years, cameras have gone from mechanical devices using film to pocket-sized computers with pixels. As a result, photography has been transformed in dramatic ways. This course will investigate the history and technical aspects of photography (from film to digital) and the experience of taking/making photographs (and phlogging), with the goal of understanding and appreciating recent transformations in how we take, store, view and understand/interpret photographs. This will be a hands-on course where exploring the technology and taking photograph will trump the textbook
Students will need to own or have access to a digital camera with the ability to control aperture and shutter speed (preferably a DSLR). In addition,  students will need a card reader and a laptop that can be brought to class.

During the course of the semester, students will be shooting and printing from B&W film. To do so, students will need to join the Photo Arts Club (UC 269) at the beginning of the semester (http://www.uoguelph.ca/~paclub/faq.html). Students will be responsible for buying their own film and printing paper. Having access or owning a 35mm SLR camera is recommended though these can be borrowed from the Photo Arts Club.

20 - Pacifism and Activism

Sue Bennett

Together, we will explore the historical roots and the development of Guelph’s unique culture through an analysis of examples of pacifism and activism on campus by students, faculty and staff. What issues were at cause? Why were they relevant? What were the results of these activities? How did they change life on campus? How has Guelph’s reputation evolved as a result? From archival research to personal interviews, a wide variety of inquiry methods will be used to gather the “DNA” and build a present-day member of the Guelph community. The class will design the research and develop outcomes/application for the investigation. This course is a great way to find out more about your University and how you can be an active part of it.


University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1