Winter 2018 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.

01 - The Road to Chaos

Andrew Skelton

A butterfly flaps its wings and causes a hurricane on the other side of the world. So goes the common metaphor describing Chaos Theory. The idea is that small occurrences can have large, rippling consequences. Complex, sophisticated and beautiful behaviour can arise from simple theories. In this seminar, you will have the opportunity to engage in hands-on exploration of concepts that lead to chaotic behaviour. Develop your own biological population model and investigate the chaos that ensues, design a strategy that will win a game against your classmates, create a shape that exists between one- and two-dimensions, discover why traffic jams move backwards and learn why random doesn't always mean random. We will examine ideas that require no more than a high school mathematics background (we are a calculus-free zone!) but are powerful enough to describe complex real-world phenomena such as weather modelling, economic behaviour, traffic flow, population growth, cryptography, social networking, and much more.

02 - North American Political Campaigns

Robert Routledge

Political campaigns can be surprising, engaging, exhausting, inspiring and all leave their mark on us. Each campaign team starts with a variation on the same goal: have more votes than the people competing with your candidate on Election Day. We are going to practice building the fundamental parts of each campaign, by studying remarkable examples and ultimately developing your own campaign plan. We’ll examine recent campaigns, like those that elected Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau and Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie for lessons that can be applied. Current provincial and municipal leaders will offer their thoughts, as will former White House staff and a variety of veterans from campaigns at each level of Government in Canada and the USA. Regardless of how you enter this seminar, you will leave with a much deeper understanding of how we elect our leaders, and the foundational skills to join any campaign.

03 - Feeding 9 Billion

Shoshanah Jacobs 

Our planet is predicted to host a population of 9 billion people by 2050. There is tremendous urgency to improve food systems if we are to provide nutritious diets for this population in a sustainable and equitable way. Today's food system is in many ways flawed, but these numerous shortcomings simultaneously present opportunities for change and improvement. This offering of the FYS is integrated with a unique senior-level class called Ideas Congress, so first-year students will work in teams with senior students on projects that will improve food security and environmental sustainability. This course is different to other first-year seminars, as it is based on groupwork and collaboration with older students. Working across disciplines, students in this course learn the skills of innovation and social entrepreneurship to develop creative solutions to food security issues, ultimately becoming the next generation of change-makers.

04 - Dark Tourism: An Immoral Promotion of Death & Disaster?

Brent McKenzie

We all will die. But why would we want to travel to experience the morbid and the chilling as a tourist? This is the question that is explored in the study of "Dark tourism". Dark tourism as defined by Sharpley and Stone (2009) is "the act of travel to sites associated with death, suffering and the seemingly macabre". Although not new, in many societies, visiting sites associated with death is, and has been, a considerable part of the tourist experience; as this can be seen with the existence of pilgrimage, one of the earliest forms of tourism. However, the commercial marketing of such locations to encourage tourist visitations is justly debated. The focus of this course is to explore the individual and societal motivations and fascinations with such experiences, as well as to better understand the impact that such tourism has on country and city image. This first year interdisciplinary seminar intends to expose the student to both domestic and international sites of "Dark tourism". The expectation is that the student will learn how to frame examinations of a controversial phenomenon in an objective and critical fashion.

05 - Authenticity in a Plastic World

Marion Joppe

Claims of ‘authenticity’ are popping up everywhere, from barbeque sauce to cultural experiences, yet our world is becoming ever more artificial as technology allows for the construction of ski hills in the desert and the virtual world is more real to some than the one in which we live. This course will explore the concept of ‘authenticity’ in its various forms, the notions of commoditization and conservation, and guide students through reflections on the ‘Other’.

06 - Varsity athletics: Cost, culture and consequence

Jason Dodd and Clarke Mathany

This course will explore the impact of intercollegiate varsity athletic programs on colleges and universities within Canada, the United States of America, and globally. Students will debate the financial, cultural and ethical impact of varsity athletic programs while exploring how athletics can enhance or hinder the development of the student-athlete.

07 - Becoming a 21st Century Learner

Robin Bergart & Melanie Parlette-Stewart

You've been in school for 12 years, but how well do you know yourself as a learner? This course gives you the opportunity to take a step back from the frenetic pace of the first year of university and reflect on what you are learning and how you learn best. You will develop an "autoethnography" (writing that puts your personal experience into a wider cultural context) to discover what learning at university means for you, as well as for other members of the university community, including other students, your professors, and staff on campus. You will also experiment with different ways of expressing ideas, including digital storytelling, posters, and mind maps.

08 - Games, Decisions and Economic Behaviour

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 behavioural 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. Some of the games are played on computers. Thus it is necessary that each student have a laptop computer or other device (e.g. a "smart" phone) that can connect to the university's wireless network. Each of the games we play has been used by researchers to examine some aspect of economic behaviour. 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 behaviour 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.

09 - Diversity, Health and the Search for Hope

Barry Praamsma-Townshend


What does it mean to be connected to an equity-seeking group, and how does this affect our experiences of sickness and health? Is the science we use to diagnose and treat people different when the people needing help are outsiders or have less influence in society? How do we find hope when faced with the slow and painful process of "death by a thousand cuts"? This course examines the intersection of science, history, politics and the lives of real people as it relates to health care and diversity. We will consider many professions that work in the health care system ranging from doctors to social workers, as well as those who influence it, such as politicians, lobby groups, academics and the public. Seminar discussions will be based on a group process that analyzes and explores a series of six to eight cases. Each scenario is designed to inspire curiosity, challenge assumptions and provide a foundation for students to direct their own learning.

10 - Diversity, Health and the Search for Hope

Barry Praamsma-Townshend


What does it mean to be connected to an equity-seeking group, and how does this affect our experiences of sickness and health? Is the science we use to diagnose and treat people different when the people needing help are outsiders or have less influence in society? How do we find hope when faced with the slow and painful process of "death by a thousand cuts"? This course examines the intersection of science, history, politics and the lives of real people as it relates to health care and diversity. We will consider many professions that work in the health care system ranging from doctors to social workers, as well as those who influence it, such as politicians, lobby groups, academics and the public. Seminar discussions will be based on a group process that analyzes and explores a series of six to eight cases. Each scenario is designed to inspire curiosity, challenge assumptions and provide a foundation for students to direct their own learning.

11 - Art in the 21st Century 

Janet Wolstenholme

What is, should, or should not be, considered art in the 21st century? In this seminar all forms of traditional and contemporary art and various forms thereof will be examined. From religious roots to the avant-garde, art has been able to cross boundaries and influence moral and ethical belief systems. Imagery has been able to convey a “thousand words” in one picture or take viewers to another realm. Learners will explore personal and cultural meanings and use of art. As well learners will consider and the role and function of creativity over time, in today’s society and what it could look like in the future.  We will learn in a collaborative environment using an enquiry based pedagogy and reflective practice. 

12 – Healthy Communities

Dale Lackeyram

The term health and the state of being healthy have taken on a variety of complex definitions over the years. The World Health Organization has described health in the following ways over the years:

  • Medically, health can be "...the absence of disease and the presence of high levels of function (biological)"
  • Holistically, health can be viewed as "...a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
  • From a wellness perspective, health can be viewed as "The extent to which an individual or group is able to realize aspirations and satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment. Health is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living; it is a positive concept, emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities.

13 - Stupidity and Critical Thinking

Jodie Salter

Who defines what constitutes “stupidity”? Can we even define it? In this seminar, we will critique the concept of stupidity and explore its relationship to popular culture. Looking at diverse forms of media (e.g., movies, literature, YouTube videos, TEDtalks, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), we will analyze how images and language work in different ways to influence how we make sense of information. This knowledge informs how we view commercials, read newspapers, tell our personal stories, develop our arguments, and convince others of our own perspectives.This seminar teaches critical thinking, one of the main requirements for all university students and a necessity for an ethical global citizenship. Through a process of identifying and assessing the informational biases we encounter every day in school, our jobs, and the media, students will gain critical perspectives on the relationships between media, power, truth, and language.  By investigating different modes of communication, such as Twitter versus Instagram versus a Shakespearean sonnet, we will discuss the inherent complexities in visual and written communication, the necessity for contextualization, and the implications of inaccessible language. Students will learn strategies for developing effective questioning skills to help them read more critically, write more persuasively, and argue more effectively. 

14 - Epic Fail: Reinventing Perspectives on Failure

Victoria Fritz and Jackie Hamilton

We've all been there. That sinking feeling in your stomach you get when you're wrong. It's the feeling you get when you try your hardest only to come up short and realize you've failed. But what does it actually mean when you “fail” at something? This course will explore the definition of failure, popular examples of failure in the media, examine leaders who have failed, and dive into your own personal experiences. By engaging in reflections, class discussions, and exploring examples of failure, this course will provide you with a re-invented perspective on what it means to fail and help you turn mistakes into new opportunities. Additionally, by engaging with the course through an experiential framework, students will break down the emotional components of dealing with failure and build a growth mindset to help them in their university experience.

15 - 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.

16 - Exploring the Creative Process 

John Cripton

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 and how artists and other disciplines use the creative process to expand the unique aspects of their work. 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.  Each session is a discussion focusing on a separate subject requiring the discovery of alternate solutions – such subjects as Human Rights, Music, The Enlightenment, Education, etc. Students are asked to read specific documents and be ready to debate their impressions during seminar sessions. Students will be asked to personally experience the writing of poetry or a song (including lyrics and music) and participate in life-drawing, an orchestra concert, improv, slam poetry session, and meetings with various specialists in the arts and science as well as excursions to galleries and cinema. Every opportunity will be made for members of the class to learn how to participate in class discussions and how to be forceful and effective in their presentations. Individual class projects will be required and presented in unusual but effective ways.

17 - How to do Good in Communities: the Case of Energy Transitions

Abhilash Kantamneni

How can students and researchers meaningfully participate in their local communities to support positive change? This course will grapple with the thought and practice behind this question. The particular ‘positive change’ that we will explore throughout the course is the transition toward a sustainable energy future. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing global society. Meeting the energy challenges of the future requires more than just innovative technology from major corporations and supportive policy from our national governments. Long term sustainability requires individual and community‐level changes, rooted in new shared norms and expectations that underpin how we consume energy. Students will research, collaborate and practice strategies for reducing their individual energy use. They will bring this knowledge into partnerships with community based organizations to engage in two experiential learning opportunities. Finally, students will design and deliver a presentation of their findings at a community event organized in partnership with the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute. Working in collaboration with the instructor, students will describe how the personal insights and theories they learned in the first part of the course are bearing out in the actions and frustrations experienced by these community organizations. 

18 - Apocalypse: Then and Now

Margo Beckmann

Apocalyptic themes have continued to emerge in times of crisis. These themes change, adapt and evolve to suit the particular moment of history. The original religious significance has eroded over time but secularized versions of the genre continue to thrill audiences. The urgent need to address the problems facing our planet as a result of rampant consumerism, war, violence and ecological disasters in various forms resonate in literature, music, art, comic books, games, and film motifs of the past and present. This course will examine common elements of the apocalyptic genre through a multi-disciplinary, student-centred approach. A thorough understanding of how apocalyptic imagery enters into political and social discourse through the arts of various cultures will be examined in its original form, as crisis literature intended – contrary to popular opinion – as a means of bringing hope to the voiceless masses who suffer in a world gone mad. Rather than “end of the world” themes, the focus of the genre is intended to offer hope beyond a “cosmic clean-up” that will restore balance and usher in a new world of peace and perfection.

19 - Jamaica’s Impact on Community 

Jason Wilson

Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae facilitated a cultural dialogue between Jamaican migrant and the host community in urban centres such as London, Birmingham and Toronto. These musics united migrant and host across the ethnic frontlines of these big urban centres and often bridged black and white youth together in an ‘oppositional’ and musical movement. Ska, rocksteady and reggae provided the soundtrack to this social and political process and soon became part of the musical vernacular in Britain and Canada as evidenced in UK bands such as the Clash, The Specials, Aswad and UB40 and in Canadian bands such as The Sattalites and Messenjah. In this course, we will review the evolution of Jamaica’s popular musics and how these had been informed by African and European traditions over the course of two centuries. We will read and hear texts of songs and anthems that resulted from these frontline collisions between Jamaican migrants and members of the respective host communities during the second half of the twentieth century. We will review the important socio-political consequences that these musics may have caused or addressed. We will also review some of the keynote sounds of these musics, in some cases, live from some of the original artists themselves. Apart from the written component, you will have an opportunity to produce a creative project that could include, among other things, a musical performance, a spoken-word piece or a radio show. Ultimately, you will witness how the impact of this contact between communities transcended a shared affection for music and engendered a vital intercultural dialogue.  

20 - Why Do People Believe in Weird Things 

Ian Newby-Clark

Why do some people believe that aliens abducted them? Are the “abductees” simply fantasy-prone? Why do some people believe that the dead can communicate with the living, or that the movements of the stars influence human behaviour? Is it just "wishful thinking?" The science of psychology has good answers to these questions. Each class, we will take on an extraordinary claim. We will evaluate the evidence for and against the claim and, more important, we will come up with a psychology-based explanation for why people believe the claim.

21 - I Fought the Law

Elliott Allen


Our criminal and family courts are being asked to deal with major issues of public policy relating to the rights of individuals in their dealings with the state. In this Enquiry Based seminar students will work collaboratively to explore scenarios based on current legal dilemmas. Using a multidisciplinary approach, the histories, current tensions and possible resolutions of conflicts in such areas as child welfare, drug use, political activism, racial profiling and prisoners’ rights will be examined.

22 - Sleep: 1/3 of Your Life 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.

23 - What should be done about global inequality?

Louise Grogan

This course will employ two recent, popular current affairs books, `` The Globalization of Inequality'' (Francois Bourgignon, 2015) and ``Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization'' (Branko Milanovic, 2016) to discuss key ideas about the recent evolution of living standards and inequality in the world. The goal will be to employ a multidisciplinary approach to understanding how globalization and political systems can influence inequality. We will discuss how socioeconomic outcomes within and across countries can be related to changes in trade, natural resource prices, wars and migration. Examples from recent growth in China and India, and from long historical periods of rising living standards in Europe will be discussed. The relative merits of different policies aimed at mitigating inequality will be debated, as well as the potential implications of government inaction.

24 - How Will We Eat on Mars?

Mike Dixon

Canada currently leads the world in research and technology development devoted to “biological life support” for humans on long duration space exploration missions. Students will be exposed to the broad scope of research activities and infrastructure at Guelph's Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility which represents Canada's main contribution to this field internationally. Discussions will focus on the technical, social and political challenges faced by space explorers and how the solutions relate to knowledge and technology transfer to Earth-based problems in issues from the environment to the economy.

26 - Exploring Expression Though Graffiti 

Amanda Hooykaas

While some see graffiti as a form of art, others see it as an indication of criminal activity. Extending beyond spray bombs, we explore the various ways in which informal public art aims to stake claims on a landscape. Guerrilla knitting, shoe trees, messages in bathroom stalls, and hikers’ inukshuks can all be forms of this expression and the motivation behind the message itself can vary as well. Course goals include: 1) understanding graffiti and other informal public art as social phenomenon with great diversity; and 2) gaining research design skills, exploring "forensic" ethnographic methods, and honing skills in observing nuances in expressive social culture. We will focus our work on the City of Guelph.

27 - Human Rights in Educational Context 

Jane Ngobia

Human rights affect everyone. This course examines human rights in an educational context with emphasis on university setting. Students will analyze human rights from a social, philosophical and legal perspective through the exploration of prohibited grounds, hate incidents, social media, accommodation and conflict resolution. The course uses interactive dialogue, case work, group activity and class presentations.  Students will explore individual, group and intersecting rights; gain an appreciation for university programs and procedures; and learn the fine line between having fun and violating ones human rights hence harassing or discriminating.

28 – Home

Robert Enright

Almost every person in the world has an idea about what "home" is. It may be a real or an imagined place, a place we have left, one that has been taken away from us, or one that we have been forced to abandon. In its traditional form, a home is the space where we have felt protected, secure and cared for. But tens of millions of people have never had a place they could call home; they are exiles and refugees, the world's homeless. In this seminar we will inquire into the complex idea of what home means and our tools to help us in that inquiry will include everything from the novel to reports from the United Nations on refugees, from pop lyrics to documentary film, from theatre to architecture, and from paintings to poetry. It will be a seminar of lookings and readings and conversations. The questions we ask about home will take us into art and psychology and ethics and politics (so what is the connection between a safe home and homeland security?). Open the door to "home" and you'll be amazed at what you find there. When Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, was asked the name of his hometown, he said "the world." We will be bringing that world into our seminar room.

29 – "You be the Judge"

Raphi Steiner

This course is designed for students who enjoy problem-solving, the give-and-take of thoughtful discussion, and the use of logic and creativity to work their way through challenging ethical dilemmas. “You Be the Judge” takes real life cases and encourages students to grapple with the facts in order to arrive at solutions, then compares the civil and Jewish law’s view on each case. This course will also expose students to the mind-blowing roller coaster of Talmud study. No prior knowledge of Jewish or civil law is necessary. There are no prerequisites other than an open mind.