Fall 2011

01 - Prospects and Perspectives: Exploring the Idea of Sustainable Development
02 - Games, Decisions and Economic Behaviour
03 - Why Do People Believe Weird Things?
04 - Rags Seldom Turn to Riches
05/06 - Sex, Gender and Sexuality: From Plato to Websurfers
07 - Beyond Literacy: Are Reading and Writing Doomed?
08 - Freedom and Power: Four Decisive Moments in Philosophy, Politics and History
09 - Making a Difference in the World: Communicating Effectively for Change
10 - Should We Be Told What to Eat?
11/12 - Sex, Gender and Sexuality
13 - How and What Will We Eat On Mars?
14 - Transforming Calculus to cAlculus
15 - Global Perspectives--Local Opportunities for Impact
16/17 - Confronting Cultural Dilemmas


01 Prospects and Perspectives: Exploring the Idea of Sustainable Development

Al Lauzon

The concept of sustainable development was first popularized in the World Commission on the Environment and Development’s report Our Common Future published in 1987. Since that time the concept of sustainable development has come to mean many different things to different people. In fact, some critics argue that there are so many meanings attributed to the concept of sustainable development that it has become virtually meaningless. This seminar, through exploring some of the dominant sustainable development perspectives and their associated practices, will attempt to answer the following question: is sustainable development a useful idea and can it be used to organize human activity that respects the limits of the planet while ensuring equity among the earth’s peoples?

02 Games, Decisions and Economic Behaviour

C. 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 seminar 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.  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.

03 Why Do People Believe 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. Through provocative readings, lectures, demonstrations, discussions, and a field trip, you will learn how common errors in thinking and remembering can lead to beliefs in the improbable and impossible. Along the way, the methods of pranksters, pseudoscientists, and scam artists will be revealed.

04 Rags Seldom Turn to Riches

Michael Nightingale

This first year interdisciplinary seminar is designed to give students an introduction to the nature of poverty in developing countries from several perspectives including: political; economic; and social.  Students will explore: poverty within and between developing countries, differing opinions on why gaps exist between rich and poor nations; and whether poverty can be made history.  During the semester students will complete a group study project on a particular topic (e.g. conflict, gender or environment), or a particular location (e.g. country in Africa, Asia or South America).   The seminar aims to engage students in a way that will significantly enhance both students’ study skills and a love for learning.

05/06 Sex, Gender and Sexuality: From Plato to Websurfers

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 choose a short article to review and provide a written report for evaluation.

07 Beyond Literacy: Are Reading and Writing Doomed?

Michael Ridley

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 seminar 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.

08 Freedom and Power: Four Decisive Moments in Philosophy, Politics and History

John Russon

The drama of history and the drama of ideas are mutually enlivening.  The seminar will couple the study of philosophy and the study of history through consideration of four key moments in history, in which major developments in world history were inaugurated.  We will learn the exciting stories of four individuals and study historical and philosophical writings pertinent to the cultural revolutions they inaugurated.  (1) We will consider first the life of Siddhatta Gotama, the Buddha, and the rise of Buddhism in India around 500 BC.  This will provide the context for our study of important sayings of the Buddha, and some traditional Indian philosophy.  (2) We will then turn to consider Caesar's overthrow of the Roman Republic in 49 BC.  This will provide the context for our study of the historical and political writings of Livy and the philosophical writings of Cicero.  (3) We will turn next to Prophet Mohammad's inauguration of the religion and culture of Islam in the early 600s AD.  We will study themes of history and politics from the writings of the Islamic philosopher of history Ibn Khaldun.  (4) We will conclude with Vasco da Gama's establishing of the Portuguese naval trade with India, and the launch of European colonialism in Asia around 1500 AD.  This will provide the context for a study of the economics and politics of modernity through the writings of John Locke and Karl Marx.  This seminar will serve as an historical introduction to the discipline of philosophy, and also to philosophical reflection on a number of major events in world history.  It will also offer an introduction to a number of the major philosophical, historical, and cultural themes essential to understanding the contemporary world.

09 Making a Difference in the World: Communicating Effectively for Change

Brenda Whiteside

Making a difference in the world, be it through innovation, advocacy, policy making, or grass roots movements is a laudable goal, but does not happen easily or come naturally to most. History provides for us examples of individuals and groups that have made a significant impact on the world - both positive and negative. While these men and women represent a range of diverse backgrounds and leadership styles, and utilized a range of tools to engage change, there are some commonalities we can readily identify. All were effective communicators. They all had a clear focus, a strong commitment, and passion. They were all confident in themselves, and possessed a strong ability to motivate others toward a common purpose. This seminar will utilize the leadership for social change framework as a means to explore the important inter-relationship between the individual, teams, and the community or society-at-large, in any change process.  We will also examine the barriers to positive change.  

The seminar will begin at the heart of all change initiatives with an exploration of self... what are your strengths and challenges? What do you bring to any group effort? What barriers do you encounter? How can you maximize all talents and abilities within your group to reach an outcome that is desired by all? We will cover topics such as self-awareness, the foundations of effective communication and, specifically, non-verbal, verbal, inter-cultural and group communication. We will learn about the fundamentals of team development, and strategies for collaboration, dealing with conflict, and reaching a common purpose

Weekly assignments and projects will serve as vehicles for applying the theoretical material that you are investigating. Since collaboration is critical to change, each student will be assigned to a group in the first class and will work closely and regularly with that group throughout the seminar.

10 Should We Be Told What to Eat?

Peter Purslow

We hear a lot about what we should, or should not, be eating. From health claims to factory farms, probiotics to trans-fats, production ethics to additives, there is a lot of concern about what we eat, how much we eat, and the way we produce, package and process it. Much of the concern comes from conflicting opinions and advice, partly because there are vested interests at play.  In the media, food scares and health warnings are common – but then again, nothing sells like bad news. Everyone is a consumer, and the average consumer finds it difficult to find balanced and consistent information. 

This seminar encourages students to examine the choices we have in the food that we buy and feed to our families and how it is produced. We will visit a local supermarket to see how marketing pressures and practices affect food choice at retail.  Through interactive discussion and self-directed research, the main part of the course will examine a series of topics.

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11/12 Sex, Gender and Sexuality

Dr. Alastair Summerlee

This seminar will provide a thematic approach to the investigation of the culture, science and beliefs about sex and sexuality, spanning from ancient to modern times. The seminar is intended to provide research and communication skills to be able to debate, analyze critically, and respect diversity of opinion about the arts and science of sex, gender and sexuality.

The seminar will involve the study of a series of problems which will be made available each week. There will be six to eight problems discussed during the semester and at least one special presentation in the middle of the semester.

13 How and What Will We Eat On Mars?

Mike Dixon

Extended human missions to the moon or Mars will require efficient technologies for crew life support. It is generally accepted that as mission duration increases and crews spend longer periods away from low-earth orbit, a higher degree of mission autonomy is desirable since re-supply of life support elements from Earth becomes prohibitively expensive. Bioregenerative approaches to life support can harness the contributions of higher plants, micro-organisms, fungi and perhaps insects and other animals to provide food, recycled water and air revitalization (CO2 scrubbing and O2 production). For short duration missions, air-revitalization may be accomplished with physico-chemical scrubbing of CO 2 from the atmosphere and food may be pre-packaged and shipped to crew members. For longer duration missions, the significance of the biological component of the life support system increases and the efficient recycling of gases and minerals among compartments of the bio-regenerative loop becomes essential to the sustainability of the mission.

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 the UoG's Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility which represents Canada's main contribution to this field internationally. Discussions will focus on the technical 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. Students will prepare position papers and seminar presentations on relevant topics.

14 Transforming Calculus to cAlculus

Jack Weiner

Did you find your high school calculus course difficult or challenging? Does your program require Honours Calculus 1 (Math 1200)? This special First-Year Seminar was designed with you in mind. By agreeing to follow specially designed learning strategies, we believe that you can raise your calculus grade. This seminar employs technological innovations that can enhance your understanding and mastery of the material. By adopting the recommended strategies and engaging with the resources, including signing a learning contract, students will be on the road to success. The syllabus will parallel the Calculus I curriculum and the seminar will earn you a MATH*1200 equivalent credit. Access to this seminar will be dependent on your performance in Grade 12 Calculus.  Instructor consent is required to add this seminar. Please contact the instructor, Jack Weiner (jweiner@uoguelph.ca ), for more information.

15 Global Perspectives--Local Opportunities for Impact

Kevin Hall

An increasingly globalized world is upon us and people in Guelph, both on campus and off, are undertaking innovative and groundbreaking work that improves lives all over the globe. This seminar examines opportunities available to students, during their time on campus and in their future careers, to make a positive contribution to the world through international development. Drawing from a variety of disciplines and guest speakers, the aim of the seminar is to introduce students to a wide variety of local options related to global engagement, through local non-profits, campus groups, academic research and professional career paths. Students will gain an understanding of the boundless local opportunities for global engagement, by examining local initiatives related to social entrepreneurship, private enterprise, academia and the non-profit sector. Through community engaged learning, collaborative student research projects will investigate a variety of models for action, allowing students to set a path of personal discovery and development that opens doors, on campus and in the community, to serve their academic and career interests.

16/17 Confronting Cultural Dilemmas

Jacqueline Murray

This enquiry-based seminar provides students with the opportunity to examine a variety of perplexing issues that emerge as a consequence of humans being creatures that by nature live in communities. The development of communities and cultures has meant humanity has developed images of itself, and the cultures and societies it has created, We will have the opportunity to study questions pertaining to race, ethnicity, and diversity, and to explore the boundaries of ethical frameworks, cultural toleration and human identity. The role that media, and indeed of language itself, plays in holding together or tearing apart communities, both fragile and robust, throughout history and across the world, will allow us to better understand the challenges of communication within and across cultures.