Winter 2008

01 Beyond Literacy: Are Reading and Writing Doomed?

02 Games, Decisions and Economic Behaviour

03 Forbidden Knowledge and Dangerous Ideas

04 Making Poverty History

07 Food as Medicine

08 Science, The Media and Society

09 Immunity and Health

10 The Future of Biotechnology

11 Martian Gardens: Engineering Ecosystems to Support Human Exploration of the Solar System

12 Evolution of Dietary Habits in France and French North America

13 The Student Philanthropy Project: Identifying Under-Recognized People and Projects That Have the Potential to Alleviate Global Hunger and Poverty

16 Personal and Literary Narratives of Fetal-Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

17 Fight the Power? Law and Social Activism

19 Citizens Today, Leaders Tomorrow

20 Politics, Science and the Environment

21 Culture, Language and Media

22 Rumpelstiltskin: Can Rags Be Turned Into Riches?

23 Water: The Essence of Life

 

01 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 a 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.
 

02 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 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.
 

03 Forbidden Knowledge and Dangerous Ideas

Nancy Schmidt and Mary Wilson

Galileo’s universe, Darwinian evolution, gender equality, reproductive technology, religious freedom, lesbian/gay/bi-/transgender sexuality, and peer-to-peer Internet file sharing – some discoveries and ideas have been considered so threatening, so revolutionary or subversive that they have been met with opposition and resistance in the form of banning, destruction, censorship, and silencing. Authors and proponents of forbidden knowledge have suffered death, imprisonment, exile, and social isolation as a result of publicly revealing their convictions. But what is dangerous to one person or segment of society may in fact be liberating or a “truth” to another.

Through readings, case studies and films we will investigate critically why some ideas are deemed to be too dangerous for unfettered public distribution and the processes by which knowledge has been and continues to be controlled. Emphasis will be placed upon the development of critical thinking, writing, analysis, and library research skills.
 

04 Making Poverty History

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 environmental. Students will explore poverty within and between developing countries, 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 the poverty in a particular 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 love for learning.
 

07 Food as Medicine

William Bettger

This class explores the potential role of functional foods in the Canadian health care system. These newly developed food products, when used in conjunction with a prudently selected diet and physical activity program, are proposed to enhance health by decreasing the risk of chronic degenerative diseases and by increasing performance in several dimensions. This class will encourage students to explore the health status of their family and friends, and ultimately of themselves, in this light.
 

08 Science, The Media and Society

Michael Emes

This seminar programme will explore the skills which are involved in communicating science effectively. Students will examine different modes of communicating scientific ideas, which will also be illustrated by examples of good and poor practice and using both the technical and popular media. The impact of communication on the way we perceive scientific issues and the acceptance of new technologies in society will be explored, using suitable examples for discussion, such as genetic modification. Students will be involved in individual and group-based learning projects in developing their own skills. To facilitate small group activities, the seminar group will be sub-divided into two, and activities will be scheduled as 90 minute sessions. The two groups will come together at times to share their ideas in an interactive forum.
The goal of this seminar series is to recognize the importance of communication skills and to develop and enhance each student’s capabilities in the context of scientific issues. I hope we have a lot of fun, uncovering, fostering and developing our innate investigative and communication skills in a challenging environment.
 

09 Immunity and Health

Azad Kaushik

The course would involve independent self-directed learning on contemporary   topics related to 'Immunity and Health'. Such topics may include current issues affecting the community at large concerning immune system and health in humans and across species. These may include emerging infections, disease prevention through immunizations and scientific advances. This may involve historical perspectives or major scientific advances in the field, e.g., research resulting in award of Nobel Prize. The students will meet once every week for a seminar or discussions on a topic. The grade will be evaluated through seminar presentation and a term paper.
 

10 The Future of Biotechnology

Stephen Rothstein

The extraordinary increase in knowledge generated by researchers working in the field of molecular biology has generated a revolution in our understanding of many biological processes.  At the same time it has led to the development of a large and diverse biotechnology industry that has arisen to use this knowledge to produce a large variety of products.  These include: the production of pharmaceutical proteins; the use of genetically modified agricultural plants and animals; the production of industrial chemicals and enzymes; the use of DNA data for forensic or other purposes.  Some of these applications have engendered little public discussion, while others like the use of genetically modified crop plants has led to a very vigorous debate. In this course, there will be a discussion of about the present and potential future products of the biotechnology industry and the ethical, environmental and economic issues that arise from their use.

11 Martian Gardens: Engineering Ecosystems to Support Human Exploration of the Solar System

Geoffrey Waters

When humankind begins the colonization of the moon or Mars, we will be bringing along more of Earth than one might think. A number of space and government agencies around the world, including researchers at the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, University of Guelph, are involved in the design and engineering of self-contained ecosystems based on Earthly biological processes. These processes can be harnessed, with complementary physical and chemical technologies to support human life (food production, air revitalization, psychology) in the hostile conditions of space.

Using a problem based learning approach, students registered in this seminar  course will study a variety of international projects devoted life support systems development including those of the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency and NASA. Students will rely on each other’s interdisciplinary background to design a Martian habitat and life support system that is sustainable, while meeting the challenges of keeping crew happy in a sealed environment. The political issues associated with human space exploration and the ethical questions it arises will be tackled using a variety of group discussions, presentations and debates.

The course instructors highly encourage enrolment from students with backgrounds and interest in a variety of disciplines including the life and physical sciences, the social sciences and engineering.
 

12 Evolution of Dietary Habits in France and French North America

Dominique Bureau

Most French Canadians can trace back their roots to France but their dietary habits are in stark contrast with those of their French cousins. Why did the dietary habits of these two people evolved to be so different and what is at the origin of the “rapprochement” between these two cultures over the past 40 years?

In this course, we will reflect on the evolution of dietary habits in France and Canada. Information, and inspiration, will be drawn from a variety of resources (historical documents, scientific papers, popular press, internet, television, etc.). Small groups will be invited to develop a theme and present their findings in class. 
Functional knowledge of French will be required for this course.
 

13 The Student Philanthropy Project: Identifying Under-Recognized People and Projects That Have the Potential to Alleviate Global Hunger and Poverty

Manish Raizada

The world still contains 800 million chronically malnourished people and >2 billion people who live in poverty. In this course, students will explore the underlying political, economic, medical, environmental and agricultural causes of hunger and rural poverty, particularly in Africa. But the purpose of the course will be to identify practical, inexpensive, creative solutions. Students will pretend that they are sitting on the Funding Board of the Gates Foundation: our mission will be to search the world for under-recognized projects, organizations and creative people who have solutions to ending poverty and hunger, but who are currently underfunded. We will nominate, then debate, think critically, practically and creatively. We will consider projects from any relevant discipline including engineering, agriculture, medicine, economics, environmental science and governance. We will attempt to find social, business and scientific entrepreneurs. At the end of the course, we will submit a report of our most worthy nominees to the Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Omidyar Foundation, and the Google Foundation to help bring attention to these deserving projects and individuals.
 

16 Personal and Literary Narratives of Fetal-Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Helen Hoy

Because of exposure to alcohol in utero, at least one in every one hundred Canadians suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or FASD, many undiagnosed. FASD is one of the rare disorders that is completely preventable. Along with physical damage, the exposure can produce significant cognitive, neurological, and behavioural difficulties for individuals and, by extension, challenges for the larger society. This course will examine the medical, social, and personal implications of this disorder. Beginning with Bonnie Buxton’s Damaged Angels and moving on to texts such as Teetl’it Gwich’in Robert Alexie’s Porcupines and China Dolls, we will explore the issues raised by this phenomenon, from mothers’ rights to prevention to classroom strategies to First Nations issues. The course may include opportunities to connect with community members experienced in this area and to engage in social activism around the disorder.
 

17 Fight the Power? Law and Social Activism

Philip Zachariah

This first year seminar is designed to offer students practical insights into the use of activism as a means of social change.  It is aimed at students who want to change the world, but are not quite sure how, or what that might mean.  The purpose of the course is to examine the possibilities, as well as limitations, that different kinds of community action can have. In so doing, the goal is to give students a critical foundation upon which to build a career of “making the world a better place”.  Students will gain theoretical knowledge, through readings, class discussions, and other exercises.  This knowledge will be used to complete a semester project that will involve practical work with other community agencies.
 

19 Citizens Today, Leaders Tomorrow

Laurie Schnarr

Nelson Mandela, Nellie McClung, Stephen Lewis, Craig Kielburger, Mother Teresa and Louis Riel.... Our history is replete with examples of exceptional people whose courage and tenacity resulted in transformative and enduring social change. But are such acts of leadership the purview of only the most high profile, outspoken or gifted among us? This seminar will explore various manifestations of leadership and civic engagement – from volunteerism through to voting, and grassroots movements to alternative politics – and the factors that prevent or promote active participation in civic life.

This is a course in action. We will explore citizenship and leadership themes by investigating local, national and global issues of social significance. An integrated service experience, class discussions, regular analysis of mass media coverage, a diverse range of guest speakers, and social observation will ground our investigation of this complex topic.
 

20 Politics, Science and the Environment

Alastair Summerlee

This course will provide a thematic approach to the investigation of the way that societies deal with environmental issues facing the world. It is expected to raise as many questions about the way we develop and use policy at the national and international level, as it will provide answers.

The course is intended to provide research and communication skills to be able to debate, analyze critically, and respect diversity of opinion about the environment and the ways that societies have chosen to respond to some of the challenges facing the world.
 

21 Culture, Language and Media

Jacqueline Murray

This enquiry problem-based course will focus on images that humanity has constructed of itself or created around culture and society. This will be an opportunity to study questions pertaining to race, ethnicity and  diversity. It will explore the boundaries of human identity, cultural toleration and the use and abuse of language and the media, and the role that communication plays in holding together or tearing apart fragile or robust communities throughout history and across the world.
 

22 Rumpelstiltskin: Can Rags Be Turned Into Riches?

Barry Townshend

This first year seminar is designed to explore the nature of inequality and poverty with an emphasis on the Canadian context, and to explore opinions on why gaps exist between the rich and the poor. Students will explore poverty from different perspectives: historical, political, economic, and social; compare opinions on why gaps exist between rich and poor and compare how poverty is described in literature, film and popular media. The impact of poverty on individuals and communities will also be explored. Assignments will examine practical applications of knowledge derived from academic inquiry, such as in the development of community-based intervention programs. The seminar aims to engage students in a way that will significantly enhance both students’ study skills and love for learning.
 

23 Water: The Essence of Life

Josef Ackerman

This first year seminar is designed to explore Water, which is one of the most important molecules for life on planet earth. Students will examine the origin, cycling and fate of water in natural environments and within the human cultural context. The seminar will deal with a selection of popular topics, including salmon farming, bottled water, harmful algal blooms, droughts, and rising sea levels. The seminar aims to develop interdisciplinary and integrative approaches to environmental thinking and actions.